A Socially-Distanced Seder

By Rachael Powles ’22, April 16, 2021
Celebrating an in-person Passover at Ithaca College despite a pandemic.

With students returning to campus at the start of spring semester, traditional on-campus programming returned as well — with some twists.

One such event was IC Hillel’s annual Passover celebration, held this year on March 27. More than 120 students took part in the celebration, either in-person or online.

In order to ensure proper social distancing guidelines could be observed, two separate events were held in Terrace Dining Hall. Capacity for each event was limited to 50 students, who sat at individual tables while more than 40 student volunteers ensured that the pre-boxed and bagged foods were passed out safely to participants. Because in-person attendance was limited, students also had the option to join the events on a livestream set up by the college’s information technology department.

“It had all of the little things that reminded me of doing Seder with my family when I was younger, so that felt very special to me. Spiritual life in general really depends on community, and the fact that IC Hillel has worked so relentlessly to make sure things stay consistent has been so powerful to see.” 

Ash Schimkus ’22

“We wanted everything to be as comfortable as possible for the students, but at the same time follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC,” said Chaim Goldgrab, the Mashgiach who supervises kosher food preparation at Terrace Dining Hall. “The entire process went so smoothly. It was great to see all of the different departments working together.”

Another memorable moment was the Maggid, the telling of the Passover story. An event that typically involves singing and shouting had to be reimagined for the era of social distancing. To do so, Emily Poole ’24, alongside Noah Kamens ’24, Luis Valderrama ’21, Isaac Schneider ’23 and Dara Spezial ’22, created a “‘Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show' style Maggid.”

The Seder plate designed by Ash Schimkus ’22.

The Seder plate was designed by Hillel member Ash Schimkus ’22.

Typically, throughout ‘Rocky Horror,’ there are cues that tell the audience to do something,” said Poole. “We incorporated that idea. For example, we gave participants toy guns that blew bubbles and told them ‘every time water is mentioned, use your bubble guns.’ This method seemed like a great way to get everyone excited without making anyone feel uncomfortably obligated or singled out. Plus, the opportunity to be surrounded by a room of young adults with bubble guns was too good to pass up.”Other traditional aspects of Passover were incorporated as well. Hillel member Ash Schimkus ’22 was asked to design the Seder plate, a task that allowed them to integrate their art with their Jewish faith. 

“Jewish art is very specific, because there’s a lot of cultural impact in the style and certain ways you write the letters, so I wanted to be respectful of that in taking on such a feat of art,” they said. “It shows parts of the Passover story that remind us what we need to be thankful for. It was also cool to see people eating off the plate I designed.”

Even from several feet apart, students were thrilled to be able to participate in this new take on the tradition. 

“Everyone celebrates things a little differently, and I think this really illuminates the beauty of Judaism and speaks as to why our Seder went so well. At the end of the day it’s less about sticking to a strict list of rules and more about honoring the values and traditions at our core.”

Emily Poole ’24

“It had all of the little things that reminded me of doing Seder with my family when I was younger, so that felt very special to me,” said Schimkus. “Spiritual life in general really depends on community, and the fact that IC Hillel has worked so relentlessly to make sure things stay consistent has been so powerful to see.”

The Seder closed with the traditional declaration, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Although things looked a little different, the privilege of sharing a holiday with a community was not lost upon the attendees.

“Everyone celebrates things a little differently, and I think this really illuminates the beauty of Judaism and speaks as to why our Seder went so well,” said Poole. “At the end of the day it’s less about sticking to a strict list of rules and more about honoring the values and traditions at our core.”