Butler Hillel celebrates Passover with a chocolate Seder

First-year students Justin Deem-Loureiro, left, and Aden Sher, right, enjoy the end of Hillel’s chocolate Passover Seder. Photo courtesy of Butler Hillel.


Last Wednesday, Jewish people around the world celebrated the start of Passover with a Seder. In Atherton Union’s University Club, Butler’s Jewish student organization — Hillel — did the same with a chocolatey twist. 

Passover is a week-long religious holiday that commemorates the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt. The story is recounted in the chapters of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. 

Passover celebrations traditionally begin with a Seder, a ritual meal that recounts the story of Passover. Throughout the holiday, observers will abstain from eating leavened foods, like bread, to remember that their ancestors departed from Egypt so quickly that their bread did not have time to rise. Instead of bread, many eat matzo, an unleavened flatbread, during the holiday. 

At the start of Passover, many Jewish Butler students who did not return home for the holiday looked to Hillel’s community to help celebrate. 

Orly Trachtman, co-president of Hillel and sophomore psychology and Spanish double major, said Hillel celebrates both cultural and religious aspects of Judaism. The organization hosts a Shabbat — a day of holiness observed by Jewish people from sunset on Friday to nightfall on the following Saturday — about twice a month, and they host fun social events as well. These events include an Indianapolis bagel tasting and a future trip to Top Golf. 

“It makes it great because there is the religious part of [Hillel], but it can also be for just the Jewish culture and to celebrate in that,” Trachtman said. 

Last week, Hillel operated in its more religious capacity to celebrate Passover. The organization began the week by educating Butler students about the Jewish holiday. Members of Hillel tabled at the gazebo, handing out saltwater taffy in exchange for questions about Judaism and Passover from passersby. 


Hillel tables at the Gazebo leading up to Passover. Photo courtesy of Butler Hillel.

Hillel then hosted its Passover Seder for Butler students on Wednesday evening, the first night of Passover. 

“A Seder is a traditional meal, and there’s sort of a service that goes along with it,” Trachtman said. “Throughout the Seder, you’ll explain each part, and a lot of it has to go back to gaining freedom … [It’s about] looking at the sweet parts of life while also remembering that a lot of our ancestors have gone through a lot of hardships so that we can be where we are.” 

Alyssa Smith, first-year exploratory studies major, is a first-year representative on the Hillel executive board who did not return home for the holiday. Instead, she found a sense of community in Hillel’s Passover celebration. 

“There [are] a lot of freshmen in Hillel, and it’s our first time not celebrating with our family,” Smith said. “This week will definitely be interesting and different, but I’m glad to have other people who might do it with me.” 

Unlike traditional Seders that usually have symbolic food like bitter herbs, eggs and matzo, Hillel instead opted to add symbolism to chocolatey treats for a fun twist. So, instead of a bitter herb like green parsley, guests had a green chocolate coin. Instead of symbolically dipping the herb in water, guests dipped the coin in lemonade. 

First-year sociology major Aden Sher has attended Hillel events before, and he returned to the organization at the beginning of Passover to enjoy the sweetness of this Seder. 

“In my family, we usually do not use chocolate,” Sher said. “We just have a really long Seder. It just takes such a long time, so it was good to have some chocolate. It was a fun time.” 

This Seder was intimate — it was small yet comfortable. Jewish and non-Jewish students alike sat at tables of eight, each with a plate of chocolate treats and a small cup of chocolate milk. Each table also had a plate of matzo, coloring sheets and a booklet to follow along with the Seder. 

“Seders are really, in their nature, an educational process,” Trachtman said. “Like, ‘Okay, we’re going to go through this step and explain it, then do a prayer for it, and then we’re going to move on.’ So it makes it a really great spot for people who maybe have never celebrated Passover before or who have never gone to a Seder before to experience it with us.” 

While part of Hillel’s work is to host events like the chocolate Passover Seder, Hillel’s greater mission is to provide a sense of community for Jewish Butler students and to educate other students on Jewish culture and religion. For more information about future events, the organization is active on its Instagram page, @buhillel


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