Social justice Seder set for April 28

Publication Date

For the second straight year, Hillel is joining with other campus organizations and faith groups to host a social justice Seder.

Titled “A Work in Progress,” it will be held Friday, April 28, at 6 p.m. in Everest Lounge. Though Passover recently ended, the Seder is intended to convey the spirit of the Jewish holiday by expressing solidarity with victims of modern-day oppression and injustice.

“We will be able to sit at a table together and build community,” said Hillel Director Bonnie Cramer.

Hillel partners for the event include Alpha Epsilon Pi, the African Students Association, the Black Student Union, Interfaith Youth Corps, Iris House, the Muslim Student Association, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Ozone House, Union Hospitality and Women’s Union.

“This is an opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds to explore the intersections of contemporary justice advocacy with those of Judaism,” said Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Viki Brooks. “It opens up conversation about these themes as they are expressed in many religious traditions.”

“We all have a responsibility to protect one another,” said Hillel Social Justice Coordinator Hannah Ellen ’19. “Passover reminds us that ‘we were once slaves in the land of Egypt,’ and we must empathize with the struggles faced by all. This is an incredibly important way for students, faculty and community leaders to come together and discuss intersectional support, advocacy and solutions to societal ‘plagues.’”

Ellen and Cramer created Union’s social justice Seder last year. They used the model of the traditional Seder, with its emphasis on the Jewish people’s historic suffering as encapsulated in the 10 plagues, and worked with students to examine racism, sexism, homophobia, climate change, the refugee crisis, mental illness and other issues.

“Students concerned with these issues did a short ‘speak out,’” Cramer said. “It hit a deep chord among a diverse group who felt that their voices were being heard by others."

“In 750 BCE, the prophet Amos said, ‘Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Dr. King called it ‘the long arc of justice.’ All these years later, we are still working on it.”

Cramer posits that many millennials today are experiencing a sense of post-traumatic stress following the divisive presidential election.

“This year in particular, anti-Semitism is on the rise, mosques are being burned, refugees are being deported, climate change agreements are being broken, LGBTQ rights are being cut, and women’s health care is being threatened. I have been advising students to pick one issue that they are passionate about, and work on that.”

The social justice Seder builds on the work Hillel does in hosting the annual Avi Schaeffer Shabbat, where Jewish and Muslim students come together for reflection and dialogue. Schaefer was a Class of 2013 student at Brown University who had served in the Israeli Defense Forces with his twin brother. He was killed in a pedestrian accident in Providence, R.I., in 2010. The fund named in his memory is dedicated to fostering cross-cultural understanding and respectful discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on North American college campuses.

Union’s fifth annual Avi Schaefer Shabbat dinner in February focused on rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Hillel’s social justice Seder also touches on the core concept of Tikkun Olam, or “repairing the world.”

“This is a match with the overall ethos of Union College – to build bridges, not walls,” said Cramer.

Members of the Union community may participate in the Seder by contacting Cramer at is limited to 50.