This year's pluralist and social justice-themed Hillel seder consisted of more than just the four questions and a lot of matzo.
Co-led by two rabbinical students, one orthodox and one reform, the leaders of Saturday's service attempted to develop a program that would appeal to reform, conservative, and orthodox Jews.
According to Shmuly Yanklowitz, a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and doctoral candidate in psychology, religious leaders hoped to draw in students seeking the conventional as well as those looking for a more modern approach to Passover services.
"It's a hard thing to balance where some people come for a very traditional experience and some want a shorter experience and some want to read the text and some want to sing," Yanklowitz said. "I see my role, being an orthodox rabbi and as a pluralist, to have a traditional and progressive experience."
"We're working on pluralism," said Jon Mann, CC '10 and Hillel's religious life coordinator, "But when you cater to everyone, you almost cater to no one. They [the rabbis] did a pretty good job walking the line."
But some said they felt more was needed to bring together the different factions of the Jewish community on campus. "It's great that we have so many orthodox Jews at Columbia and Barnard, but there are a lot of reform Jews here, too, who don't feel like they have a voice," said Karen Perolman, a third-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College. "There's a lack of participation. You see that. They may express their Judaism in different ways or through a different organization. There were times when he [Yanklowitz] was saying things in Hebrew, and there were people who were like, 'What's going on?'"
Mann was one of the few active Hillel members in attendance. "In general, the students who end up coming [to the seder service] are not the students who are involved in Hillel," Mann said. "A lot of the people who are more involved go home. I wanted to be here because there's often this disconnect. There are people who come here and feel like they don't see people who are part of Hillel."
Elisa Gores, BC '11, said that while she does not necessarily practice her religion regularly, she was drawn to the seder out of standing family tradition.
"I'm here because my roommate invited me and my family has a seder every year," Gores said. "I thought it'd be nice to continue that even though I'm no longer at home. As someone who doesn't really practice, I find it interesting to go to more traditional things, but I enjoyed it, and I'm glad that I came."