Hillel Milwaukee emphasizes diversity and pluralism with Passover events | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Hillel Milwaukee emphasizes diversity and pluralism with Passover events

Hillel Milwaukee is emphasizing diversity and pluralism, with a variety of events for Passover 2023.  

Emphasizing pluralistic and diverse options, Hillel Milwaukee is holding a formal Seder, a Seder-from-home, a Mimouna event and a late Passover Seder in partnership with the Marquette Jewish Student Union. The options aim to give students the ability to celebrate Passover in unique and fun ways. 

The first night of Passover will feature a traditional Seder at Hillel Milwaukee with a curated Haggadah from Dalilah Bernier, director of Jewish education. Bernier said she typically uses Haggadah.com to find engaging elements of other Haggadot. 

“In the same way that our students are kind of a blend of different backgrounds and religious practices, if any, we try to make our Haggadah the same,” Bernier said. “Something that the students really prioritized last year was including some justice elements as well.” 

Acknowledging that Jewish ancestors were once slaves in Egypt and that there are still people under similar circumstances is important to Hillel Milwaukee students, Bernier said. Assistant Director Anna Goldstein Koenig said diversity and inclusion are essential for Hillel. 

“Part of our mission statement is that we are pluralistic, meaning that we try to represent the entire spectrum of Judaism,” Goldstein Koenig said. “That is definitely represented in that Haggadah and the ways that we structure our Jewish holiday programming.” 

For the next night of Passover, students have the option to participate in a “Second Seder from Home” experience. Students will receive a kit that includes everything they need to celebrate the holiday on their own, including the Haggadah and a Seder plate. 

“Passover is one of the holidays that’s really meant to be celebrated in your home. It’s not a very congregational holiday,” Goldstein Koenig said. “So we also want to provide tools that show the students that right now they have Hillel, but in the future, they can make Judaism accessible and they can practice these Jewish holidays and things in their homes.” 

The Second Seder is a spin-off of a tradition Hillel Milwaukee began during the COVID-19 pandemic — providing students with the tools they need to host Shabbat in their own homes. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the only way that we were able to provide food for our students was to send them with takeaway kits for Shabbat,” Bernier said. “We’re hoping to instill this empowerment in our students so that they’re able to host their own celebrations from home. Why not continue that, even when the circumstances don’t necessitate them doing it independently?” 

The Passover festivities do not end there. On April 13, Hillel Milwaukee’s Israel Fellow Heni Bizawi is planning a Mimouna celebration. Mimouna is a Sephardic festival held the day after Passover, traditionally in Morocco but also celebrated in Israel. The holiday marks the return of eating chametz and is typically open to anyone who wants to join. 

“It used to be celebrated in Morocco when the Jewish people used to put their bread in their Arab neighborhoods to keep it for Passover, to not throw it away, and then in the end of the holiday, they would come with all the flour and everything and there would be a big party celebrating,” Bizawi said. “People put flour on each other, people make this special bread called mufleta, people party and celebrate the freedom of life full of food and sweets.” 

This event aims to give students an opportunity to celebrate a holiday they might not otherwise experience. 

“In years past, as our Israel fellows have done their terms at Hillel, we’ve tried to integrate their traditions as well,” Bernier said. “They get to learn more about their families and their traditions back home, which isn’t usually the same Ashkenazi experience that they may have grown up with. So I think it really increases their understanding of what world Jewry looks like.” 

Pesach at Marquette University 

The final Passover event will take place on April 14 at Marquette University. The Marquette Jewish Student Union is hosting a late Passover Seder, which Hillel Milwaukee is helping to support, since their spring break falls on Passover. 

“They’re trying to have it be as interfaith and intercultural, to have many different groups invited, to experience the Passover Seder,” Goldstein Koenig said. 

This event is important to the Jewish community at Marquette, which only comprises 0.9 percent of the undergraduate population, according to Hillel International. 

“I sometimes feel like a guest at this institution,” wrote JSU President Shir Bloch in an email to the Chronicle. “This community Seder gives us the opportunity to host our peers, to welcome them into a space that, for once, is ours.” 

While they are still in the planning process, the JSU aims to invite various university administrators and religious and cultural student organizations to attend. 

“I think people often think of the world’s Jewry as one-dimensional, but we are a diverse people. This is a wonderful moment to share with Marquette’s broader community a more holistic sense of Jews and Jewish values,” Bloch wrote. 

For all Hillel Milwaukee Passover events, students can register on the Hillel Milwaukee website, HillelMKE.org.