Thursday, October 18

Seder gives taste of diversity


Seder gives taste of diversity

By Jennifer K. Morita

Daily Bruin Staff

Participants at a traditional Jewish dinner tasted oppression
and hope during Tuesday night’s Multicultural Freedom Seder in
Griffin Commons.

While celebrating the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt over a
thousand years ago, participants told stories, read poems and sang
songs from various cultures while eating traditional Passover foods
symbolic of freedom and slavery.

"The seder is a sensual experience," said speaker Rabbi Chaim
Seidler-Feller. "You actually eat the experience. You taste freedom
and you eat bitterness."

Traditionally, a seder is held the first two nights of the
eight-day Passover, said Tobias Dienstfrey, 24, a University of
Judaism student. The hagadah story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt
is told.

"Jews are obligated to tell the story as if they themselves went
through it," Dienstfrey said. "Each one of the foods is a symbol of
the seder story."

Jews are not the only ones with a story to tell, and Tuesday’s
Multicultural Freedom Seder also represented other people’s
stories.

"My Armenian ancestors went through genocide as well," said
fourth-year psychology student Aram Jibilian. "In this kind of
setting more people can hear about our story, not just Armenians.
We learn more about oppression and a lot more can get done that
way."

The seder is about opening up your home to strangers, organizers
said. The open-mike format allowed many people to share their
stories.

Participants were taught a Jewish prayer in sign language by a
woman who said she wanted to demonstrate what it was like to lose
the freedom of being able to hear.

India’s fight for independence was told through poetry by
Rabindranath Tagore. Later, UCLA Buddhist Chaplain Heidi Singh sang
a Celtic song of Irish American oppression on Deer Island, off
Boston Harbor.

"In the days after Proposition 187, I want people to remember
how all of us here in America are immigrants," Singh said. "We need
to remember to extend compassion to people who came here for better
lives."

The common struggle for basic human rights was the binding
theme, said Anne Carinha, president of UCLA’s Amnesty International
chapter.

"Although it’s predominantly Jewish, it’s not exclusive," said
Carinha, a first-year anthropology and music student. "I’m
Christian but I feel very accepted here."

The oppression of the homeless in the United States was yet
another story told at the freedom seder.

"As a Jew, I live on the streets," said speaker Len Doucette. "I
wear a kippah on my head to tell fellow Jews that there are other
Jews on the streets.

"We have every color, every shade of persecution on the
streets," Doucette continued.

Different perspectives were reflected in answers to the ritual
asking of the Four Questions. In addition to a reading of the
traditional answer, Seidler-Feller and Doucette gave their own take
on what made the night of seder different from all other
nights.

"Tonight we have no boundaries. We eat with one another,"
Seidler-Feller said, "because on all other nights we recite our
personal history to ourselves while tonight we’re listening to each
other’s histories."

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