From chocolate to the Occupy protests, student-led seders draw on creative themes

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At the chocolate seder, traditional Manischewitz was served, but most guests preferred to stick to the theme, drinking chocolate milk instead of wine. (Photo: Gavin Schlissel ’13)
For Jews, a Passover seder is a time to reflect on the hardship endured by ancient Israelites as they left Egypt. This year at Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL), students led Passover seders that brought guests together to share the song and prayer of the Haggadah (the Hebrew text describing the delivery of the Jews from Egypt) in perhaps the most unorthodox way possible — over chocolate.
 
The chocolate seder, organized by Elliott Eggan ’14, Alex Jaffe ’14, and Jake Jackson ’14, was the last of nine seders hosted over two days at the CJL that catered to every manner of Jew and many goyim (Hebrew for non-Jews).
 
But the chocolate seder stood alone in many respects — most notably in that it was the only seder to replace traditional foods like charoset (a fruit and nut spread eaten with matzo) with chocolate charoset made of bits of dark, milk, and white chocolate eaten atop chocolate-covered matzo. Even the traditional wine was replaced with chocolate milk.
 
Inspiration for the seder came from Jackson, who was the only of the organizers who had ever been to a chocolate seder before the CJL event. In addition to rethinking traditional foods, Jackson assembled a list of readings to guide the service with references to traditional foods replaced with references to their chocolate counterparts. For example the blessing of the wine, that praises God for the “fruit of the vine,” was replaced in Jackson’s Haggadah with the blessing of the chocolate milk, and praises God for the “juice of the cow.”
 

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Organizers Jake Jackson ’14, left, and Elliott Eggan ’14 stayed after the end of the seder to talk with guests and polish off remnants of chocolate. (Photo: Gavin Schlissel ’13)
Offbeat seders have been a tradition at Princeton’s CJL, which lets students design and lead any seder they want. “The CJL has invited students to lead seders on themes of their choosing as part of our emphasis on student leadership, diversity, and creative approaches to Jewish life,” explained Rabbi Julie Roth, the director of the CJL. In addition to the chocolate seder, students this year hosted a “queer seder,” which sought to understand the plight of the ancient Israelites in the context of the modern LGBT movement, and a new Jewish feminist seder, which highlighted on the role of women in Jewish history.
 
Eggan and Jaffe, two of the chocolate seder’s organizers, also hosted a “99-percent seder,” which likened the plight of the Zucotti Park protestors to that of the Hebrews, who sought “a society free from the tyranny of the 1 percent, the overbearing Egyptians.”
 
According to Jaffe, the 99-percent seder was meant to be topical, but the chocolate seder may become tradition. “We definitely want to do this again next year,” said Jaffe. “This will be the first of many chocolate seders at the CJL.”
 

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Gavin Schlissel ’13 is a molecular biology major from Moraga, Calif.

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