Hillel 818 engages Valley community through non-traditional Passover experiences

Updated: Mar 30

For a second straight year, Valley College’s local Hillel adjusts to the challenging pandemic inflicted world.

By Matthew Royer, Staff Writer


Staff members of Hillel 818 converse with people who came to receive boxes being given away as part of an effort held by the organization in Northridge, Calif. on Friday, March 26 to provide supplies to those who wish to partake in Passover during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jeremy Ruiz/The Valley Star)

Why is this night different from all other nights?


This question is traditionally asked at Passover Seder, surrounded by family and friends, but for the second straight year, Hillel 818 has adjusted to the pandemic-sized wrench thrown into its traditional Pesach plans.


Hillel 818 — the local Hillel which encompasses Valley College, CSUN and Pierce College — are getting ready to celebrate the sacred holiday of Passover, the yearly celebration and recollection of the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. Taking place from March 27 at sundown till the evening of April 4, it is usually spent together and in-person as a community gathering, whether with family or friends.


What would usually be celebrated at Hillel 818 with daily Passover lunches, “Prince of Egypt” or “Rugrats” watch-parties and Seder plate painting events has now been adjusted to better respect CDC guidelines and social distancing during the pandemic. Every Shabbat, Hillel 818 has provided students with their own “Shabbat boxes” throughout the past year; this week, they are Passover-themed to mark the occasion. The boxes will feature the traditional Shabbat goodies, but also contain items that will better help students with their celebrations.


Passover items such as matzo, a Haggadah (text that sets forth the order of the Seder) and a do-it-yourself afikomen cover kit are included. The latter item will be used for an event on March 31 in which Hillel 818 will lead students in crafting their own afikomen whilst they watch the traditional Passover movie, “Prince of Egypt.”


Manager of Student Engagement at Hillel 818 Ally Gertsley was optimistic in her outlook when considering how this year was different from previous years.


“Last year was big and crazy with the pandemic just starting,” said Gertsley, “this year we’re all used to the virtual space and excited to see the spirit of the community come together.”


As well as working with one another to mark this occasion, Hillel 818 is also working with Hillel At Home and Jewish World Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting genocide and mass atrocities around the world. The event aims to shed light on the human rights atrocities plaguing China’s Muslim minority population and to compel global action through a “Freedom Seder” on March 30.


“We’re not focusing just on our community, but looking after others as well,” said Gertsley about the event. “We need to remember the people who aren’t free and work to raise awareness where we can.”


More info can be found on Hillel 818’s Passover plans on their website www.hillel818.org.

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