Jewish students must decide whether they would like to attend the entertainment provided through Union Board for WittFest ,or whether they would like to attend services at the local synagogue to celebrate Passover this Saturday, April 23.
As a major holiday for members of the Jewish faith, this creates an unanticipated conflict. On the first two nights of Passover, Jews gather either with their families or with their communities to read stories from their past and eat a traditional Jewish kosher meal together, called “the seder.”
Associate professor of education and member of the Jewish faith, Stefan Broidy, said that this is a time for Jews to remember and celebrate their history.
“Passover remembers the Exodus, and the entire subsequent history of the Jewish people’s search for freedom and escape from persecution,” Broidy said. “It is aimed at making each generation of Jews aware of the connection they have to generations past. We are urged to act as though we ourselves have been slaves in Egypt, and then freed.”
Each year, Wittenberg provides Jewish students the opportunity to celebrate the seder with the local synagogue by paying for their meals on the second night. This year, the second night is April 23. Pastor Rachel Tune coordinates this event, and invites members to attend.
“Obviously, having WittFest on the 23 is a major collision with Passover observances,” Tune said. “I can think of ways this would affect students, as well as faculty and staff. Speaking just for myself, I’m sorry that this conflict happened, even if it was completely unintended.”
Emma Foster, ’16, president of the Jewish Culture Club, said that not only is she required to choose between attending the evening concert and going to the synagogue, but she must also be conscious of the food and beverages she consumes that day.
“On Passover, we can’t eat anything leavened, which means food that rises. So we can’t eat pasta, bread, rice, corn, beans and other foods that are commonly provided by the university,” Foster said. “During WittFest, the university already provides a limited selection of food outdoors, due to the festivities, making it even harder to find something kosher and acceptable to eat.”
Foster continued by saying that beverages, such as juices and sodas, are not generally considered kosher, as well. Jews must be conscious of anything that enters their bodies during the eight days of Passover.
Elizabeth Ames, director of student activities, explained how the university schedules major events such as WittFest. She said that conversation for this WittFest began in Feb. of 2015, and was finalized by that May.
“For the past few years, WittFest has been held on the second to last Saturday of the semester (one and a half weeks before the last day of classes),” Ames said. “Typically, administrators make the decision on the date for this event, with input from Union Board (who sponsors) and many university offices.”
Ames also said that Union Board, Student Development and Dining Services are working together to ensure that there are food options available for Jewish students throughout the day on WittFest.
Tune continued by expressing her apologies for Jewish students who are required to choose between WittFest activities and their faith.
“Speaking on behalf of the university, I can tell you that as a college related to the ELCA, we strive at Wittenberg to respect the faith commitments of members of our community, regardless of their affiliation,” Tune said. “One of the ways we can do this is by not scheduling major Wittenberg events [Family Weekend, Homecoming and WittFest] against major religious holidays, with significant observances.”