Spiritual Life Team Celebrates Passover and Easter

Photo by Helena Yang/The Choate News

Several celebrations were held in the St. John Chapel.

The traditions of Passover and Easter mark a spiritually significant period for Jews and Christians around the world — and many students on campus. Choate’s Spiritual Life Team held a variety of events to celebrate these traditions and bring communities of students together.

Leading up to Easter Day, Holy Week took place. On Monday, Choate’s Christian Fellowship celebrated the “foot washing” tradition, which, according to The Reverend Ally Brundige, Choate’s Director of Spiritual Life, “reminds Christians of Jesus’s command to his followers to love one another as they’ve been loved and to serve others.”

There was a service in the chapel for Good Friday, “with a time of prayer and scripture, reflection, and song commemorating what Christians believe is the crucifixion of Jesus,” as described by The Rev. Brundige. For Easter, an Ecumenical Christian service was held in the chapel Sunday evening, followed by a dinner open to the community. The Rev. Brundige said of the dinner, “A festive meal, whether one is Christian or not, is just a nice time to come together.” The night concluded with Easter Mass at 8 p.m.

As for Passover, “Our biggest celebration is on the first night. We have a Seder together, and Rabbi Barbara [Paris], our Jewish Chaplain, leads us,” said The Rev. Brundige. “There’s a focus on justice, compassion, and caring in the present, while remembering and retelling the story of the Passover from Exodus,” she explained. “That is followed by a festive dinner open to the whole community in the Sally Hart Lodge. Additionally, for those keeping the dietary restrictions of Passover, there is a table set up in the dining hall with traditional Passover foods.

“Hillel does a good job of providing events to celebrate Jewish holidays. We had a great Passover Seder, and it reminded me of home,” said Nicole Weinrauch ’20, a member of Choate’s Jewish Hillel. “It was very in-depth. There was a relatively large attendance as well, so I could learn who the other Jews are in my community.”

The Easter dinner this year was a relatively new tradition. “I thought this dinner would be important for those of us who are away from families,” explained The Rev. Brundige. She added, “For those who are not religious, the meal is still a cultural tradition. To be able to come together at one table and celebrate Easter is a beautiful, symbolic thing.”

Another recent alteration of annual tradition was initiated. The Rev. Brundige said, “This year, Rabbi Barbara invited all of us in attendance to take off our shoes in honor of those who wander and go without a home, especially those affected by the Syrian refugee crisis.”

The Rev. Brundige was overall satisfied with the celebrations. “The events were well attended. We had about thirty people at our Passover Seder and about twenty-five at our Easter dinner. For Mass, I heard that, like our Easter Rejoicing Service, numbers might have been down from previous years, perhaps due to students choosing to go home this year to celebrate,” she explained. “We were also blessed with the contributions of a student horn quintet, as well as our hired musicians, for the opening hymn for the service.”

Some, however, feel that more clarity of communication would have increased attendance. “They should have gone beyond sending out an email. I definitely would have gone but didn’t know when it was,” explained Isabelle So ’20.

The Rev. Brundige said, “Our whole point with Spiritual Life at Choate is that we meet every person where they are. There’s a variety of spiritual traditions, including those who don’t have a particular tradition. We seek to support each person, in whole body, mind, and heart,” expressed The Rev. Brundige. “For those who are celebrating religious holidays while on campus, we hope to provide the opportunity for religious observance with some of that family feel if they’re not able to be with their family.”

Students seem to receive this intention well. “Since being here, I’ve felt really connected to my roots. At my old school, I was one of the only Jews, but here, I feel like I’m a part of a community,” explained Serena Levin ’20.

The Spiritual Life Team is always looking for ways to support students and improve their spiritual experience here at Choate. “Where we don’t have programming that might enable those questions or support to readily be available to some, we invite you to come talk to us, because we want to create them,” The Rev. Brundige said.

She concluded, “When we have these big holidays, it’s a great chance to find out more about one another, from cultural, spiritual, and religious perspectives. These many traditions have much in common, but also distinguish us and make us the beautiful, diverse community that we are.”

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