Jewish Pro-Palestine Protestors Prepare Seder at College Encampments

The singsong of the Four Questions resounded on the first night of Passover from Jewish homes and gatherings worldwide, even in unexpected and disputed places: the epicenter of pro-Palestinian rallies at Columbia University and other institutions where demonstrations are underway.

About a hundred Columbia University students and teachers huddled under a blue tarp piled high with matzo and other foods made in a kosher kitchen as night set on Monday at the tent encampment. While some kids sported Jewish skullcaps, others wore kaffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarf. As was customary, they read the Passover prayers from hand-made Haggadahs and then continued with the readings in Hebrew.

The plight of the Palestinian people and the need to work for their freedom came up time and time again. Grape juice was served instead of wine as a gesture of respect for the alcohol-free encampment, which began last Wednesday and is still going strong after a police raid last week. Similar incidents were seen at other pro-Palestinian marches and encampments that have emerged this week. 

Approximately fifteen students at Columbia University have been suspended for their participation in the encampment, and organizers claim that some of those students are Jewish and also oppose Zionism.

On Yale University’s giant quad, Cross Campus, hundreds of students sat around a sheet decorated to represent a Seder table shortly before 6 p.m. Jewish Voice for Peace’s New Haven branch and Yale’s Jews for Ceasefire were among the organizations that planned the demonstration.

Students carried placards identifying as Jews but for a free Palestine. The ceremony included allusions to the martyrdom in Gaza as well as student activity in support of the Palestinian cause.

As the Seder came to a close, the students moved and sang, “If we build this world from love, then God will build this world from love.” They also put their arms around one another’s shoulders.

Chabad Columbia, an off-campus outpost of an Orthodox Jewish organization, provided a more conventional setting for students seeking community during campus unrest.

A room at the center was packed with laughter and chatter as individuals reconnected with old and new acquaintances. Five security officers stood outside to provide an extra layer of protection.