By Triana Arguedas, Interfaith Center Jewish Student Liaison and President of UNF Jewish Student Union
This year, the Interfaith Center was fortunate enough to have received outside donations from the Jewish community in Jacksonville for amazing events and student leadership opportunities. Among those leadership opportunities, I interviewed for the new position of Jewish Student Liaison at the UNF Interfaith Center and now I am here writing this blog post about a wonderful event – and interfaith Seder – I got the chance to organize with my amazing role model and boss Rachael. For those who don’t know, Seder is a meal which celebrates the Jewish holiday of Passover. I have been truly blessed with this opportunity to grow the Jewish community here at UNF and I think I have had a great support group at the Interfaith Center. Without our team’s help, I don’t think the Seder would have gone as successfully as it did.
When Rachael first started involving me in the planning process, I was anticipating more general questions about traditions and what Passover means to the community. But when she began to ask me about my family’s own traditions and what this solemn holiday meant to me, it made me feel like this was going to be ‘my event’, a legacy I can leave behind once I finish my time in this position. Coming from a Sephardic tradition, my mother always likes to cook sweetly marinated chicken and mix in some traditional Mexican spices and sides with it as well. When we were able to execute something similar at the interfaith Seder, with our homecooked style caterer, it really made me feel like I was helping my mom in the kitchen slicing oranges and making the marinade.
I think my favorite part of the Seder was the actual preparation part where four of us from the interfaith team were prepping the food and all contributing in making the traditional Passover dish Charoset (chunky apple salad consisting of sweet apples, walnuts, cinnamon, juice and brown sugar). I had forgotten my only responsibility from home which was to bring my unopened grape juice and cinnamon – so shout out to Matt Potter, Interfaith Center intern, for running to get those for me last minute! It was so lovely to be surrounded with the sweet sound of laughter and joy in the kitchen before a slightly hectic next few hours.
Granted, I was very nervous to take on this Seder (for which we planned for 80-100 people to show up) since I a little felt pressure to make sure we had a good turnout. During our set up, the anticipation was building and it felt like all our hard work was going to start to pay off the second people began to trickle in and participate in our Seder. Even though Rabbi Matt (the rabbi running the Seder) was running late and stuck in traffic, it turned out to really help get people settled before we began with the event.
Once Rabbi Matt arrived and he began the Seder, it was obvious that the forty people that came to show support and interest were going to have a great night. The kinship that developed, and the fun conversations that took place, really marked a great moment for the Jewish Student Union. The people that stayed until the very end and participated in the community circle singing Matisyahu was such a wonderful moment I wish I could relive it a least once a day, every day forever.
Events such as these make me embrace the interfaith community I somehow “fell into” and teach people what I have learned through my work here at the Interfaith Center. I know my growth as a community leader is not over, and it makes me so thankful to have found forever friends in a growing global family. No matter where I may be in the next year, I have the memory of this Seder surrounded by friends turned family to remind me that not everything in the world is all bad. It’s the small glimmers of hope that matter the most.