Boxing Gym and Hillel Hold Multicultural Seder

A non-traditional Passover seder took place recently at the Downtown Boxing Gym, bringing students from different cultures and communities together.

They sat together to break (unleavened) bread, learn about Jewish customs and traditions, and ultimately to discover how much they have in common. About two dozen teenagers from Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills traveled to the Downtown Boxing Gym – with matzo and other traditional foods in tow – for a Passover seder unlike any other with their boxing gym peers.

“I’ve never been part of a seder at a boxing gym. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty darn cool,” said Rabbi Harold Loss of Temple Israel, who officiated. “I think it’s great that you guys are participating in this kind of program. Good for you!”

Loss did not expect to be at the boxing gym that day. In fact, the seder was not even supposed to happen there. The event was scheduled to take place at Hillel, but a power outage at the school that morning threatened to derail the entire program. It was the Hillel students, who had the day off, that pushed to re-arrange the plans and hold the seder at the gym instead. Parents and school officials scrambled to make it happen, packing up all the supplies and providing transportation from the suburbs to the city. Loss got a last-minute call to participate and dropped what he was doing to be there.

Rabbi Harold Loss leads the seder

“I think it’s important to bring kids together and have them realize they have more similarities than differences,” said Jessica Hauser, the boxing gym’s executive director. “I think it’s really just about breaking down those false barriers that we put up for ourselves.”

There were several activities designed to get the students talking and working together. Instead of the traditional “four questions” children ask in Hebrew during a seder, the teens were told to turn to whoever was seated next to them and ask their neighbor four questions to get to know each other better.

“I love to meet new and different kinds of people,” said 8th grader Julia Klein.

“I met one girl, we have the same birthday,” added 13-year-old Reynard. “I have never been to a seder before. It’s always good to learn new things.”

The boxing gym students also made seder plates depicting their interests and passions. Later, the children worked together to build pyramids by stacking red plastic cups. The catch? The had to use a rubber band contraption to stack the cups without touching them with their hands. The fun challenge had everyone laughing and coming up with creative solutions together.

“I love that we can share our cultures,” said Hillel principal Melissa Michaelson. “It’s heartwarming.”

As the rabbi explained the Passover story and the reasons behind the seder and its many symbols, he highlighted the slavery to freedom history both the African American and Jewish communities share.

“Anyone who has that history should be most concerned about creating a world where no one ever has to experience that again,” he said.