By AMY BELASEN
Special to The CJN
A group of enthusiastic Hillel Montreal representatives participated in a video conference with their Israeli Hillel peers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on April 11.
The video conference program was in the format of a mock seder and a virtual Jeopardy game inspired by the Passover tradition of asking questions. The Montrealers and the Israelis went head-to-head in a match of wits, answering Passover trivia questions to launch a discussion about the upcoming holiday, and share their experiences as young Jews.
Noa Marom, the program director at Ben-Gurion Hillel, welcomed the Montreal Hillel participants to the mock seder, saying that "Pesach can be something contemporary."
In introducing the Passover Jeopardy, she noted Elie Wiesel's famous quotation: "answers may divide us, but the questions unite us."
The virtual game show came with levels of difficulty ranging from $100 questions from "the son who doesn't know how to ask" to the $1,000 "wise son " level. Seder plate categories included "betza" (egg) and "charoset."
The Pesach trivia were interspersed with thought-provoking questions about the holiday and family traditions, and the Israelis and the Montrealers shared some memorable Pesach experiences.
When one Ben-Gurion student said it is a tradition in his family to hit each person on the head with the seder plate during the singing of Dayenu, a participant from Montreal nodded sympathetically and added: "This is a Moroccan tradition. My family does it too, and if a couple that is supposed to get married is at the table, the father will use the plate on both of their heads at the same time."
Not only could both groups share a laugh over this shared tradition, it also helped forge another link in the bond between the two communities.
The meeting was part of a larger Jewish Agency for Israel project called Partnership 2000 (P2K), which links Jewish communities to cities in Israel. Through this project, the Montreal Jewish community has become twinned with the city of Be'er Sheva and the region of B'nai Shimon and they are involved in numerous co-operative projects. In addition, a program called Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) links many of the Jewish day schools in Montreal to Israeli schools through pen pals and other activities.
"Although our communities are very closely linked at the adult and elementary school level, Hillel leadership recognized that there was a tremendous growth opportunity that could be realized by bridging our campuses and students together," said Yossi Lanton, Hillel Montreal program director.
In May 2004, Hillel Montreal began a new initiative.
"This endeavour began with a P2K-sponsored mission to Israel, which allowed 10 Hillel Montreal leaders to spend six days meeting with their peers at Beer Sheva's Ben-Gurion University Hillel," Lanton said. "The two groups quickly became one as we spent close to a week socializing, volunteering, learning and touring together."
As a result of friendships established then, there were many familiar faces and friendly exchanges that made the recent Pesach video conference even more enjoyable for participants.© 2005 The Canadian Jewish News.