Student-Created Haggadah Keeps Classmates Connected in the Time of COVID-19

Cover of Beren Campus HaggadahBack in February, when the Torah Activities Council (TAC) of Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business decided to create its own Haggadah, little did the Council realize that this Pesach would be like none in their lifetimes.  TAC members, led by President Bella Adler ’20S, decided to engage in a true labor of love: creating the first Beren Campus Haggadah, with divrei Torah [words of Torah] graced by the artwork of more than 55 Stern College students. It would be entirely created by students for students.

As Adler described it, “Within a few days of announcing our initiative, we received an outpouring of interest. Originally, we had decided to cap the number of contributors at 40, but the project generated such an enthusiastic response that more than 55 students submitted their work.”

Edited and designed over several fast and furious weeks, Adler’s ultimate goal was to print and distribute 500 free copies of the 96-page Haggadah to Yeshiva University students for the upcoming holiday on campus.

But then COVID-19 happened. And Yeshiva University, as did other universities across the country, moved all its classes to a virtual platform with students returning home to work remotely.  The original distribution plan no longer worked.

“We emailed a PDF version to  students and staff, but having a digital copy is not the same as holding our Haggadah in your hands,” said Adler. Realizing that in the face of COVID-19, building strong bonds of community among Yeshiva University students was needed more than ever, she and other TAC members quickly collected the personal addresses of  YU students and administrators. Once back home, Adler coordinated the printing and mailing of 500 Haggadahs to students across the United States with the help of her family in the Midwest.

Adler dedicated the Beren Campus Haggadah to the resiliency of the YU community and its unsung heroes. “Pesach is a reminder to us that not all heroes are outwardly visible. Sometimes, they are the people who work behind the scenes enabling a community to thrive, from RAs and GAs to student council reps, food services employees and security guards,” said Adler. “It is my hope that in reading this Haggadah, Yeshiva University students will realize that they, too, are the unsung heroes of our days. Ultimately, it is a tribute to all of them as we, as a community, celebrate a Pesach far different than others. The learning from the Haggadah is dedicated to all those  affected by the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020.”

A PDF of the Beren Campus Haggadah can be accessed here.