Passover is the time of year when people of Jewish faith from all corners of the world retell the history of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. The story signifies the transition from Jews as slaves to Jews as free men and women, and is an opportunity for friends, families, and communities to come together and remember their shared history while also applying it to the present. The custom of retelling the story of the Exodus is called the Passover Seder (meaning ‚Äúorder‚Äù), which predominantly follows a book called the Passover Hagadah. Thus, to a large extent, a large portion of the Seder is consistent across people of different cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds. However, each Seder is also unique according to the customs and traditions that the individuals around the Seder table bring. One of my hesitations regarding embarking on the MV Explorer was knowing I would not be able to spend Passover with my family, something I have done every year since I was born. However, looking ahead at the Semester at Sea itinerary, I realized I might be able to find a Jewish community in Namibia that would be hosting a Passover Seder. Luckily, I, along with three friends, was able to locate the only Synagogue in Namibia and was invited into their Seder with a warm welcome and open arms.
Part of what made our Passover Seders in Namibia so special was the diversity around our Seder table. Present were Namibian, South African, Moroccan, Venezuelan, Australian, Eastern European, and American Jews, each with their own familial and cultural traditions to share. Yarden Arber, a rising Senior at Indiana University, commented on the diversity that characterized her Passover experience. ‚ÄúPeople came from all over the world and all different Jewish backgrounds to celebrate one of our most sacred holidays. It was such a unique experience and such a great opportunity to learn about not only one Jewish community, but also several Jewish communities around all parts of the world.‚Äù In that light, our Passover experience was a true embodiment of what students strive for on Semester at Sea. While we visit ports to learn about different countries, it is the intersection of people and cultures that ultimately teaches us more about ourselves and about each other than it does just about a place.
Although we were thousands of nautical miles away from our homes, finding a place to spend Passover was easy. Passover had only been one of many occasions when I had been welcomed into a Jewish community during my voyage. I was welcomed into Chabads in both Hong Kong and Singapore for Kosher meals, a Synagogue in Burma to learn about its Jewish history, a Synagogue in Kochi, India to have Friday night services, and a family in Cape Town, South Africa to spend Shabbat with. And while I have always felt a special connection to the Jewish people, the opportunity to feel at home no matter where I am in the world has taught me just as much about my own community, as well as about other communities and cultures across the globe.