Overlapping Ramadhan, Holy Week, and Passover Observances adds to cause for Celebration

June 3, 2022

March 15 marked the beginning of a very busy season in the Chaplaincy, when the office hosted a gathering on “Religious Inclusion: A Spring Holiday Guide.” Noting the way Ramadhan, Holy Week, and Passover overlapped this year, the program provided an opportunity to learn about Islam, Christianity, and Judaism more broadly while explaining the significance of the season for many groups on campus.

A Spring Multifaith Celebration followed on March 24, where students and staff contemplated the theme of “Revelation” over a communal meal. University Chaplain Craig Kocher, Muslim Chaplain Waleed Ilyas, and Jewish Chaplain Josh Jeffreys spoke about their traditions’ views on revelation and how those were reflected in the upcoming holidays. After a brief introduction, students in attendance then shared about their own experiences of Ramadhan, Good Friday, Easter, and Passover, and many left with a deeper appreciation for other practices and some of the common elements of their religious celebrations.

The Chaplaincy’s holiday programming was only just starting, as Muslim, Jewish and Christian Life quickly prepared for their own celebrations. Ramadhan began on Friday, April 1st at sundown, and Muslim students had numerous opportunities both on and off campus to mark the occasion. On campus, students gathered each Friday for special afternoon prayers, and Muslim Chaplain Waleed Ilyas and University Dining worked to ensure that students fasting during the holiday had food available early in the morning and after normal business hours.

Muslim students travelled to local mosques for evening prayer, and several members of the community hosted Iftar (or break the fast) meals in their home. On April 21, Muslim Life welcomed peers from VCU, Randolph-Macon College, and the broader Richmond community to a lovely Iftar on campus for students, faculty, and staff.

Christian Life offered Palm Sunday Mass and a Good Friday Service, both of which included readings of the last words of Jesus. Chaplain Kocher presided over an Easter Sunrise Service on April 17, which was held in the Columbarium and Memorial Garden adjacent to the Chapel. A lovely breakfast reception followed in the Wilton Center Multifaith Room. On Sunday evening, Catholic Life celebrated Easter Mass with special instrumental music in a service organized by Catholic Chaplain Tom Mullen.

For the first time since the Spring of 2019, Jewish Life celebrated Passover in-person with a first night of Passover Seder on Friday, April 15. More than 70 students joined for the celebration, and the Dining Hall helped to provide kosher-for-Passover-style food during the holiday at no additional charge. In the lead up to Passover, Jewish Life also offered a “Chocolate Seder” to learn about the ritual meal in a fun-filled way, plus a “Brunch and Learn” on the Exodus and its relationship to our ecological crisis. The holiday concluded on Saturday, April 23 at sundown with a Havdalah (or separation) ritual, and lots of bread products: bagels, pizza, cookies, and more!

Overall, the full return to in-person programming in March and April made for a wonderful series of holiday celebrations in the Chaplaincy.