"It's Arbor Day for Jews," Brian Neff, vice president of Hillel, said last night, grinning and raising his arms into the air.
He had just finished celebrating the Israel festival of trees -- Tu B'Shevat.
"I say it as a joke," Neff said later, "but trees and our environment are very important and we only have one so you have to take care of it."
Tu B'Shevat, or the Jewish New Year for trees, is celebrated in Israel by planting trees. Marissa Gernett, Penn State Hillel's Israel advocacy intern, organized the seder, or a ceremonial meal, to recognize the holiday.
This year, between the blessings of the festival, different facts about the environment were read to put an extra emphasis on environmental consciousness.
Gernett said the Jewish National Fund and Hasbara, two pro-Israel groups, used the seder to inform people about a carbon offsetting competition. Hillel is trying to raise $400 for the fundraising competition.
Gernett said they were trying to switch gears and focus on something other than the current political problems in Israel.
"Our goal is to promote things besides the political," she said, "and to look from a more cultural or environmental perspective."
There were specific foods and drinks used to celebrate and they were eaten in a certain order.
On each table there were three plates, each containing different fruits and nuts. The first plate held nuts, pomegranate seeds and bananas -- foods with a tough outer shell and soft inside symbolizing winter. On the second plate, olives, apples and prunes; the third held raisins, figs and carob, which is a type of bitter chocolate.
There was also white and red grape juice instead of the traditional wine. They started with all white grape juice, then put a little red grape juice into the white, then a little white into the red and ended the ceremony by drinking all red grape juice. The transition of the juices symbolized the changing of the seasons, with the red particularly representing the full bloom of summer before winter.
Aaron Kaufman, the director of Hillel, said the holiday is environmental in nature.
"In some ways it is completely environmental, along with Jewish mysticism. This was a very environmental celebration," Kaufman said, referring to the seder held last night.
Neff said he really liked eating the different fruits and the celebration as one big experience. He wanted to remind students that Hillel is not just for Jewish students and encouraged students to attend Shabbat dinners every Friday night.
To calculate carbon emissions go to www.jnf.org/goneutral/carbonCalc.html.