By Julia Friedman
If you spent any time in the dining halls last week, you may have noticed boxes of matzo and macaroons. These foods were for Jewish students who kept kosher for Passover—the holiday that commemorates the freedom of ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
One of the traditions of Passover is to keep kosher, but it goes beyond the everyday kosher laws. A large handful of members from the campus community keep kosher all year round, but there are special “kosher for Passover” traditions that more Jews, who do not necessarily keep kosher during the rest of the year, follow.
In addition to the kosher rules observed throughout the year, Jewish law states that during Passover, chametz, or leavened food, is forbidden. To be defined as chametz, the food must contain one of the five types of grains and be combined with water for more than eighteen minutes. Not only is eating chametz during Passover forbidden, but keeping or owning it is also not allowed. Before the first day of Passover, chametz must be removed either by throwing it out or giving it away to non-Jews. Any trace is forbidden from the home, office, car and the like. Conservative Jews own separate dishes, eating utensils, oven mitts and, in some cases, separate dishwashers, sinks and kitchen appliances to be used only during Passover. This is to ensure that there is no contact with chametz.
Keeping kosher for Passover can be difficult when living at college, especially at Union since the school is not required to fulfill any religious obligations. Hillel Director Bonnie Cramer commends the college for their efforts in trying to accommodate the needs of Jewish students, but expresses concern regarding sufficient food options.
“Dining services is trying to provide kosher for Passover food for breakfast and lunch, but it is still difficult for students to get adequately nourished,” notes Cramer.
“West Dining Hall has recently added kosher for Passover deli into the mix,” adds Cramer, “and I admire students who try to negotiate a kosher for Passover diet within the constraints of an institutional setting.’ Hillel and Chabad, the two Jewish organizations at Union, are crucial in providing religious support for students not only during holidays, but also throughout the year.
Both organizations, which are student-driven, hold weekly Shabbat services and work diligently to meet the needs of Jewish students all year long. During Passover, daily lunches and dinners were served that met the kosher for Passover standards. Ariel Blum ’13, president of Chabad and education chair of Hillel, comments on the support that both organizations offer.
“I haven’t been going to the dining halls all week,” states Blum at a Chabad/Sorum matzo pizza-making event last Sunday. “I’ve been eating in my room for breakfast, Chabad for lunch and Hillel for dinner,” she adds, “I heard [the dining halls] have some options, but it depends on your standards. Some people won’t eat in the dining hall if they don’t clean their stoves before Passover begins.”
Thanks to the help of Hillel and Chabad, students can join together to practice the Jewish tradition. Alpha Epsilon Pi president and general board member of Hillel and Chabad EG Gaffin-Cahn ’12 led a Passover seder for ninety people last week in Old Chapel. “It’s nice to see students that aren’t usually connected to Judaism come out to the seder and follow Jewish tradition together,” comments EG. Blum agrees, adding, “It’s nice that Hillel and Chabad lunches and dinners have been crowded. A lot of people who don’t normally go, have been going for Passover and it’s great to see new faces.”
Hillel and Chabad are essential in helping students maintain their Jewish identity while at college. Without their efforts, it is probable that many students would have had a much more challenging diet during Passover. The organizations welcome Jews and non-Jews alike, so stop by every Friday night to meet new people, experience a part of the Jewish tradition and enjoy some delicious food.