By Jamie Kerner
For the Mitzpeh
Passover is an eight-day period filled with matzah and other flourless food. Families travel short and long distances to celebrate and eat at the seder table together. Because Passover starts during the school week this year, many students will not be returning home to their families for the holiday.
Both freshman psychology major Rachel Ross and freshman communications major Amanda Hirsch are staying on campus and celebrating the holiday in College Park.
When at home, Ross typically has a big Passover celebration with her family.
“I always have Passover at my house and we always have all of my family come,” she said. “In addition to my family, we have our really close family friends come too. Everyone cooks and brings something.”
Ross recalls fond memories of a Passover tradition her family started four years ago. “We have twenty-something people at our seder and the kids – well, now, young adults – sit at one end of the table,” Ross said.
“We read from the Haggadah, and when we get to the plagues (we have ping pong balls for hail, fake frogs for the frogs and fake cockroaches for the locust) we say the plagues and the kids throw them everywhere, so now my family expects it.” Ross said this is always a fun time of the seder and all of the adults cover their wine glasses from the flying “plagues.”
To celebrate the holiday this year, Ross is having her family come to her. She said her family is coming to visit when Passover starts, and they are going to have dinner together.
Hirsch also spends Passover with her family. “We have a group of family friends in my town that we get together with for Jewish holidays, so we have it [the seder] at my family friend’s house,” Hirsch said.
This year she will not attend the seder, as she will be at school. Hirsch said she wants to still celebrate, even though she is not at home, and hopes to go to Hillel for a seder with girls in her sorority.
Hillel advertises itself as a home away from home for this university’s Jewish community. “It is a place for students who can’t go home to come,” Talia Orencel, director of social engagement at Hillel, said.
This year, Hillel will host three types of seders on the first night and two types of seders on the second night. The first night will consist of a family-style seder, a “Who’s Seder is it Anyway” seder (which is an interactive spin on the story) and an Around the World seder (which looks at Jews from different countries and shoes their different traditions). On the second night, there will be a Second Seder Soiree and a Greek seder for students in various Greek chapters.
“This is a great way for Jewish students from different chapters to get together,” Orencel said.
Chabad will also also be offering seders with homemade food each night. “We offer a seder each night – homemade seder. We go through the whole story, whole haggadah, [and it] moves at a nice pace,” Rabbi Eli Backman said.
This year, Shabbat falls right in the middle of Passover, so Chabad will also be serving a brisket dinner on April 14.
“To close off Passover, we have a special sit-down meal,” Backman said, in reference to the how Chabad will celebrate the last days of Passover.
MEOR will not be hosting any on campus seders. Instead, associate director Devora Jaye said, “We host students in our homes, with local families,” and added that anyone interested in being hosted by a family should contact her.
Both Ross and Hirsch agree that the best part of not being home for Passover is that they get to experience something new, and with campus organizations holding a variety of seders, Passover in College Park will help students maintain their traditions and beliefs.