By Brogan Gerhart
Rabbi Elie and Miriam Schwartz opened their home Friday afternoon to Jewish students who were on campus for the last few days of Passover for a holiday-friendly barbecue.
The event was run through the Orthodox Union-Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Maryland, which is partnered with Hillel and helps orthodox students navigate college and their commitment to Judaism. The food was provided by Abeles & Heymann, a kosher deli that Miriam said she was grateful to have contribute to the meal.
“A lot of students are away from home when they are usually spending time with their family for Passover,” said Miriam, an OU-JLIC educator. “We wanted to do something for those students and it’s not against Jewish law to have a barbecue, so that’s what we did.”
Students were grateful for the place to celebrate. Freshman computer science major Dani Smith said this year’s Passover was different because it was his first year at college.
“I’m usually on vacation with my family over Passover,” Smith said. “But this year I stayed at the university which is why I decided to come to the barbecue when I heard about it.”
Complete with kosher hot dogs and a plethora of salads and desserts, students from this university filtered in and out of the barbecue, some grabbing a quick bite to eat while others stayed a little bit longer for the conversation with community members.
Aaron Kraiman, a junior kinesiology major, said it was a real struggle to find good food during Passover. But at the Schwartz’s house, he said, good food and good company was in ample supply.
“Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz are dedicated to making sure we have a great Passover,” Kraiman said. “The rabbi has the whole community in his backyard, and that’s exactly what a rabbi does—open his home and welcome the community.”
Falling on Yom Tov, which in Hebrew means “a good day,” the barbecue made for the perfect opportunity for those observing the holiday to enjoy the company of those around them. No electronics, no distractions—just being in the moment and being thankful.
“The idea behind today is to disconnect to connect,” said Alyse Messafi, a freshman letters and sciences student. “It’s similar to Shabbat in the sense that it is a time to be with your community and remove anything in your life that might be distracting you from doing that.”
Many students expressed the same gratitude for the event as Messafi, including freshman computer science major Michael Cutler, who said he was in need of a break after a stressful past few weeks preparing for midterms.
“This event came at the best time,” said Cutler. “After running around all semester, it’s nice to be able to sit down and catch up with friends.”