Jewish students celebrate second pandemic Passover

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Like last year, Passover seders look very different for students and their families due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo courtesy of Courtney Cohn.

By Nira Dayanim
Staff Writer
@umdmitzpeh 

What makes Passover this year different from all other years? For Jewish students at this university, observing Passover during the pandemic for the second time brings unique challenges and new meaning to the holiday.

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is typically a time to gather with family members and have large and festive meals, known as “seders.” However, this year and last year, observing in the midst of COVID-19 results in a different experience for this university’s Jewish student body.

Talia Denicoff, a junior public health science major, headed home to spend the holiday with her immediate family, but she still wasn’t able to gather with her extended family like she usually does. 

“Usually we have seders with my grandparents and family friends, but we aren’t doing that this year,” said Denicoff.

Additionally, in past years, Jewish students remained on campus for at least a portion of Passover in order to attend classes. This year, because most classes are virtual, Jewish students have the ability to spend the entire holiday at home. 

“It’s definitely easier to be home because this year we would have had to kasher our entire kitchen for [Pesach],” said David Charendoff, a junior mechanical engineering major.  

For students who are choosing to stay on campus for the entire holiday, Hillel and Chabad are offering seder options, including to-go seder dinners, free seder kits, matzah and more. 

Last year, Passover took place at the beginning of the pandemic, when many people did not yet understand the virus and how long its impact would last. As such, some students, like Rami Sloan, a freshman government and politics major, find that they are more well-equipped for a pandemic Passover this year.

“On Passover last year, we didn’t realize how long the pandemic was going to be and were still kind of dealing with the culture shock from [COVID-19],” he said. “This year, we’re more excited and prepared for [the seder].”

On Passover, the Jewish people celebrate the exodus of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt, and freedom that came after a long stretch of hardship. This year, the theme of the holiday is deeply relatable. As the vaccine continues to roll out, the possibility of a “normal” Passover next year seems possible, offering a reprieve after a dark and challenging year. 

“As things begin to improve with the pandemic, we’re starting to get some of our old lives back,” Sloan said. “It’s a fraction of what the Jews felt when they left Egypt.