U’s Jewish students switch to kosher foods for Passover

Hillel, the Jewish student center, will offer kosher meals on campus all week.

University sophomore Aaron Gendler said he has to get creative with his morning meal this week.

“I (usually) eat Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast every day,” Gendler said. “I guess I’ll miss those the most.”

On Saturday at sundown, Gendler joined Jews around the world in celebrating the Jewish holiday Passover. Through Sunday, Jews celebrating Passover will follow a kosher diet – foods specifically approved for the holiday.

Passover celebrates the Jews’ redemption from Egypt. According to the book of Exodus, they left Egypt so quickly that their bread didn’t have time to rise. To commemorate the holiday, Jews eat unleavened bread.

“The general prohibition on Passover is on eating any foods that have leavened products in them,” said Amy Olson, director of Hillel, the Jewish student center. “And all grains, including rice, for some tradition.”

To a college student, that translates into no pizza, no burritos, no beer and a whole lot of matzah – a brittle, unleavened bread.

“Matzah is a pretty flexible food,” junior Peter Brickwedde said. “There’s matzah meal, matzah balls – you can turn it into a lot of different things. You can use it to bake things, but I get pretty tired of it after seven days, to be honest.”

Junior Heather Cohen said she finds creative ways to stick to tradition.

“I eat matzah with turkey and mayo or with eggs and jelly,” Cohen said. “And I don’t eat any yeast products or anything that isn’t specifically approved for Passover.”

For students living in the residence halls, keeping kosher is not always easy.

“During my freshman and sophomore years in the dorm, I couldn’t eat anything but salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Brickwedde said. “I’m a very picky eater to begin with, so Passover knocks out about 98 percent of what I can eat.”

Olson said she recognizes the problems of keeping kosher on a student budget, especially because the special foods can get expensive.

“It’s very challenging for students in residence halls who want to continue to eat there,” Olson said. “You really have to be thoughtful about what you’re picking to eat.”

Hillel will serve kosher Passover meals on campus all week. The meals are free for students with meal plans, $7 for students not living in the residence halls and $12 for nonstudents. Friday night’s dinner is free for everyone.

“We’ll be serving cold cuts and different salads, and probably some chicken,” Olson said. “We’re expecting about 30 to 40 people at each meal.”

Olson said that to reserve a meal, students should stop by Hillel or send an e-mail to [email protected] She said she prefers people make reservations, but they won’t turn anyone away.

Although the holiday requires celebrants to be careful about what they eat, Gendler said he doesn’t mind giving up his Frosted Mini-Wheats to honor the tradition.

“I survived last year, so I’m sure I’ll survive this year too,” Gendler said. “I’ll be eating a lot of meat and fruit.”

– Freelance editor Lou Raguse welcomes comments at [email protected]