Jewish students gear up for Passover

by Shannon Fiecke

Many Jewish students will celebrate Passover at sundown tonight, even if their college lives alter their usual holiday traditions.

Tonight’s meal – called a Seder – kicks off Passover, which commemorates the biblical story of the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt. The celebration ends at nightfall a week from Tuesday.

“It’s a big family holiday, a time when families get together like Christians do on Christmas,” said Jonathan Paradise, a retired classical and near eastern studies professor.

University students unable to spend the coming events with relatives can share them with fellow students.

Alissa Boguslaw, a first-year student, will take advantage of Passover meals at Hillel, the University’s Jewish student center.

Jews eat unleavened bread – which contains no yeast – throughout Passover as a reminder of the Israelites leaving captivity so quickly that the dough they carried had no time to rise.

“It’s kind of like Lent – you’re giving something up to remember,” Boguslaw said. “But it’s not at all a sad holiday; we’re recognizing the fact that we were freed from slavery.”

Boguslaw said her family gets rid of all the chips and bread in the house and buys only kosher products, foods following Jewish dietary standards.

Boguslaw said that during this Passover she will still eat nonyeast-containing products but cannot afford to dump the food in her dorm and buy kosher food.

Kosher items are assured to not have been prepared near nonkosher items, Hillel director Amy Olson said.

The Seder meal – which occurs the first two nights of Passover for those living outside of Israel – has 15 steps, Olson said.

This year, Boguslaw said, she will eat her first Seder meal with her boyfriend’s family in a traditional manner. The following night she said she plans to share the meal with friends – in a more relaxed, educational way.

Paradise said the Seder can take several hours and has elements besides the meal, including readings from and discussions based on the book the Haggadah.

“Seder is more than a service, more than a ritual, more than a songfest, more than improvised dramatics and more than games, and it’s all of them,” he said.

Jews mainly celebrate Passover, but Paradise said it is a biblical story that Muslims and Christians also recognize.