Passover celebrated across campus

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Adam Terese

Jewish students across campus began celebrating the eight-day-long Jewish holiday of Passover Saturday at sundown. The holiday’s last night is Saturday at sundown.

Passover is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the Jewish faith, said Beri Schwitzer, the director of education at the Sinai Temple in Champaign. She described two aspects of the holiday.

“The concept of Passover is like an obligation to remember the exodus of the freed Jewish slaves from Egypt,” Schwitzer said. “The second piece is that we are obligated to pass the history over to our children. It’s about the past, present and future.”

The holiday got its name from a passage in the Old Testament. When God told the Israelites enslaved in Egypt that he would free them, he added that he would “smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.” However, God told the Israelites to mark their doors with lamb’s blood: “and when I see the blood, I will pass over you,” according to the Bible.

Those who choose to celebrate usually have two Seder meals with family or friends – one on each of the first two days of Passover, Schwitzer said. During the meals as well as during other meals for the eight-day period, specific foods, such as those with yeast and flour, are restricted. During the Seder, a sort of “prayer book” called the Haggadah, which combines the past, present and the future, is read from, she said.

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“Seder goes beyond words,” Schwitzer said. “Its purpose pervades all our senses because we taste it, we sing and we feel it.”

According to Joel Schwitzer, the executive director at Hillel Foundation and Beri’s husband, there are anywhere from 3,000 to 3,500 Jewish students on campus at the University – a fact that certain organizations and the University have made sure to accommodate.

“Most people I know did one of three things,” said Courtney Weisman, sophomore in Applied Life Studies. “They went home to be with their families, went to Hillel or went to a Seder at one of the Jewish frat houses.”

The Hillel Foundation offers lunch and dinner meals for Passover for a small fee for those students who have trouble finding food appropriate for the eight day period, Joel Schwitzer said. The foundation also offered a variety of Seder meals Saturday and Sunday for students, he added.

“We had a number of different Seders, such as family-style, traditional – which was mostly in Hebrew – and creative … with multimedia incorporated into the proceedings,” Joel Schwitzer said. “There’s no one way to be Jewish, so (the variety) empowers students of all different backgrounds.”

Joel Schwitzer said Hillel also held additional Seders at the campus rabbi’s home over the weekend and an Inter-Faith Seder in Allen Residence Hall, as well as in at least one greek house on campus.

The Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi held a free Seder meal sponsored by Hillel for members of the greek community on Sunday. Jeremy Glassenberg, a member and junior in engineering, who helped with the planning, said the free Seder has been going on for a few years and is a tradition.

“It’s good for convenience,” Glassenberg said. “It’s a lot easier to have it right in your own house.”

Jeremy Rose, a member of the fraternity and freshman in LAS, said the largely Jewish fraternity was a good way to keep in touch with his faith, even though he went home for Passover.

“It’s nice to be in a Jewish frat,” Rose said. “It’s like a second type of home.”

Members of the community, including some students, attended the Sinai Temple, the only Jewish congregation in Champaign-Urbana, Beri Schwitzer said.

The dining halls in some residence halls attempted to do their part, too. Allie Harris, freshman in LAS, said she noticed that Dining Services provided unleavened bread and a few other items. She said it wasn’t bad because of the wide variety of food available.

“The dorms aren’t that bad because they have the salad bar and turkey,” she said. “It’s just easier to bring your own food though.”

Stephanie Saunders, sophomore in education, said the dorms made some effort in past years to accommodate Jewish students, but the selection of food suitable for Passover really wasn’t adequate.

“The dorms only made a minute effort (with the food) last year, especially if you follow all the kosher rules with the food,” Saunders said.

Other students decided to go home over the weekend in order to have the Seder meals with their family and friends. Saunders said she went back to her home in Palatine, Ill., for the first weekend of Passover.

“In the Jewish religion, the aspect of family is so strong,” Saunders said.

Allison Wolfe, junior in education, noted the importance of the holiday both for her family and for the Jewish people as a whole.

“Passover has always been considered an important time for Jewish people to remember our history, and it’s a good way to spend time with your family,” Wolfe said.