Jewish students begin celebration of Passover


On Wednesday morning, at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Members of the Jewish community watch as Max Dayan, left, a sophomore in LAS, burns the chametz (leavened bread) which can not be consumed during the Jewish holiday of Passover.

By Mary Beth Versaci

Wednesday evening at sundown marked the beginning of the eight-day celebration of Passover for the over 3,000 Jewish students on campus.

“It tells the story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt,” said Joel Schwitzer, executive director of the Hillel Foundation. “We remain connected to our history by joining together and retelling the story.”

The Hillel Foundation works with students from all over the Jewish spectrum and will be providing lunches and dinners throughout the eight days of Passover. There were multiple Seder meals–dinners containing special dishes and the telling of the Passover story–Wednesday night, and one meal on Thursday will use the movie “The Prince of Egypt” to re-tell the tale, he said.

“No matter how you see your own Jewish identity, there is something in how Passover is celebrated that everyone can relate to,” Schwitzer said.

Yael Mazor, engagement associate at Hillel, said that watching “The Prince of Egypt” will help students to not only watch the Passover story but to experience it as well.

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    “We’re using media to really feel what happened in a way that we might not get from the text,” she said.

    This Thursday at 8:30 p.m., the Seder meal featuring “The Prince of Egypt” will be held at the Margie K. and Louis N. Cohen Center for Jewish Life at 503 E. John St.

    “The meaning of Passover is to get past our own exiles and set ourselves free,” said Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life. “We leave our own personal Egypt, our personal boundaries, and do what is right.”

    The Chabad Center featured a large, family-style Seder Wednesday night and will be holding another Thursday at 8 p.m. at the center, 509 S. Fourth St.

    “We celebrate the time when we became free,” Tiechtel said. “We take so many things for granted. We need to think about what it actually means to be free.”

    At the Chabad Center, everyone is welcome for who they are, he added.

    “We bring Judaism in a non-judgmental way,” Tiechtel said. “For some, this may be the first time they are celebrating Passover, for others, the twenty-third, but we all sit at the same table.”

    For Bernardo Herdan, this will be his first time celebrating Passover in the United States.

    “I am celebrating Passover at Chabad, along with my mother and sister, who are joining me all the way from Venezuela for this special occasion,” said Herdan, freshman in Engineering.

    He said he attended the Wednesday night Seder at Chabad because it best represents his homestyle Seder.

    “Even though I am far away from home, and I am now currently independent, I will try to continue with the traditions that my family has done for the entire course of my life,” Herdan said.

    Lexi Abern, freshman in LAS, also said she is trying to continue her Passover traditions from home. One tradition is following food guidelines and, for instance, eating only unleavened bread.

    “My parents definitely enforced it with me. It will be interesting to see how I struggle with it,” she said. “It’s definitely important to me, but it might be harder this year.”

    She said that Passover and its guidelines are symbolic of the Jews being set free from slavery in Egypt.

    “They were leaving Egypt in a hurry. We’re supposed to feel their affliction of being in the desert without real bread,” Abern said. “It’s about freedom, although it may not sound like it, so it’s important to remember what we went through.”