This Friday night, April 19, is the first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover, an eight day long festival holiday commemorating the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Because the date of the holiday is based on the Jewish calendar, its date on the Gregorian calendar shifts but is typically in March or April.
“Passover marks the inception of the Jewish people as a nation, bound by a shared historical past–the liberation from slavery in Egypt–rather than as simply a tribal entity,” explained the campus rabbi, Rabbi Dena Bodian.
For students who have never celebrated Passover with their family, like Hillel member Marin Moore ’22, this year celebrating at Wellesley will be especially meaningful.
“I’ve never done Passover with my family before, so for me this year it’s really a learning experience and really cultural and religious and very spiritual,” she said. “For me I really like Judaism’s embodiment of religion and I think that Passover is a good example of that because it’s not an everyday thing. You not only remember where you came from but go through what they went through.” For Moore and other students, this is a chance to get to better understand a holiday they may have heard about for years.
“For me, it’s something that my friends always did that I was never part of so this year I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will be kind of hard but really fun.”
Of the traditions related to Passover, one of the most beloved and widely celebrated is the passover seder, the traditional meal and retelling of the Passover story. This can take place on the first night or the first two nights of the holiday, according to one’s family customs.
“The Passover seder, a ritualized meal which re-enacts the experience of liberation, is both intimate (usually held in people’s homes), yet one of the most accessible of Jewish rites,” Moore continued. “We are commanded to see ourselves as if we had personally been part of the exodus, so Passover practices change over time and location. In America, the seder is the most attended event of any Jewish practice. This year, the Wellesley Jewish community encourages everyone to join us on Friday, April 19 at 6 PM in the Multifaith Center to experience Passover for themselves.”
The Wellesley dining halls typically have matzo available for sandwiches and may or may not have other grain-free dishes, but for students who want more options, Wellesley’s kosher kitchen will have food available.
“For those who wish to observe Passover dietary laws for the full eight days of the holiday, the kosher kitchen on the 3rd floor of Billings will be fully stocked,” said Rabbi Bodian. These rules vary from region to region but often include avoiding anything leavened, such as breads and other baked goods. Some families, depending on where they are from, have other rules about what they can and can’t eat including legumes, corn and other things.
In addition to the Seders and a fully stocked cabinet and fridge, dinners will be catered by a local kosher company.
Miriam McNerney ’21, a student leader within the Jewish community on campus, says that anyone can come to these meals or use the kitchen regardless of previous involvement in Jewish life on campus.
“There will be Kosher-for-Passover food in the Jewish Students Lounge everyday of Passover. Anyone is welcome to drop by without an RSVP. Dinners will include hot catered food, and we’ll have leftovers as well as lots of food stocked in the Kosher kitchen for lunch and dinner. It’s a great time to socialize with other Jewish students, even if you haven’t come to Hillel before.”
According to Moore, keeping up with the Passover traditions would be very difficult without these resources in the kosher kitchen.
“I think it would be a lot harder without having Kosher-for-Passover food. I have some Kosher-for-Passover snacks and matzoh and things in my room, but it wouldn’t be easy. Having easily accessible food and knowing that it’s Kosher-for-Passover and that you’ll be surrounded by people who are also eating kosher for Passover is really nice. It’s nice knowing that there will be a place where no one is eating the food I can’t eat, and also that there’s food for me available, and that it’ll be good food, too.”
To experience Passover for yourself, everyone is welcome to the campus-wide seder on Friday, April 19 at 6 PM in the Multifaith Center.