Hillel members celebrated the end of Passover at sundown on Tuesday April 22 with a pizza dinner at Mama Mia’s. Members of this club, along with other Jewish people on campus and across the world, celebrated the holiday by keeping kosher for Passover. Passover and the specific diet that accompanies it has historic and religious roots. It is a tribute to the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, which occurred in such a hurry that they had to leave before the bread could rise.
“We remember the struggle of our people, but it also kind of relates back to now and humbles us because even if we aren’t struggling right now, there is someone who is struggling right now,” freshman Michal Zweig said.
For Ashkenazi Jews who are descended from France, Germany and Eastern Europe, going kosher for Passover is very restricting. The diet does not allow grains or any food that rises, corn, legumes or soy. This can be challenging in modern times, when variations of corn can be found in most packaged or processed items. In addition, year-round kosher rules prohibit eating dairy and meat together, shellfish or meat that is slaughtered inhumanely.
The holiday begins with a Seder on the first two days of Passover, intended for eating with friends and family and hearing the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. On campus, Hillel organizes two Seders with help from Campus Auxiliary Services and the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.
“On top of the first two Seders, we also work with CAS to provide lunch and dinner every day of Passover,” senior Marty Rogachefsky said. “Students can sign up for it ahead of time.”
“Especially at times of the year like Passover, we feel kind of responsible for facilitating this for all Jews on campus – whether or not they participate in Hillel activities for the rest of the year,” Hillel president junior Justin Morris added.
Students have the opportunity to sign up for this service before Passover. Shipments include a variety of kosher for Passover foods, including meat delivered from a kosher butcher in Rochester.
About 70 students signed up for this service this year, only a fraction of Geneseo’s Jewish population.
“Hillel regularly corresponds with about 150 Jewish students throughout the year, but when you think of that being about half the Jews on campus, it’s kind of a struggle,” Morris said. “We hear after that people didn’t know how to go about getting kosher for Passover food.”
Considering the difficulties of being kosher for Passover on a meal plan and outside of a supportive Jewish household, many remain unaware of the service.
“I think it’s an adjustment just because the options here are slightly more limited than back home,” freshman Rachel Wilcove said. “Back home, a lot of my friends were Jewish so we could go through it together.”
Hillel works with CAS to make eating during Passover as easy as possible, but a setback commonly faced is misunderstanding of the culture.
“I think the biggest confusion is specifically what are the rules of what you can and can’t eat,” Wilcove said. “A lot of people think it’s just bread, but that’s not the case.”
Individuals honor this tradition in their own way. Some will eat only kosher meat while some eat what is provided on campus. Some use separate plates during this time of year and some do not, and Geneseo’s Jewish community honors each variation.
“Everyone is making their own decisions and keeping kosher to the best of their ability,” Morris said.