__This article was co-authored by Ariel Cohen__
It’s the most wonderful time of the year again. The time when Jewish students at the College of William and Mary trade in bread for matzo, Natty Light for Manischewtz wine and science textbooks for biblical stories to gather with family and friends to celebrate Moses. Yes, it’s Passover again.
A Jewish rite of spring, Passover commemorates the biblical story of Exodus in which the ancient Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt and journeyed to their homeland of Canaan. This celebration is one of the most holy and widely observed Jewish holidays.
“Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays,” Jane Rabinovitz ’13 said. “I love the food, the Seder and the story. It’s fun to have people ask why you’re eating sandwiches on crackers.”
Although there is so much more to the culinary delights of Passover than matzo, carbohydrate depravation has increasingly become the hallmark of the eight-day celebration.
According to legend, as the Israelites rushed to flee Egypt, they did not have enough time for the bread they were baking to rise. Hence they had to take unleavened bread along with them on their 40-year journey to Israel.
To commemorate their struggle, Jews do not eat any form of leavened bread during Passover. Cue the introduction of matzo. During Passover, Jews abstain from the five main grains: wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt.
“I plan on observing Passover this year, but I think it’s going to be hard because most of the food in the dining halls has some sort of bread in it, which you can’t eat during the holiday,” Arianna Zell ’14 said.
According to Director of Operations for William and Mary Dining, Larry Smith, Dining Services has worked with Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus for the past 12 years, to coordinate kosher foods as Passover meal options for observant students.
This year, kosher options for Passover will be served each day at the Commons, Sadler Center, Marketplace and the Mason School of Business’s Boehly Cafe. Each location will provide matzo, hard-boiled eggs, gefilte fish, tuna fish and horseradish as meal options for students observing Passover.
“All dining services does to help is put out some matzo, some horseradish and some gefilte fish, which no one wants to eat anyway. Other than that, they don’t change the dining options to accommodate Passover,” Jacob Saracco ’12, said. “It’s very difficult to keep Passover here, and in the past, I found myself breaking just to get the nutrition I needed.”
Smith emphasized that if a student required any further accommodations during Passover, Dining Services would be more than willing to try to fulfill their requests and suggestions.
Despite these efforts, observing Passover can be difficult for some College students, especially while away from home.
“We used to be slaves in Egypt, so it’s nice that they give us such good food for Passover,” Dan Lefler ’12 said. “Hillel did a really great job this year.”
For students who wish to celebrate Passover in a more traditional setting, Hillel provides two Seders each year for students who want to join in the celebration of the holiday with fellow college students.
“Here at the College, Hillel offers Jewish students some semblance of their typical Passover by holding Seders on the first two nights, providing kosher [for food] for Passover dinners each night during the holiday, and allowing students the opportunity to help with the preparation,” Evan Meltzer ’14, the event coordinator of Hillel said.
A Passover Seder traditionally involves retelling the story of the Israelites’s liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt, represented by a ceremonial Seder plate as a centerpiece. A Seder plate includes maror, charoset, karpas, z’roa and beitzah, all symbolizing elements of the Exodus story.
One large theme of a Passover Seder is education; a common feature is a question-and-answer session that allows participants to gain an understanding of the meaning of the holiday.
One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Why is this night different from all others?”
For Meltzer, it is a time for reflection.
“I think that the story of Passover offers college students a unique source of faith and perseverance in their actions that will help them with the difficulties of the end of the year,” Meltzer said.