Celebrating Passover in college (and during a pandemic)

Photo of Passover food
Robert Couse-Baker/File
Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/"/ under CC BY-SA 2.0

Related Posts

If you’re celebrating Passover this year, you may be wondering how you’re going to pull it off amid a pandemic. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Passover, or Pesach, is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt. For a week, modern Jews follow specific customs that remind them of this historical exodus, such as refusing to eat leavened bread and certain other foods and conducting a seder on the first and second night of Passover. Though a seder usually is a large communal meal, this year, things are a bit different and many students have to adapt to doing Passover in small apartments with housemates that may not observe Passover. The typical Passover experience can be challenging enough — not eating bread really affects my mood. For college students looking to celebrate, here are some ideas to make Passover special and stress-free while living away from home.

Passover cleaning

An important part of celebrating Passover traditionally is, unfortunately, cleaning. It’s custom to get rid of all the chametz, or leavened foods, before Passover begins, and part of that involves cleaning your house. Though this can be tedious, it’s a great idea to use Passover as an excuse for some spring cleaning. I know you think your oven doesn’t really require cleaning, but trust me, it probably does. Even if you don’t go the traditional route cleaning-wise — for instance, modern microwave cleaning customs involves microwaving a cup of water until it all evaporates — a ceremonial or just practical cleaning of your kitchen and apartment is a great way to start Passover. And maybe this is motivation to clear those rotting vegetables out of the back of your fridge. Many people choose to get rid of all unused chametz instead of storing it somewhere out of sight. If you have extra unused goods, consider donating them!

Seder (with limited resources)

I’m used to having a giant family seder, or communal meal, but that obviously can’t happen this year. If you want to have a seder with your housemates, even if they haven’t celebrated Passover before, go for it! You don’t need to have everything perfect, it just has to feel right. For instance, I don’t really have many ways to get a shank bone, which is an important part of the seder plate. Instead, I’ll either print out an image or use some other kind of representative item, like a chicken bone. If you don’t have a Haggadah, the text that helps you lead a seder, try to find a pdf online. And if all you want to do is tell the Passover story (or maybe just watch “The Prince of Egypt”) and then eat some matzah ball soup, that’s good too.

Mindfulness throughout the week

It can be hard to keep up Passover as the days go on and the people around you are eating whatever they want. Remind yourself that Passover can be a great opportunity to practice mindfulness and appreciation for the life you usually lead. Passover doesn’t have to be a chore if washing your dishes specially and cleaning your kitchen are too much, it’s okay to opt out of those specific practices. The importance of the holiday is remembering and commemorating a time when the Jewish people gained freedom. Maybe that means supporting other people’s freedom by donating to social justice organizations or choosing just one day to eat matzah, unleavened bread or crackers.

Easy kosher meals

Keeping kosher for Passover can be a struggle, especially if you don’t have access to kosher markets where you might normally get supplies. Keep it simple by enjoying some super awesome go-to Passover meals, such as matzah pizza (matzah with melted cheese and pizza sauce) and matzah brei (kind of like matzah French toast). You also can just eat as you usually do, but swap out bread for matzah — I’ve eaten a lot of peanut butter and jelly matzah sandwiches in my day. I plan to avoid all processed foods that aren’t certified kosher for Passover, but even if that is not your custom, Passover can be a good excuse to eat fresh, healthy foods.

Though Passover can be a lot of fun, it also can be a lot of work and a little stressful. To ease the stress, just remember: There is no right or wrong way to celebrate. At the end of the day, whatever you do will be just enough!

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].