Passover — or pesach in Hebrew — celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt to their new homeland in Israel. The Jewish holiday began the evening of April 5 and concluded April 13, a day which marked the end of strict kosher for many practicing Jews.
“It’s remembering our ancestor, our heritage,” said practicing Jew and current campus freshman Jessica Woskow.
A holiday honored by individuals across the globe, Passover is observed by many Jewish students at UC Berkeley in ways both unique to the individual and familiar across the campus Jewish community.
According to Ariel Mizrahi, president of the Jewish Student Union, or JSU, Jewish organizations such as the JSU, Chabad and Berkeley Hillel host a variety of services to celebrate Passover in a communal setting.
“This includes hosting seders, meals, and other events that allow us to come together as a community,” Mizrahi said in an email.
Woskow attended a dinner at Berkeley Hillel, where she said there were a total of 150 attendees. The dinner consisted of a Rabbi-led recollection of the story of Passover, a dinner of matzah ball soup and salad and the singing of Hebrew songs; her personal favorite was “Dayenu.”
Some Jewish students adhere to familial celebrations of Passover, choosing to travel home for traditional dinners and story-telling rituals that accompany them, including Roee Karni.
“I celebrate Passover at home every year, no matter where I am or what I’m doing,” Karni said in an email. “On the last day of Passover, there’s a day called Mimuna, where we can finally enjoy gluten-filled, traditional foods. In my household, many of the Moroccan foods we eat at Mimuna were taught to my mom by my grandma.”
UC Berkeley spokesperson Adam Ratliff noted that campus provides a few accommodations for Jewish students such as prepackaged food options.
Furthermore, Mizrahi said that students could excuse exams due to religious reasons.
However, she also noted that the availability of kosher food options, while present, is limited, especially with the additional dietary restrictions during Passover.
Other than difficulties finding food options and balancing her schedule during the holiday, newly elected ASUC Senator Mizrahi noted the difficulties of observing Passover that she faced while running as a candidate for ASUC Senate.
“This year’s ASUC elections were held during Passover when observant Jewish students like myself were not able to vote from Tuesday night and onward because we’re off of our phones/technology,” Mizrahi stated in an email. “This is extremely unfair to Jewish students across campus trying to balance their religious and academic responsibilities at this time.”
Despite the obstacles faced by many practicing Jewish students, Mizrahi points out the strong Jewish community she found on campus, one to which she attributes her positive three-year experience as a student.
Mizrahi notes that non-Jewish students can help ease the pressures of Jewish students during Passover by asking questions, staying mindful of dietary restrictions and being in solidarity with the community.
“We’re a minority on campus and often feel like we have no voice outside of our community,” Mizrahi said in an email. “Just showing that you care and willing to listen to our struggles means so much.”