A different holiday celebration
Celebrating Passover eight hours from home
It's hard being eight hours from home on the Jewish holidays.
Growing up, my family either celebrated important Jewish holidays in Israel with approximately 200 of our other family members, or in our own home with our closest family-friends.
Passover always meant singing the word "Dayenu," at the top of my lungs while throwing pieces of lettuce at my dad.
"Dayenu" is a Hebrew word, meaning, "it would have sufficed." It's sung at the Seder table in order to show God appreciation for everything he has done for the Jewish peoples.
"If he had only brought us out from Egypt, if he had only carried out his judgments against those that harm us, if he had only split the sea for us - all of these things would have been enough for us," the Jewish peoples sing, according to chabad.org.
When I sang "dayenu" as a child, I was thankful for the strong relationship my father and I had. I was appreciative for how childish we could be and knew that he would always be my go-to buddy, no matter how old I got.
When reading off the Ten Plagues at the Seder, my mom and I dipped our pinky fingers into our glasses of grape juice and put the droplets of juice onto our plates. This symbolized the Ten Plagues God place upon the Egyptians in order to set the Jews free.
This always made me feel protected by my mother.
Hearing the terrible pestilences, which God placed upon other humans, taught me the importance of being humanly in my actions in order to avoid bad karma.
With every pinky dip I heard another plague, "boils, lice, death of first born."
With every droplet of wine coming off our fingers and landing on my plate, I felt safe because the values my mother engrained in me, as a child, would lead me to a life free of plagues.
Growing up, at the end of every Seder came the afikomen.
"For Jewish children, the afikomen is used to hold their attention until the end of the Seder. In some families the children 'steal' the matzo and are paid a ransom to get it back to the table. In other families it is hidden and the children search for it and are rewarded. Some Jews from Middle Eastern countries saw the afikomen as having special powers and kept a piece of it as a good luck charm," according to chaim.org.
My aunts and uncles always told me where to find the hidden piece of matzo and I always won a prize - being the youngest in the family definitely paid off.
Holidays are fun at home.
They remind me how close and loving my family is and how important being Jewish is to me. They remind me of being a child again.
Each year at UB I worry that I may not have as good of a holiday as I would at home. Though many of my more religious friends travel home for the holidays, I'm unsure as to whether I'm making a mistake by staying eight hours from my family.
And each year, the Chabad on North Forest Road diminishes my worries.
Hosting approximately 200 students and other members of the Buffalo community, the Chabad created a homey atmosphere for those who stayed in the Queen City for Passover this year.
Salads, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, matzo, chicken, mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets and rainbow cookies, were just some of the foods offered at Monday night's Seder at Chabad.
I may not have had my blood family there, but I felt a sense of family and unity while sitting at the table. Singing songs like "dayenu" with my friends and dipping my pinky finger into my wine with 200 other students, in the same boat as me, made me feel a different sense of home.
I remember the importance of friendship and of thanking God for providing me with an education when I celebrate at school. And when Rabbi Moshe Gurary speaks of the Passover story, I am reminded of the rigid journey my ancestors faced in their search for freedom.
Holidays in Buffalo inspire me in a different way - I always leave the doors of the Chabad feeling welcomed, with a new insight to my religion and past. And though sometimes it's hard to spend a holiday away from my parents' home-cooked meals and powerful love, I wouldn't trade the holidays I've experienced at the Chabad for anything.
I have the rest of my life to celebrate with my blood relatives. I may never get the chance to celebrate my Judaism with a room of 200 friends and acquaintances again.
My Chabad family has served me well these past four years - I am appreciative of that on this holiday.