Chabad House of Buffalo prepares for the eight-day Jewish holiday Pesach
Rabbi Moshe Gurary and his wife, Rivka, start preparing food for Passover 10 days before the first Seder.
From crushing up potato chips for breading to hard-boiling enough eggs, the couple must prepare enough food for some of UB’s Jewish population to come and celebrate the holiday.
Passover, or Pesach, is the eight-day festival that commemorates the emancipation of Israeli slaves from Egyptian rule. This year, the holiday begins on Friday, April 3 and lasts until April 11.
The rabbi and his wife prepare every year to have students come for the Passover Seder, the traditional feast, to start the holiday. The Chabad House of Buffalo expects between 150 and 200 students for their Friday night Seder, and between 100 and 150 Saturday night.
“Unfortunately, because of schoolwork, many students cannot go home for the holiday, so we provide students with a family atmosphere,” Rabbi Gurary said. “The motto of the Chabad is that it’s a home away from home. We aren’t like any organization or club at the school.”
Ilana Saffeir, a senior health and human services major, loves going to The Chabad because she “gets to spend time with my friends, who have become more like family because we go to the Chabad regularly,” she said.
The holiday centers on the re-telling of the story of Passover from the Book of Exodus.
The story follows Moses, the Israelite who told the Egyptian pharaoh to let his people go. When the pharaoh said no, a plague fell upon the land for 10 days. After the 10th day of the plague, the pharaoh told the Israelites to leave before he changed his mind, and before the city was ravaged from the pandemic.
In their haste, the Hebrews did not bake their bread; rather, they carried the dough on their backs and let the sun bake it into a hard, cracker-like food. This is where matzo, a traditional Passover food, comes from.
Other foods at the Passover Seder are intended to represent elements of the story. Charoset, a combination of chopped apples, walnuts and wine represent bricks and mortar and how hard the Hebrews worked.
“Everything has to be made from scratch. I can’t use rice or flour, so I can’t use anything that’s ready-made. I have to crush up potato chips by hand to bread things, because I can’t just buy bread crumbs,” Rivka said.
To prepare for the Seder, the couple must set up tables, make the food and plan out how everything will be served. Their kitchen must be prepared in advance for three days, while everything is cleaned and cooking materials, plates, cups and silverware are replaced to keep them kosher for Passover – never having touched leavened bread.
“We provide Haggadahs and matzo for everyone,” Rabbi Gurary said. “We will be having a traditional Seder that’s geared towards students, because that’s who we serve. Synagogues may gear their Seders towards family, but we mostly see students.”
The Chabad House doesn’t just host a Seder on the first two nights.
Throughout the week of Passover, their doors are open between 6-9 p.m. for students to come and have a home-cooked, kosher-for-Passover meal.
Saffeir takes advantage of this and uses the Chabad meals to help keep her Kosher.
“On campus, there just aren’t really options for students trying to observe,” Rivka said. “It’s very informal, but we have food prepared for students to come in and have a meal. Some people stay and eat, others just pick it up and leave because they are so busy with school.”
Hillel of Buffalo also has a Seder Friday night. They have a space in the Student Union and bring in traditional kosher-for-Passover food. Their Seder is led and run by students.
But not everyone stays in Buffalo for the holiday.
For senior engineering major Sarah Jacobowitz, she said it’s important to spend time with her family.
“It was always a tradition to get together for the Seders and celebrate the holiday,” Jacobowitz said. “Finally, it fell on a weekend so I have the opportunity to go home and be with my family.”
Religious or not, the Chabad House gives students the option to celebrate the holiday in a comfortable and open atmosphere.
Tori Roseman is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org