Hillel of Buffalo host traditional Jewish Passover Seder

Jewish students who can't travel home for Passover can turn to Hillel of Buffalo to celebrate


It can be difficult to celebrate religious holidays without the support of family or comfort of home.

Some Jewish UB students who are unable to travel back home for Passover had the chance to celebrate the holiday in the comfort of the university.

Hillel of Buffalo kicked off Passover with two Seder dinners, one on Friday and the other on Saturday night. The dinners were held in Pistachios in the Student Union.

The Passover Seder dinner is a Jewish ritualistic feast that marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover is a holiday that celebrates the Jewish liberation from the Egyptians who enslaved them.

Hillel of Buffalo is not the only place on campus that offers a Seder dinner for students. The Chabad House that sits behind the Ellicott Complex also has dinner on Friday and Saturday, a homemade feast provided by the Rabbi, Moshe Gurary and his wife, Rivka.

Dan Metchnik, Hillel of Buffalo director has attended the Hillel dinner for the past three years.

“What we are doing every year is providing food and a welcoming place for students,” Metchnik said. “It doesn’t matter if you are from Africa or Israel, Thailand or Queens.”

The food provided came from Wegman’s kosher deli, according Metchnik. The funds for the meals were raised through an online fundraiser.

Jedidiah Kalmanofsky, a junior philosophy major and a religious holiday intern at Hillel, said he was pleased with the attendance for the event.

“There are some logistical challenges that come with groups like this,” Kalmanofsky said. “It’s really great that so many people who aren’t necessarily in this community all the time are so [actively attending] this.”

The Seder is a traditional ceremony that has many parts to it. The story of Passover is an interactive one, in which guests drink “wine,” eat certain foods at specific points in the story and recite chants and sing songs in light of the holiday. Once the official Seder is over, dinner begins.

The ceremony began when guests poured themselves a cup of grape juice that acted as the stand in for the traditional drink of wine.

Kalmanofsky recited a Hebrew prayer called the “Kiddish” during the dinner, which is the blessing over the wine.

Guests then participated in a ritualistic washing of the hands done in silence. Next came “Karpas” when everyone took cilantro and dipped it into salt water. This is done to represent the tears of the Israelites as they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians.

Three pieces of matzah, or unleavened bread, were stacked and broken in half. The larger of the two pieces acts as the Afikomen, which is traditionally wrapped in a napkin and then hidden for children to find.

Matzah represents the struggle the Israelites had when they were finally able to escape Egypt. They didn’t have time to bake bread for their journey and instead, let the dough harden on their backs as they walked away from their oppressors.

The telling of the story of Passover continues throughout the Seder and once the final blessings are recited, the feast can begin.

Jeremy Landau, a senior international finance major who has been an intern at UB’s Hillel for four years, attended the dinner last year.

“The tradition itself begins with two Seders, large dinners in which you retell the story, and there are certain rituals that are involved with it,” Landau said. “On top of that there are songs that are sung, it really varies per family, and then two days after that people go to synagogue.”

Metchnik said students don’t have to be religious to enjoy Passover.

“It’s more about being ‘mishpachah’ which means family [in Hebrew],” he said. 

James MacDavid is a news staff writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com