New Paltz Chabad Hosts Passover Dinners

Jew Paltz offers kosher dishes for students in the Student Union Building.
Jew Paltz offers kosher dishes for students in the Student Union Building.

April 22 – 30 are important dates this year for many students. For these eight days, Jewish community members and students celebrate Passover, or Pesach. Pesach is an important Jewish holiday celebrating and retelling the story of when the Israelites were liberated from slavery by Egyptians. Students were allowed to take time off from classes in order to celebrate the holidays. However, for students who couldn’t go back home, SUNY New Paltz’s Chabad house, or Jew Paltz, opened their doors and welcomed anyone to celebrate the holiday with them, and Jewish affiliation was not a requirement. Jew Paltz welcomes anyone willing to learn and engage with the religion and culture.

 After the sun had set, and most people in the town of New Paltz were retiring for the night, the Chabad house stayed awake to celebrate Pesach. The Plotkins family was offering a “short, fast paced and fun” seder to all students and community members, and another the following day that was expected to be more in depth and dive deeper into the details of the holiday.  

Passover began at sundown on April 22. Judaism follows a lunar calendar, so holidays traditionally begin when the sun sets in the evenings, which also serves as the marker for when a new day begins. For the first two nights of the holiday, it is customary to serve a large dinner called a seder, with family and friends. The Passover seder is a ceremonious meal and shows its importance through the symbolism in the foods served, how they are prepared and the stories shared throughout the meal. People observing the holiday may also remove Chametz, any leavened grain product like bread, from their diets and substitute matzah during the week of Passover. The matzah, like the elements prepared for seder dinner, is a symbol that reflects on the past. Its crunchy and unleavened state represents many aspects of the holiday, but most importantly the haste the Jews had when leaving Egypt — they could not wait for their bread to rise.

Walking into the Rabbi’s house for the first time feels intimidating. Personally, going in with a limited knowledge from my inter-faith household made me have a bit of a guard up. But that anxiety quickly dissipated as the night progressed. The Plotkins’ home was beautifully laid out for seder with candles and seating to welcome all who wandered in. There is something very special about sharing holidays and the community that it brings together, and having it in such a warm, intimate environment elevates the experience entirely.

The night was a celebration but also offered many lessons. The seating was large, which allowed opportunities for multiple seder plates. Instead of watching over the Plotkins, many people were given the opportunity to “lead” the seder dinner alongside the Rabbi. Everyone’s knowledge and traditions varied. For many this was their first time even plating a seder plate. Even with the Rabbi as a guide, people were still asking each other for help. It was heartwarming to know that we were all going through this dinner together.

At their core, Jew Paltz strives to create community. Not only do they open up their home, but they also meet students half-way on campus. This week, they offered kosher lunches on campus for students observing the holiday. I went to Passover alone but left with new friends and meaningful connections within the Jewish community.

About Kenny Nohavicka 28 Articles
Kenny Nohavicka (They/Them) is a fourth year digital media management major from Westchester, NY. They have been writing for the Oracle since they transferred to SUNY New Paltz in Spring 2021. When they’re not writing, Kenny can be found shopping on Main st, dancing to Katy Perry, or doom scrolling through Instagram.

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