During Passover, matzoh rises up around campus

Monday, April 21, 2008

Matzoh emerged from a year of hibernation with the start of Passover Saturday night. For the duration of the holiday, which lasts from seven to eight days depending on the sect and national origin of observers, the flat, unleavened bread, which is nearly impossible to find during the rest of the year, will be all over campus. Jewish and non-Jewish students alike have noticed the boxes at the Sharpe Refectory and the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall.

Passover commemorates the escape of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt around 1270 B.C. During the holiday, it is traditional to avoid food made of grain that has been allowed to rise, such as breads and cereals, as a reminder of the unleavened bread the Jews ate as they fled from Egypt.

“Today, for our seders, we eat our matzoh symbolically to remember that while we were once slaves in Egypt, we are also free,” said Ami Hersh, Hillel rabbinic intern. “Freedom is a central part of Passover,” he said.

“It is an effective metaphor for the persecution of our ancestors,” Ben Winkler ’11 said.

Hillel hosted five seders Saturday night and one Sunday night, said Samantha Pohl, Hillel’s program director. The Saturday seders appealed to different communities within Brown.

One was held by Alpha Epsilon Pi, another focused on issues of social justice and another was conducted Israeli-style, A general community seder was held, as well as one open to ultimate frisbee players, Pohl said.

Students who observe the dietary restrictions of the holiday find that matzoh is one of the few carbohydrates they can eat.

Some students don’t mind – “It’s delicious and square,” Saul Lustgarten ’09 said. But many students agree that the taste leaves a lot to be desired.

“I like matzoh for the first few days and I then remember, every year, that I just don’t like it,” said Talia Singer-Clark ’11.

“There are only so many things you can put on it,” she said.

“It’s tasteless,” said Avram Levi GS during Hillel’s Sunday seder.

Elise Fishelson ’11 suggested eating matzoh with cream cheese.

“Condiments are very essential with matzoh, mostly butter,” said Harrison Avart ’10.

Last year, the Gate spiced up matzoh by making matzoh-and-cheese pizza. But there wasn’t any evidence of the creation this year.

Josh Bernard ’11, who called matzoh “a change from the norm,” expressed disappointment that the Gate was not serving matzoh pizza this year, saying the Passover meal reminded him of home.

“All they have to do is spread tomato sauce over the matzoh and then sprinkle some variety of cheeses on it,” he said. “How hard would it be?”

With the exception of the Gate, expect to see the cracker many places around campus in the next week or so. And then expect it to vanish again, as students return to consuming their breads, cakes, pastas and cereals.

“It does disappear, but it’s there when we need it,” said Bryan Laulicht GS, who also attended Sunday’s seder.