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April 12, 2014

Celebrating Passover away from home: Local groups offer students opportunities

“You shall keep this as a rule for you and your children for all time. When you shall enter the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you shall observe this rite. Then, when your children ask you, ‘What is the meaning of this rite?’ you shall say, ‘It is the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” — Exodus 12:24-27.

When Rabbi Meir Rubashkin, co-director of Chabad of Oneonta, part of a Jewish international organization with a branch dedicated to campus ministry, discusses Passover, he is happy to describe the traditions and customs of the holiday. But he really likes to go deeper — to talk about what all the ancient and somewhat curious practices mean for Jews historically and spiritually.

And, according to Rubashkin, Passover celebration and spirituality is about Jewish families and their connection to God, as denoted by observant Jews.

It begins with the biblical passages quoted above.

“The central theme of Passover is recounting what took place to our children, from one generation to the next,” Rubashkin said. “Family is a very, very big part of it.”

However, not all of Oneonta’s Jewish college students will be able to return home to their families to celebrate the event through which, as Rubashkin said, “The Jews became their own nation.”

Passover is celebrated in abib, or spring. The timing of the holiday is no coincidence. As spring brings new life and growth in the natural world, Passover recounts the birth of the Jewish nation and its spiritual renewal, Rubashkin said.

When Passover falls on students’ spring break, Jewish students can be home for the holiday. But if not, as is the case this year for students attending college locally, the holiday can have an ironic feeling of exile.

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