By Olivia Winters
אִלּוּ הֶאֱכִילָנוּ אֶת הַמָּן וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת דַּיֵּנוּ. “If he had given us the manna and had not given us the Shabbat, dayeinu– it would have been enough!”
For former Hillel President Leah Nadel (‘18), “… keeping Passover has always been a way to showcase pride for my different religious traditions. Keeping Passover is also a way to connect with the values and traditions of our ancestors.” While I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah and attending Catholic school, I wholeheartedly agree with Leah’s sentiment. When I arrived at Drew, I was able to get much more in touch with my Jewish faith thanks to the university’s chapter of Hillel. That’s why, as Passover approached us this spring, I was very much looking forward to celebrating the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery with my community. דַּיֵּנוּ, dayeinu!
Look, we don’t ask for much. Despite an abundant Jewish population on Drew’s campus, the turnout at most Hillel events is often dismal. This generation of young Jews seems to be growing less and less religious with each passing day, settling for being culturally Jewish and nothing more. This means poor attendance at Seder, the annual Hanukkah and Purim parties, and organized trips to synagogue for the High Holy Days. Luckily, we live in a time and place in which this is the norm; it is a beautiful thing that the Jewish students at Drew can decide for themselves whether or not they practice the religion. דַּיֵּנוּ, dayeinu!
Sure, the students who do choose to practice are few and far between. This can be the only explanation I can think of for why the kosher options in the Commons were so utterly pathetic for Passover this year. Perhaps Aramark was under the impression that, due to the small number of Hillel members, it would be fine to just ignore the needs of the students who were choosing to keep kosher for Passover. I mean, if there’s only a handful, they don’t really need to go all out, right? Not quite. דַּיֵּנוּ, dayeinu!
It was a slap in the face to be greeted with such a passive aggressive sign upon entering the Commons classroom for breakfast on the first day of Pesach. I couldn’t believe my eyes, even before they rolled back into my head, when I was apparently schooled on what it means to keep kosher for Passover by a crumpled piece of computer paper taped hastily to the door. To paraphrase, according to Jewish law, eating meat, fruit, vegetables and starches like quinoa are already kosher for Passover; in other words, there is no need to provide actual food, let alone different types of meals for Ashkenazi or Sephardi students. Who would have thought that Aramark would be so kind to educate its Jewish students on what it means to keep kosher? How very convenient it must have been to kill two birds with one nauseating stone in order to not have to pay for real food! It’s not news that Aramark is stingy when it comes to being accomodating to dietary restrictions; I couldn’t count the amount of times that I’ve pitied my vegetarian and vegan friends, not to mention my friends who eat Halal. But to be promised a week’s worth of properly blessed food, only to be thrown a few scraps of matzah, pickles and macaroons? דַּיֵּנוּ, dayeinu!
According to Nadel, “… Nothing is going to compare to the traditions we keep at home, but at least there was a clear attempt in previous years.” All we ask for is the respect from the university dining services to allow us to practice our religion as best we can when we’re away from home. At the end of the day, the “menu” provided (see above: matzahs, pickles, etc.) was highly misleading. If Aramark can provide a few trays of fish on Fridays during Lent, I have no doubt in my mind that it can whip up enough food for a few days for a couple hungry Jews. Or at least an extra jar of gefilte fish for Jake Levine. דַּיֵּנוּ, dayeinu, it would have been enough!
Olivia is a junior Theater and French double major and a minor in European Studies.
Graphic by David Giacomini