As Jewish students at Stanford observe Passover this week, they have the option of dining at Hillel, the hub for Jewish students on campus, or piecing together meals at dining halls, which have tried to offer certain Passover foods like Matzah crackers and Gefilte fish. Passover – marked by celebratory Seders across campus – began last Friday and will continue until Saturday.
Shifra Elman, interim director of Jewish life at Stanford, has been in charge of organizing the kosher meals at Hillel for the eight days of Passover. Hillel employs a Mashgiach, or kosher supervisor to maintain the highest level of kosher certification possible.
“While we have very few students who are at that strict a level of kosher observation, we make it so that everyone can eat,” Elman said.
Stanford’s Hillel was busy with activity this week with three meals a day, including the proper kosher breakfast, which is often neglected by the Stanford dining halls. Elman goes shopping for kosher items like fresh fruit and special breads and has them available for students to drop by in the morning before classes. Hillel even has a special kosher toaster oven just for Passover.
“It would be great to get kosher Passover foods in the dining halls, but it’s almost impossible to avoid cross contamination,” Elman said.
While dining halls across campus have set out an array of Passover snacks for five years now, Elman explained that this is more of a symbolic gesture rather than a reliable way for Jewish students observing Passover to get a truly kosher meal.
“It’s the same idea if one Easter the dining halls laid out colorful Easter eggs in honor of the holiday,” Elman said, “It’s an acknowledgement of the Jewish culture but not substantial enough for [Passover observing] students to make a meal out of the food.”
Elman, however, acknowledged that while Stanford chefs do their best to accommodate students during the regular year, especially at Florence Moore dining, the large kitchens are just not equipped to offer Passover meals.
Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises declined to comment by the time this article went to press.
Hillel has been offering three meals a day to students for three years now during the week of Passover, and Jewish students, whether they keep kosher during the year or not, enjoy the community that comes together to eat and have fellowship.
“Look at this,” Elman said, gesturing to the students gathered in Hillel’s cozy eating area at lunch on Wednesday. “Everyone comes to celebrate community and has Passover food together. It’s great.”
For Yisroel Quint ’17, his adherence to the kosher diet makes eating in the dining halls for Passover nearly impossible, so he has been eating his meals at Hillel this week.
“The food options at Hillel have made it possible and quite easy to keep Kosher during Passover,” Quint said.
Hillel has held several Passover-themed events open to the entire Stanford community. The events have included 13 different Seders ranging from traditional to Jewish Queer Seder and even a Matzah candy-making workshop this week.
Contact Elizabeth Wallace at wallacee ‘at’ stanford.edu.