Rachel Grand: Pandemic Passover in Pennsylvania


Photography and Text by Rachel Grand, Copyright 2021


Pandemic Passover in Pennsylvania


Passover is one of the most important and widely celebrated Jewish holidays. It is a holiday that commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt: out of slavery, into freedom. It is an 8-day holiday centered around gratitude for that freedom.

 As part of the exodus story, when the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt, they did not have enough time for their bread to rise. They had to take it with them from the oven while it was still unleavened. To remember this, as part of the observance of Passover, one does not eat any leavened bread. Rather, one is commanded to eat what the Israelites would have eaten, matzah, the unleavened bread, at least once a day for the duration of the holiday. Additionally, Ashkenazi Jews, those descended from Eastern European Jewry, traditionally do not eat rice, beans, corn or any other legumes. With so many restricted foods, it becomes necessary to be extremely intentional about what one eats.

Thus, Passover becomes a holiday centered around food. A holiday celebrated at home, rather than in a synagogue, there is autonomy, variety and creativity in how this holiday is observed. This indeterminacy is especially pronounced on a college campus, where each student comes from a different background and family tradition. The community that is created is thus intentional, formed from compromise.

 Especially in a year of a pandemic, this holiday brings out the durability of the community. Because of the dietary laws, the Jewish organizations on campus provide meals for students that are kosher for Passover. This act of eating meals together, while maintaining social distance, creates a temporary, yet powerful space. In a time of pandemic induced social isolation, there is a newfound appreciation for these communal meals. But Passover comes and goes; the restrictions and alterations to the routine only last 8 days. The special dishes and foods for this holiday must be put away and all is restored back to normal. In a year, it will begin again.


Portrait of Rachel Grand by Aliana Ho, Copyright 2021


About The Author: Rachel Grand is a senior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College majoring in Fine Arts and History. Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Rachel Grand, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/eating-the-forbidden-fruit/


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