Apr 092009
Authors: Stephen Lin

It was her first Passover./ For many Jews, the first Passover is an important experience, but for Mickey Ramirez the occasion meant so much more.

That is because Ramirez is 65 years old.

Ramirez grew up in a Jewish home, and she has never celebrated Passover.

“There was no inspiration to do it,” she said./ “We were kind of on the edge.”

So, after witnessing the kindness of a Jewish visitor from Toronto, Ramirez said she decided to attend Chabad of Northern Colorado’s Passover celebration for the first time./

Fort Collins residents like her as well as students from the Jewish community gathered in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center and enjoyed their traditional Passover Seder dinner on Wednesday, the first day of the celebration.

According to the Torah, God spared the Jews from the tenth plague of the killing of the first-born son, so the curse literally passed them over, hence the name Passover./

Passover begins on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Nissan, and Josh Samet, the director of Hillel at CSU, said that it is a celebration of the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt./

The night was punctuated with prayer and song, wine and food, the symbols of Jewish slavery and eventual freedom.

Children ran around the ballroom, playing hide-and-seek while Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik shared the story of Passover and the meanings behind the rituals and symbols./

Many of the traditions of Passover are steeped in Jewish tradition and history, he said./ Jews eat unleavened bread because, when the Pharaoh released the Jews from Egypt, they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise.

After a few bites from her matzah bread, Ramirez said, “It tastes like cardboard.”

“Not that I’ve ever eaten cardboard,” she added with a smile.

Max Brodsky, the president of the Chabad Jewish Student Organization, summed up Passover as an opportunity “to experience freedom in the community as a whole.”

“We celebrate being free,” Brodsky said.

For many Jews, Passover is more than just a commemoration of their release, but also a celebration of liberty, Gorelik said.

“Every human being has things that hold them back. Passover is about freeing yourself from them,” he said.

Students who couldn’t go back home to their families said they were glad to have a local Passover celebration.

“I always have it with my family, so I’m glad I get to participate in it away from home,” said Hilary Muskin, a freshman undeclared major and former Collegian staff writer.

Alex Alsky, a freshman biology major, said he was surprised to find so many other people together./

“To find this many Jews in Colorado . I got excited.”

Adele Eastman, the ritual coordinator at Congregation Har Shalom, said Passover is the most commonly observed festival in the whole year.

“It’s a whole celebration, a way the community gets

together and acknowledges God’s power in delivering the Jews in Egypt,” Eastman said.

The night was filled with reminders of the story that has been passed down from one generation to the next, from the parents to the children to keep the lesson alive and ensure that Jews understand their journey from Egypt.

But, Gorelik said, “Nothing we do is for the historical value alone.”

He said the evening was also dedicated to modern relevance and how people need to overcome the boundaries placed around their lives to improve their existence.

“We each have a personal Egypt to leave,” he said.

Staff writer Stephen Lin can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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