It is certainly no secret that celebrating holidays on campus is quite difficult as a student; on Yom Kippur, considered one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, we have mandatory classes or examinations. Likewise, on Passover, which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites and their trek to the promised land with a two-night seder, we have academic obligations that may get in the way of properly observing the holiday.
It seems as though celebrating any holiday, major or minor, always involves weighing the sacrifices made to celebrate that holiday. Do I really want to miss a class? What if I fall behind? Will my professor understand that this holiday is really important to me? What can I find on campus that I can eat during Passover? All of these questions are valid and demand a certain degree of careful thought. As college students, we have the ability to decide for ourselves how little or how much we would like to exercise our observance of Judaism, a luxury of living in a secular society, but perhaps most of the time it is more simple to say, “I don’t have time for a Seder, I will just do it next year.” Surely for many Jewish students on campus, including myself, we have made the decision before to skip out on some classic Jewish traditions for the sake of not overcomplicating our stressful academic lives as college students. However, if being a Jewish student at UCLA has taught me anything, it is that we must plan ahead and make time in our schedules for these important holidays and traditions. Perhaps before getting to university, we all had families with whom we joyously endured the holidays, flipping through page after page in the Seder booklet before bursting into a high-speed chase mode, scouring every square inch of the house in anticipation of finding the notorious Afikomen. When we’re on our own, there is no one around to bring out the sense of excitement we feel for finding the precious Afikomen, it is suddenly up to us to decide for ourselves whether we’d like to search for the Afikomen or not.
Of course, there are academic responsibilities that may make it challenging to observe the holiday in the traditional way, this is the price we pay for receiving such a well-rounded premier education, however, the choice does not have to be as black and white as deciding between all or nothing, it is possible to have a balance. We can choose what day of the seder we will attend or what time we would like to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Sure, it is challenging to roam around campus, having eaten nothing but matzah all day and then see a group of peers eating a delicious Blaze pizza, but the nice thing about going to a University as large as UCLA is that the Jewish community is vast and we have many resources on campus that aim to provide every Jewish student with an opportunity to observe the holidays traditionally.
This Passover, where we reflect on the journey of our ancestors and their sacrifices, let us also consider our own choices and sacrifices as Jewish students on campus. To matzah or not to matzah? The decision ultimately lies with us, but with careful planning and a balanced approach, we can still celebrate and observe our traditions while pursuing our academic goals.
“The views expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and not UCLA or ASUCLA Communications Board.”