Passover in College

I have attended Passover seders for the past four years, and last year I didn’t consume any chametz (including leavened breads, oats, rice, corn and peanuts). But this year, I am going to be having my first real Passover complete with cleaning my apartment, selling my chametz, and conducting the search for chametz the day before Passover. While I have been anticipating Passover all year so I would be able to have a Passover more closely aligned with Jews around me, I have also been stressing over Passover for about the past month.

Living in a college apartment is not the same as having a Jewish home. The hardest part of the situation is that my roommate is not Jewish. While this does pose some issues for general kashrut (kosher) laws, it becomes much harder when the dietary laws become stricter over Passover. Also, having a college student budget does not allow for too much frivolous spending and lets face it, Passover is not a cheap holiday. In order to have a kosher kitchen for Passover you can’t use your ordinary dishes, pots, pans or utensils. Also, you need to get a whole new pantry full of food for 8 days.

After many weeks of stressing and running over scenarios in my head, I have found a non-ideal but practical solution to making it through Passover in my apartment. First, let me say it would be so much easier if I had a Jewish home to be in that already kept the mitzvot of Passover, but I can not invite myself to live with someone for eight days! But, if you have the option to help someone else prepare their home and stay with them, it would be a great way to learn and escape the issues of a roommate who doesn’t keep kosher for Passover. Now, my solution:

I am going to get rid of all the chametz (that I own) in my apartment, as well as clean the entire apartment (except my roommates room, which I never enter), car, and other possessions. During Passover, I will not use the kitchen at all since my roommate is going to continue to prepare food normally in there. We already discussed that for the week she will keep all food in the kitchen only. I will use a mini fridge set up in my room to keep all my food separate. Basically, all my food consist of for the week is raw fruits, (approved) raw veggies, and cheese approved for Passover. I also bought some prepackaged Passover junk food in order to keep my sweet (and salty) tooth at bay. I will use all paper goods for my food and won’t eat or take food outside of my room. I will drink still bottled water.

It is not perfect, but is what I see as a reasonable solution for Passover this year. Hopefully, next year I will be able to properly prepare and keep Passover in my home.

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Being Jewish is Expensive

I am not Jewish yet, but I hope to be one day. The process of converting to Judaism has entailed many unforeseeable aspects, one of which is how expensive it is to convert. It is all the little things along the way in the conversion process that really start to add up.

As a college student, money is always an issue, namely not having enough of it. I work part time on campus and my parents help me with books and groceries, but I rarely have extra money to spend. Converting has taken all of my extra money plus some money that should have been spent elsewhere.

Here are some of my conversion expenses:

-Switching my diet to only kosher food: My diet is now vegetarian kosher. This limits my dining out, which saves me money, but has also forced me to switch brands on many of my groceries. I can no longer buy the same milk or eggs as before, and many of the tried and true generic brands are no longer available to me. While the price difference is usually not too much, in the long run I have noticed an increase in my monthly grocery bill. There was also the one time cost of getting kosher cookware for my kitchen. I donated all my old pots, pans, and plates and started over with new utensils, plates, bowls, pots and pans. I know it seems extravagant to start all over instead of going through the process of making my cookware kosher, but once again, I am a college student so I didn’t have too many dishes living in a dorm/small apartment.

-Books: Starting a Jewish library is a necessity for those interested in conversion. This has been my biggest expenditure for conversion. Part of the reason is I just love to read so it is hard to restrain myself from some new books, but the other part of it is that books are an essential part of the learning process in conversion. I visit amazon.com almost everyday looking for new books and buy at least one about every week. They have been wonderful to learn from and to study on Shabbat, but even buying books online becomes expensive. I look at the books as investments into my future Jewish library that will fill my home with commentaries of all sorts. I am trying to build up a collection of Jewish books, including Rashi’s commentaries on Torah and the Bavli, but I also know I will be moving in a few months for graduate school and will more than likely not be able to take all these books with me.

-Hanukkah: Hannukah is coming up, and for the holiday I bought my first hanukiah and set of candles today. As per tradition, I bought the most beautiful one I could afford. I am very excited to celebrate the holiday with my own hanukiah for the first time, but it is a lot of money to spend for eight days. Of course, I will have the hanukiah for years to come and will only need to buy new candles in the future.

-Shabbat: Shabbat itself doesn’t require money. You can’t even spend money on Shabbat, but all the preparation requires some money. I bought a slow cooker, so I would be able to prepare food for Shabbat, and timers for my lights, so I wouldn’t need to turn them on or off during Shabbat. I also have to buy candles to light before Shabbat starts on Friday and a special candle for the Havdalah service when Shabbat ends Saturday night. I have not invested in beautiful sets of candle holders or Havdalah sets, but I want to and will need to have something more permanent than a bottle of cinnamon and cheap candle holders at some point.

-Gas: When I was a practicing Christian, I attended Church nearby and never had to drive to services. Now that I attend synagogue regularly, I have to drive across town to get to services and classes. I spend about an hour in traffic one way, during rush hour, and attend about three or four times a week. The money spent on gas really adds up.

These are just some ideas of the expenses I have encountered during my conversion process. I am sure there will be more, and while my bank account cringes, I smile because all of the expenses are helping to construct my new identity within the Jewish community.