Kosher-for-Passover Meals Provided by Multiple Groups


Photo courtesy of Elliot Diaz

Students who keep kosher for Passover observe a different set of rules than they would the rest of the year. Not all Jews practice the same Passover customs, but traditionally, one must refrain from eating grain products such as wheat, oats, barley and rye, all known as chametz. Observant Jews scour every part of their kitchens to eliminate any traces of grain and often replace their everyday dishes, cookware, and utensils with a Passover-only set, to ease the burden of cleaning. In establishments that serve kosher-for-Passover food, a supervisor, or mashgiach — often a rabbi — must be able to certify that standards of kashrut are being met. Rabbi Shlomo Elkan, co-director of Chabad at Oberlin, has served as Heritage’s mashgiach since fall of 2021.

Heritage, Oberlin’s kosher-certified kitchen that operates under Rabbi Shlomo’s oversight, was closed for four of the eight days
of Passover in 2022. This year, due to the timing of the holiday, it will be closed for six. In the two days leading up to Passover, about 100 meals and sides were prepared at Heritage and packaged for distribution at DeCafé for the days that Heritage will be closed. These meals can be purchased with a meal swipe, functioning like any other cold meal at DeCafé.

“The food from DeCafé comes out of Heritage, so we really ensure that it’s to an incredibly high standard of kosher so that anybody would feel comfortable eating it,” Rabbi Shlomo said.

However, these meals won’t be available to those without kosher-for-Passover dietary restrictions.

“We’re keeping that stuff in a cooler that is not available to the general public,” Director of Re- tail for AVI Foodsystems Sarirose Hyldahl said. “Last year I know we ran into some issues with people buying stuff that looked good or different, and then the people that [were] needing it [didn’t] have any options. We’re solving that problem by doing it that way. It’s worked really well for
Ramadan so far, so I’m hopeful, and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be good for Passover.”

To supplement the grab-and-go food available at DeCafé and meals available at Heritage, kosher-for-Passover snacks, including matzah and jello, are available in DeCafé for purchase with Flex Points, Obie Dollars, or credit card. This year, Oberlin Hillel will be providing supplemental packages of kosher-for-Passover food.

These packages include snack items and non-perishable staples sourced through Cleveland Hillel.

“Last year, Hillel actually had a space on campus, Wilder 217,” Miriam Cory, an Oberlin Hillel student board member, said. “It was a pretty big meeting room, and I think maybe it was meant for all of the Jewish student orgs. So, we had a fridge in there and we could keep [KFP] snacks in there and it was really great, especially last year when Heritage Kosher Kitchen was still figuring
out how they worked.”

This year, Hillel is located in Wilder 328, which functions as a storage and meeting room for Jewish student organizations.

Until 2020, the Kosher Halal Co-op was run out of Talcott Hall in the space that Heritage currently operates out of. This
year, College fourth-year Elliot Diaz will be reviving the Kosher Halal Co-op informally out of his Village Housing Unit.

“I am not a rabbi, but I was Kosher Halal coordinator [my first year], so I learned all the rules of how to keep kosher and halal,” Diaz said.

In order to make the kitchen kosher, Diaz poured boiling water over the sink, cleaned the kitchen, and covered the cabinets and table with aluminum foil. The Kosher Halal Co-op retained its utensils when it closed, and Diaz will be using those utensils throughout the week. Though Diaz does not have an in-person mashgiach, he consults Rabba Amalia Haas via text whenever
he is unsure of how to maintain the kosher status of his kitchen.

“Hillel Rabbi Megan [Doherty] was involved [in Kosher Halal Co-op previously], and as part of the people who were trained by her, we would be able to ask her questions — we had her phone number, … and there are all these minutiae that we were able to clarify with a rabbi, which is really important because some of the stuff is just complicated,” Diaz said. “There are edge cases, like
any legal system.”

Diaz will provide gluten-free kosher-for-Passover meals for 12 students and host an Iftar for 10 additional students who are celebrating Ramadan.

“Last year, I ate cold bris- ket and matzah [from the Hillel fridge] for many days, which is not good for a holiday that’s
supposed to be communal,” Diaz said. “I have a Village [Housing Unit] as a senior, so I’m kind of in this unique position to host and coordinate it.”