Guest Posting from Frum Mommy: Pesach from the Trenches.
We have gone to all kinds of seders. I remember one in particular at Hillel where everyone started hitting each other with green onions in the Sephardic tradition of singing Dayenu. I remember the bonding of being whacked a few times in the face, having onion juice all over my glasses. Also, there were some great times eating Passover meals at different peoples' houses. I even got the opportunity to help make banana ice cream. The idea sounded good in the cookbook, but was a different story in reality. Although, I remember that someone we knew really enjoyed it (You know who you are).
During one of the last Passovers spent in S. Cruz, we invited students over for lunch, knowing that our Family Student Housing location was the perfect pit stop for a hungry Passover stomach. I liked making all that food. At this point I was VERY pregnant with Frum Baby and had to sit down to do much of the grunt work, but I enjoyed it, even after peeling about a zillion potatoes.
So, if you are literally "stuck" in S. Cruz for Passover don't despair, there are some great resources for Passover 5766. Now, I have to say that Pesach is the worst time to decide that you are going to become strictly observant and follow all the halachas. Every year I learn something new, so I don't freak out when I find out I did something wrong in the past.
Before I give my little tidbits of knowledge please note that if I recommend something it is not to force any religious organization on you. Always check all the details with your Rabbi first. I just find that some sites make life much easier. I also tried to give a variety of different sites so that you can do a little exploring for yourself.
So with that, let me give you my 2 cents of advice for surviving Pesach on the Hill:
1). Clean up your room/apartment/dwelling for Passover. Ok, I am not going to go into how stringent your cleaning has to be. At least dust off that bookshelf, look under the bed and put some toilet bowl cleaner in your toilet. You will not only find that it is very satisfying to look at a shiny, clean toilet, but you might even find some new surprises under your bed. Also, don't forget to sell your chometz. You can sell your chometz easily on the chabad.org web site.
2.) Get some Kosher for Passover food for the week. Stock up! I never really ate in the University dining hall, so I can't say if they even had matzah, but I wouldn't recommend it. Why starve yourself, when you can eat well for a week? Here are some options. One, you can really stock up by taking a group trip top the Los Altos Albertsons to get Kosher for Passover products. I know, I know, this is just too far away, but this store has one of the larger selections of kosher products outside of Los Angeles. The other option is offered by Chabad Student Center. They have a dining plan that allows you to participate in not only eating some food, but making it too. In addition, ask at Hillel about any dining options they may be offering.
3). Go to a seder. Ok, duh! Don't just think about being at the seder, really take yourself to the seder, body, mind and soul. Hillel and the Chabad Student Center offer seders for both nights, for students. You can even do something different, like go to one of the other seders in town or even hold your own with a group of friends.
4). Just don't go to a seder. Well, what do I mean? Passover isn't just about the seder. Help someone or even one of the student organizations: Chabad Student Center or Hillel both could use help with preparation for the seder. Hillel even gives incentives for helping. You will find that it can be very rewarding to help with the preparations. I had the pleasure of helping to prepare foods for other people's seders and found that it put me in the right mood for the rest of the holiday. Plus, I also learned a thing or two that I might have missed when reading about Passover.
5.) Read up on Passover. I particularly like Aish HaTorah's web site. I find the articles and information there easy to read, and at the same time, not dumbed-down. While it's good to give general information about the mitzvahs, it's also good to give source background for them, and this is definitely the place to go for that.
So, here are my list of resources:
The Laws of Pesach: A digest, by Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkrantz 5766-2006: This is a mind-blowing book. I would offer a warning about it. If you are not observant, don't get bent up about all the halachas, it is a lot to digest for one sitting. The best part of the book is the information about kosher products for Passover. You will find a detailed list with everything you could possibly need for Passover. You don't have to buy this book, instead ask one of the Rabbis in town if they have a copy and I'm sure they'll let you take a look. This is great for anyone who is worried about the kinds of toothpaste and soaps, ect. that are Kosher for Passover.
Kosherquest.org: This site is run by a very reputable rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz. He has list and information for the holiday. Plus, if you happen to be in Southern California he mentions places you can go to do your Passover shopping.
Albertsons in Los Altos: I know this is FAR away, but Passover is only once a year. After having matzah for a couple of days it's pretty nice to have a pre-made nosh on hand. Remember, you are not the only Jew celebrating Passover! Someone from S. Cruz is bound to drive up before Passover to get food for the holiday. The Passover selection is incredible!
Mollie Stones in Palo Alto: This is a little farther than Los Altos. The selection is fair and the prices seem to be a little bit more than Albertsons.
New Leaf, Ralph's, and Safeway in S. Cruz have a variety of Kosher for Passover products. If you really just can't make it out to Los Altos then this is an alternative. It's not much, but it is something. The ads for the different stores feature some of the products.
So with that, have a kosher and healthy Passover! If you have questions about my resources feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.