Growing up, Jen Loev would observe Passover with a small group of friends and family.
Now that number is a little bit higher.
The Penn State senior was one of more than 100 people that crammed into Rabbi Nosson Meretsky’s house at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center, 443 E. Waring Ave. to observe the holiday. The evening was one of food, prayer and bonding between people.
The group started the observance by eating a small amount of food and lighting candles before sundown to begin the commemoration before starting the prayer.
Having a place to go for the holiday brings Loev back to times in her past when she would commemorate the day with her family. She said it’s harder to maintain the Jewish lifestyle in college when she is unable to go home to be with her family, but she already tries to go to events for the major holidays.
“Being Jewish is a part of who I am,” she said.
Loev said it’s always fun to interact and talk with the other Jewish students about what traditions their families would hold and ways they would do things.
And that feeling of a place for students to go is why Meretsky continues to open his home to the students. Especially during the week, he understands that students will likely not be able to return home to commemorate the day.
“Our main theme year-round is we try to (give them) a home away from home while they’re here,” he said.
Each Passover, Jewish people commemorate their liberation from Egyptian slavery more than 3,300 years ago. According to the book of Exodus, the Jewish people were freed by God through 10 plagues. In the last plague, as God killed the first-born child, Jewish people put lamb’s blood on their doorways so their homes would be passed over.
Meretsky’s wife, Sarah, said she must do about three weeks of working full days to prepare for the holiday, but when the students and members of the community arrive, all the work is worth it.
The couple moved to the area in fall 2001, started to hold the holiday observance the next year and it has become a tradition ever since. Meretsky said he is committed to continuing it each year to make sure the students have a place to go.