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Exams keep UF students from families at Passover

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Posted: Monday, April 21, 2008 12:00 am

When Katie Krasne, a UF freshman, went out Saturday night, all she wanted was her family.

Krasne said she thought back to her home in Ft. Lauderdale where her family was gathering for the first night of Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrating the Jews' liberation from slavery in Egypt.

But Passover, which changes dates every year because it follows a lunar calendar, falls around finals week this year, preventing many of the some 6,500 Jewish students at UF from being with their families.

The holiday's timing being so close to UF's final exams could make life even more difficult for students who must juggle studying and other stresses with Passover's dietary restrictions.

Passover lasts seven or eight days depending on the branch of Judaism. Regardless of how long it is celebrated, the first night of the holiday is devoted to a special meal called a Seder.

The Seder consists of a series of blessings and a retelling of the Jews' exodus out of Egypt, followed by a dinner.

The main food at the Seder is matzoh, an unleavened cracker eaten to remember the Jews' flee from Egypt when they left so quickly that there wasn't time for their bread to rise.

Matzoh will be a popular food for UF's Jewish students in the next week. During Passover, Jews abstain from eating any foods made with yeast, including bread, pasta and cookies.

Krasne spent the first night of Passover at UF Hillel with more than 250 other Jewish students whose studying kept them in Gainesville for the holiday.

Ashley Horowitz, a freshman, said she has been observing Passover at home since she was young, but she said it might be harder to find Passover-friendly foods at college.

"I can't just walk into Little Hall or Gator Dining Services and have a sandwich," Horowitz said.

Emily Hendel, a sociology and psychology junior, said that's why she doesn't follow Passover's dietary rules.

"It just ends up being too much of a hassle," Hendel said.

She also works at the gym, so it'd be hard to stay energized on the job without eating carbohydrates, she said.

Instead, she said she celebrates Passover by participating in the Seder.

But she said the holiday still comes at an inconvenient time for her this year because of a complicated schedule.

With six tests to study for, it's hard to find time to observe Passover, she said.

Last year was no better for Josh Pollock, a UF wildlife ecology and conservation senior.

The first night of Passover in 2007 was on the same night as the NCAA men's basketball championship game, and Pollock said he had to skip half the Seder so he could play in the band at the O'Connell Center.

Pollock said he thinks of Passover as a time to spend with family, but since coming to college, he's had to adjust.

He usually attends the Passover Seder at Hillel or hosts his own, he said.

As Krasne stood outside the dining room where the Seder was held, she said she would probably attend Hillel's events in her next three years at UF.

But even though she won't be using her family's prayer books, there will always be one item that makes her feel like she's in Ft. Lauderdale, she said.

"I love matzoh," she said. "It reminds me of home."

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