PASSOVER IN CHAMPAIGN-URBANA: Where to Shop and Where to Find a Seder
Passover is perhaps one of the most iconic holidays on the Jewish calendar. It celebrates history, tradition, and values. This year Passover starts the night of Friday, April 15, with the first seder (dinner). If it says on your calendar the first day of Passover is on Saturday, April 16 — that’s technically correct. But Jewish holidays start at sundown the night before the first day, hence why the first seder the night of April 15. The second seder night is celebrated on Saturday, April 16.
Passover jokes are typically corny. In 2020, the jokes were EPIC, as we faced a real life plague and quarantine. “So does this mean we aren’t letting Elijah in for Passover?” (The answer in 2020- stay six feet away. The answer in 2021: well, that depends. Did he get the vaccine yet? I hear he was in category 1-b. The answer in 2022: welcome back, Elijah!)
Below we’ve put together a very short “cheat sheet” about Passover — five things you should know about this very significant holiday on the Jewish calendar — and how to celebrate in Champaign-Urbana:
- Passover is the festival of unleavened bread (which you can buy in boxes now, no need to get stuck in the desert).
- The eight-day festival recognizes the freeing of the Jewish people, the Israelites, from slavery in Ancient Egypt.
- This is the story very famously told in the Book of Exodus, found in the Old Testament.
- Many American Jews avoid bread and grain products (leaven) to one extent or another throughout this holiday, in memory of the fact that our ancestors left Egypt in a hurry and didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise.
- Traditional observance includes removing all leavened foods from your home. (Some people even change their dog’s food!)
- Passover is one of the MOST significant Jewish holidays in terms of importance both religiously, as well as in terms of observance.
- Let’s face it, Jews celebrate A LOT of holidays; we typically write about Chanukah and Rosh Hashanah to name a couple favorites. (We like to party.)
- Passover one of the main holidays where Jews, no matter their religiosity, will mark in some way.
- The Passover celebration mainly happens outside of the synagogue, and it is very rooted in family and community — and food.
- The holiday’s festive meals, celebrated on the holiday’s first two nights, are called seders (say-durs).
- Seder means order, and it includes a service and rituals which retell the story of the Jews fleeing slavery in Egypt.
- A book called The Haggadah (meaning “the telling”) explains the foods on the seder plate, recounts the highlights of the Exodus, and includes songs and prayers.
- The seder also includes an actual meal, one with special foods; dishes cannot contain any flour or grain (wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats).
- The seder is often called the most celebrated and beloved of Jewish home rituals.
- There are many ritual items associated with Passover.
- Perhaps the most significant of ritual items is a seder plate, which features the symbolic foods eaten or displayed at the Passover seder.
- Others include boxes that hold the matzah, special goblets that hold wine and water, and covers for the matzah.
- The symbolic foods include parsley; horseradish; a roasted egg; a roasted shank bone; lettuce; and a delicious blend of apples, nuts and sweet wine called charoset (ha-row-set).
- Passover preparations can be credited as the origination of spring cleaning.
- Traditionally Jews prepare for Passover by ridding their homes of all leavened bread or “chametz.” (My family puts ours in the garage or the basement; some actually “sell” it, as the tradition goes, for a penny. Everyone does this differently.)
- Some conduct a thorough “spring cleaning” of the house; one tradition is to “hunt for chametz” by candlelight (now flashlight in our house) on the evening before the holiday begins. That’s actually pretty fun for the kids.
- Another ritual ceremony: the burning of the chametz. We typically burn a bit of bread in the fireplace.
Tips on celebrating and preparing for Passover right here in Champaign-Urbana
There’s so much to consider when preparing for the holiday: where to buy Passover food in Champaign-Urbana? How do I find ritual items, such as a seder plate, to put on my Passover seder table? And my favorite – where to go for a seder when you don’t want to make one? We’re here to help!
Where to buy Passover seder supplies (non-perishable variety):
The best local resource for seder supplies is the Sinai Temple Gift Shop Passover Showcase. Items for sale include: seder plates, haggadahs (the book used during the seder service), kiddush cups, matzo boxes, hostess gifts, and lots of fun stuff for kids. After a two-year hiatus, the showcase returns! Mark your calendars for the Passover Showcase to be held Sunday mornings in April – April 3 and April 10 – in the West Lobby of the synagogue, located on West Windsor Road. Anyone is welcome to shop.
Some locals might go to Jewish neighborhoods in the Chicago area to buy Passover goods, but thankfully, there are options in Champaign-Urbana to get the basics. Several grocery stores in Champaign-Urbana will have the bare necessities for Passover, such as kosher-for-Passover matzah, gefilte fish, and macaroons (not to be confused with macarons).
So far, we’ve had Passover food sightings at both Meijers (Champaign and Urbana) as well as Common Ground Co-Op in Urbana. Other documented sightings: Schnuck’s in Savoy has the basics.
We typically see food at the other Schnuck’s locations (Urbana and Champaign) as well as Harvest Market.
But don’t wait – when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Where to attend a seder in Champaign-Urbana:
Don’t want to make your own seder? Here are options for where to go. Zoom seders are out, and communal seders are back in here, at multiple Champaign locations. Register early, seating may be limited. (We will add other options, such as seder takeout, as we see them pop up.)
In-Person Seders, Passover Meals and more at Illini Hillel’s Cohen Center:
There will be a variety of in-person seders at Illini Hillel this year. Community members as well as students are invited to participate in seders and meals. Weekday Passover meals (lunch and dinner) will be available for a fee (and they are really delicious, we speak from experience). No one will be turned away from seders or meals due to inability to pay. Meals can be booked online. Register by April 13.
In-Person Seders, Passover Meals and more at Illini Chabad:
Illini Chabad offers large, communal seders on both nights. No fee, but registration is required. Illini Chabad also offers Passover lunches and dinners for a fee.
Does your family celebrate Easter? Here’s all about Easter Egg Hunts and where to see the Bunny.
Do you have questions or comments about Passover, seders, or anything else? Let us know. Contact Laura (email@example.com).