As the spring months are approaching and the weather seems to be far behind them, Passover in Prague was an experience to remember. At CIEE – Charles University, I am taking a class called the History of the Jews in Bohemia and Central Europe, and the class is amazing.
Our professor, Rabbi Ron Hoffberg, is the only teacher I have in Prague that is American. He is from New Jersey and has family in Skokie, IL, but has been living and teaching in Prague for about 12 years now, and his wisdom and long tangents never cease to amuse me.
Rabbi Ron is definitely an interesting character. He is so passionate about the history of the Jews, but because he is also a Rabbi, he tends to go into sermon-mode and rambles on about things like old age, Czech culture vs. American, Asian and Latin American History, and other random facts that one would never think about, had he not mentioned them. However, Rabbi Ron’s class is also one I truly look forward to because I feel that I can learn more about my Jewish ancestry just by listening to his lectures.
Aside from the random tangents during class, Rabbi Ron is also a wonderful resource for those of us that are Jewish and would like to feel a connection with the Jewish people in Prague, the Masorti community. When Passover came near, Rabbi told us about the Passover Seder nearby our school, which included dinner and a service for just 400kc- ($20).
On the first night of Passover, the majority of my classmates and I (including some first-time Passover observers, such as my roommate) attended the Seder. The service was located in a member of the Masorti community’s apartment. How they managed to cram about 60 of us into his small living room and kitchen in Lesser Town is still a mystery to me, but there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
Rabbi Ron, being one of the only rabbis of the small Jewish community in Prague, led the service, which of course included numerous stories about why we observe Passover and what it means to the Jewish people. The Seder lasted about two and a half hours, much longer than services I am used to (In my family, Passover consists of lots of wine, laughs and of course tons of matzo ball soup). We all took turns reading each section by table and it was interesting to hear the service in Hebrew, English, and Czech.
The food, much to our delight, was delicious and 100% Kosher. We had matzo, Matzo ball soup, maror, briscuit, haroset, gefilte fish, which tasted fantastic with the numerous bottles of red wine our table shared that night.
After this experience, I am so happy that I can look back on my time abroad and be able to say that I observed Passover in the comfort of a small house in the Mesorti Community of Prague. It was nice to glimpse a little piece of home after being away for so long. Although Passover officially ended last week, Chag Semeach (“Happy Passover – Hebrew) to all and lets all pray for a warm Prague Spring!