Passover is the Jewish holiday commemorating the Jews’ exodus from Egypt when the entirety of the Jewish people left their homes and everything they knew to escape slavery and travel back to the Promised Land of Israel. Over 3,000 years later, as the time to celebrate Passover arrives, people across the world are social distancing, quarantining themselves, staying home and avoiding seeing anyone else in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus and prevent the already-deadly pandemic from worsening.
As we head into uncharted territory this Passover and are having online Seders via telecommunication websites such as Zoom, it can be difficult to know how to run a virtual Seder. An easy way to make sure everyone at your Seder is following the Haggadah is to choose a digital Haggadah which you can present on your video screen to ensure that everyone is on the same page. There are a variety of Haggadot available online, including ones from PJ Library, and Sefaria, which houses Jewish texts online. If you are so inclined to make your own Haggadah, there is a website for that as well; Haggadot.com allows you to design and illustrate your own Haggadah as well as choose from a library of premade Haggadot.
In an effort to make Passover as easy as possible to follow from home this year, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards has changed rules on Passover restrictions including those regarding the eating of Kitniyot (legumes), which is usually forbidden for Ashkenazi Jews. The committee this year is encouraging Ashkenazi Jews to eat Kitniyot, differing from other years in which they have simply allowed Ashkenazi Jews to consume Kitniyot. The committee has also set up on online form to sell chametz in an attempt to avoid in-person contact.
Another clear difference in Passover this year is the lack of resources and food items available for Seders. “Passover is not about the tangible items on your Seder plate, it’s about resilience, memory and hope. Don’t have a shank bone? Use a dog bone,” notes Rebecca Schoffer, Director of Jewish Engagement for the 92nd Street Y. “If you have kids, maybe cut a shank bone out of a piece of paper this year. What’s important is that we still find cause to celebrate, reflect, and count our blessings, even amidst these trying times.”
For many families with little children at home, it can be hard to know what to do with little children who have trouble focusing for long periods of time, especially during a virtual Seder. Giving kids (as well as teens and adults) Passover-related arts and crafts can help occupy kids, as well as help, teach them things about Passover through creativity. Another way to involve the entire family is to do a Passover play or skit during a virtual Seder. Giving every person a role can help bring families closer and help families interact over video chats.
If you happen to be missing your friends during this time, there’s a way to get involved while still thinking about Passover. On Sunday, April 12, Hagalil USY, New Jersey’s regional chapter of the Conservative Movement’s youth group, is having a Pesach Kitah where you can video call with your friends while learning new facts about the holiday.
Passover this year will most certainly be different than every other year and will take some learning and adjusting to. While virtual Seders and zoom calls are not optimal, it is a necessary step that must be taken to prevent spreading the disease and causing potential fatalities, and it is important to try and make the best of the situation. Next year in person again!
Samantha Rigante is a junior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J.
This piece was written by a student from the Greater MetroWest NJ community.