AP

Jews prep for a pandemic Passover: Smaller but no less vital

Apr 6, 2020, 6:58 AM

FILE - In this Thursday, March 26, 2020 file photo, a boy carries a box of matzos for Passover that...

FILE - In this Thursday, March 26, 2020 file photo, a boy carries a box of matzos for Passover that he picked up from his synagogue in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The coronavirus has forced Jewish families to limit the celebratory Passover meals known as seders from extended families and friends to small, one-household affairs. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Passover and its epic story — how the Jewish people escaped to freedom after plagues struck their oppressors — are uniquely resonant this year, as Jews find ways to honor the holiday amid the outbreak of what feels like a real-life plague.

The coronavirus has forced Jewish families to limit the celebratory Passover meals known as seders from extended families and friends to small, one-household affairs.

But the pandemic hasn’t cut the connection that Jews from all backgrounds feel to one of their calendar’s most important holidays – and, for many, the global crisis has deepened its meaning.

Rabbi Noam Marans, director of interreligious relations at the American Jewish Committee, described the gravity of Passover during the coronavirus by reciting a key portion of the Haggadah, the sacred text Jews use on the holiday.

“‘This year we are enslaved – next year we will be free.’ That aspiration is very real this year,” Marans said, looking ahead to a future victory over the disease.

As the all-are-welcome spirit of seders is constrained by public health rules set up to help stop the virus, more liberal Jewish communities are embracing digital connections with socially distant family and friends.

Jews in all branches of the faith are also taking the opportunity to ensure those in high-risk populations have enough of the food, including the unleavened bread known as matzo, which represents their ancestors’ exodus from bondage in Egypt.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Hasidism has expanded its annual distribution of “seder-to-go” kits, which had typically been prepared for hospitalized or otherwise housebound Jews, to help serve families and individuals confined to their homes during a quarantine. Chabad projects it will distribute 250,000 seder kits throughout North America.

Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, spokesman for Chabad-Lubavitch, said that he has started speaking to his children about the deeper and historical meaning of the seder to help them understand why this year’s dinner will look and feel so different. Part of the spirit of Passover, Shmotkin said, involves recognizing obstacles but managing “to supersede that and break out, find a way to see godliness in it.”

Steve Weinstein, 62, is preparing for a seder for two this year — just Weinstein and his wife, without the extended family they typically host in Milwaukee.

“It’s very sad not to have everybody together,” Weinstein said.

Although he’s only started to think about the broader message of this more somber Passover, Weinstein said, “we’ll find ways to be able to equate” the holiday’s biblical narrative with the outbreak. The virus could be viewed in one sense, he said, as the oppressive rule that Jews eventually overcame.

Passover’s power to bring Jews both observant and secular to the seder table is unparalleled among holidays on the faith’s calendar, according to 2013 polling by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Seven in 10 Jews reported participating in a seder the previous year, compared with 53% who reported fasting during Yom Kippur, the holy Jewish day of atonement.

With the coronavirus shaking up Passover tradition, different branches of the faith are offering their own seder guidance. For those permitted and planning to use Zoom, FaceTime or other digital platforms for a virtual seder, the Union of Reform Judaism created a guide for creative ways to get online guests involved.

For Orthodox Jews, the six leading organizations that made a unique joint plea last month for worshippers to curb outside interactions during the pandemic released further united guidance on Passover last month.

That Orthodox guidance asks that observers only purchase “the truly ESSENTIAL” Passover items and includes a narrow exemption for households to welcome any seder guests: Outsiders must be alone or “absolutely unable to prepare” for the holiday, must undergo a two-week quarantine in advance, must maintain social distancing, and must display no symptoms of the virus alongside their hosts.

In Israel, Passover is similarly constrained amid the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered self-quarantine this week after an aide tested positive for COVID-19 and echoed his government’s entreaties that people forego family visits during the pandemic.

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews President Yael Eckstein, who lives in the north of Israel, is preparing for her group to help direct an estimated 75,000 Passover food boxes and 130,000 boxes of matzo to elderly and needy households. Eckstein is also grappling with whether she can safely host a family member who would otherwise be alone for the holiday.

Despite the challenges of Passover during coronavirus, Eckstein said she’s taking comfort in what she sees as Passover’s message, “that good comes from bad situations. And we have to just do the best we can within the sad situation, but also realize we don’t have to be consumed by it.”

___

Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

 

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a Republican campaign ...

WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Haley says she raised $12M in February, can’t point to long-term plan to beat Trump

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said Friday that she raised $12 million in February, a haul that will likely allow her to remain in the Republican primary against former President Donald Trump past next week's Super Tuesday — even though she can't point to an upcoming state where she expects to beat him.

3 days ago

February, 29, otherwise know as leap year day, is shown on a calendar Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Ove...

LEANNE ITALIE AP Lifestyles Writer

What would happen without a Leap Day? More than you might think

Leap year. It's a delight for the calendar and math nerds among us. So how did it all begin and why?

4 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

MEG KINNARD and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination

Donald Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination.

9 days ago

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, center, sits with her attorney Jason Bowles, left, during the first day of t...

MORGAN LEE Associate Press

Negligence or scapegoating? Trial of ‘Rust’ armorer begins in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

Prosecutors sought to pin blame on a movie weapons supervisor for bringing live ammunition on set that contributed to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during production of the film "Rust."

11 days ago

A pail rests next to caution tape on a beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2...

Associated Press

Young girl killed when a hole she dug in the sand collapsed on a Florida beach, authorities said

A young girl died Tuesday when a deep hole she was digging collapsed on her at a south Florida beach, authorities said.

12 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018....

MEAD GRUVER Associated Press

A Colorado man is dead after a pet Gila monster bite

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death if the creature's venom was the cause.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Jews prep for a pandemic Passover: Smaller but no less vital