Jewish community celebrates virtually as Passover begins
MARYLAND – Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday. With social distancing comes some changes in tradition. What is usually a holiday centered around gathering with friends and family is now going virtual for many. “The virus will not impact the celebration of the holiday, except that people will not be together shoulder to shoulder, face to face,” said Rabbi Peter Hyman of Temple B’nai Israel in Easton.
Rabbi Estelle Mills of Temple Bat Yam in Berlin says for many congregations, Passover celebrations are going virtual this year. “I think we’ve got a lot of family that might not have been together physically if they could’ve traveled, because of jobs and everything with Passover being in the middle of the week. We are all joining together on our Zoom Seder,” said Rabbi Mills.
Passover is traditionally a holiday when Jewish friends and family come together in their homes to hold a service with readings, singing, and sharing symbolic food. Because of quarantine, members of the Jewish community tell us they’re turning to technology to help them celebrate. Worshipers at Temple B’nai Israel Dave Bobrow and Gail Benjamin tell 47ABC they’re able to connect with family members that live hours away this year. “We don’t have anybody here, just the two of us. We will do a zoom session with our daughter and her four kids and her husband, who live in Pittsburgh,” said Bobrow.
Rabbi Mills tell 47ABC that traditions like having children find a hidden piece of matzo are going virtual as well. “I’ve come up with a picture very much like a Where’s Waldo picture, with all sorts of colors and different things inside the picture, all very close together, and somewhere within that picture there’s a piece of matzo in it,” said Rabbi Mills. Rabbi Mills also says that some families are adding lemon to their Seder plates to represent the bitterness of being physically apart from family and friends this year, but also the sweetness of hope for next year.
Even though the holiday revolves around togetherness and tradition, rabbis tell us being apart could help to bring even more people together as they celebrate Passover in a brand new way. “It’s a little different giving full-blown sermons to an empty sanctuary, but people I know are watching and taking advantage of the live-streaming,” said Rabbi Hyman.
This year even some Orthodox members of the Jewish community are allowing the use of computers during Passover for the first time ever. Typically technology use is discouraged during Passover, but with virtual celebrations, everyone can stay connected for what is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays.