Jewish communities grapple with how to celebrate Passover during the pandemic

Jewish communities across the globe are grappling with the many facets of how to observe Passover during a pandemic into its second year.

Tags: Temple Mount
Dan Verbin ,

Passover Seder
Passover Seder
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

Jewish communities across the globe are grappling with the many facets of how to observe Passover during a pandemic into its second year.

While smaller seders with immediate family at home are not an issue, larger gatherings are not permissible in many localities, which means larger seders, for instance with extended family and friends, which many people traditionally attend, will not be taking place.

It is taking some creativity and thoughtfulness to ensure that all members of the community are able to celebrate Passover.

For instance, Burlington, Vermont’s community has crafted a special Pesach COVID outreach program for the holiday. Rabbi Eliyahu Junik, the religious leader of Chabad of Burlington, said in an interview with that he wants people to remember that the seder is “really a family-oriented meal.”

“A lot of times in the past, we have had big seder meals. But it can be done at home, just like almost everything else in Judaism; it’s also in the house, and not just in the synagogue,” he said.

They started a new initiative last year with the creation of “Seder-to-go” kits. The kits include three matzohs, wine, a seder plate and all the traditional things to put on the seder plate.

“In order for each and every house to celebrate the seder with all its traditions, we pack that all into one box,” he added.

With the pandemic causing financial distress for many, Montreal’s MADA Community Centre, a Jewish organization for those in need, is doing its part to ensure struggling families have what they need for their seders. Hundreds of volunteers are packing its Passover food boxes for the needy. Each package contains approximately $100 worth of groceries.

“We have to make sure that everyone can celebrate the holiday with dignity and with joy,” Rabbi Shmuel Pinson of MADA said in an interview with Global News. “We are trying to help out a little bit with that.”

“When we’re doing the distribution, we’re adding a chicken to each box,” he said, noting that they also have an additional program that prepares meals for people who cannot cook.

Oregon Jewish Life came up with the second edition of their “Passover Survival Guide” which for some will include virtual seders and pre-cooked meals.

On an intellectual level, many are trying to make sense of the current situation by examining lessons we can learn from the Passover story.

In an article in JewishBoston, Leora Kimmel wrote that during the pandemic, the yachatz, breaking the middle matzah in two, takes on a deeper meaning.

“There is a tradition that the middle matzah symbolizes the heart. It is broken by living amid the injustices of our broken world and the immense suffering that is experienced around the globe. It is a time to pause and sit in the discomfort of that heartbreak,” she wrote.