Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Passover On Our Own

We Made It Out of Egypt. We Can Do This: We Jews love Pesach (Passover). Absolutely love it. Whether we go the full Kosher-for-Passover route or simply taste the matzah and horseradish and drink the wine - we Jews love Pesach.

It's a time for family - especially for family. Friends, too. We all get together in groups large and small, and tell each other the story of our Exodus from Egypt. And the more we tell of the Exodus, the more are we to be praised.

Which raises the question -

Is it still Passover if we seder by ourselves?

As JTA's Ben Sales writes:
Passover in a pandemic: Families on Zoom, solo seders and broken traditions 
Rena Munster was looking forward to hosting a Passover seder for the first time. 
In past years, her parents or another relative hosted the meal. But this year she had invited her parents, siblings and other extended family to her Washington, D.C., home. Her husband, an amateur ceramics artist, was making a set of dishes for the holiday. 
And she was most excited for her family’s traditional day of cooking before the seder: making short-rib tzimmes, desserts that would pass muster year-round, and a series of harosets made by her uncle and tailored to each family member’s dietary restrictions (one with no cinnamon, another with no sugar, another without walnuts and so on). 
Then came the new coronavirus. 
Now the family is preparing to scrap travel plans and hold the seder via video chat, like so much else in this new era. Munster expects to enjoy her family’s usual spirited discussions and singing. But she will miss the meal. 
“The hardest thing to translate into an online platform is going to be the food,” she said. 
“The family recipes and all the things that we’re used to probably won’t be possible. … We always get together to help with the preparations, and that’s just as much a part of the holiday as the holiday itself.” 
In a Jewish calendar packed with ritual observances and religious feasts, the Passover seder is the quintessential shared holiday experience. It is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish holiday ritual in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of American Jewry. 
And the story of the journey from slavery to freedom, along with the songs, customs and food, have become a core part of Jewish tradition. 
But all of that has been upended by COVID-19 and the restrictions necessary to contain its spread.
Randy Rainbow explains, as only he can!

In a startling but troubling and necessary and responsible development, The Forward's Helen Chernikoff and Philissa Cramer report:

Headquarters of Chabad movement, iconic ‘770’ building, closes for first time 
The international Chabad movement, one of modern Judaism’s most powerful forces for the dissemination of Jewish culture and practice, has closed its iconic headquarters for the first time, citing the spread of coronavirus and the illness of residents in its Crown Heights, Brooklyn neighborhood. 
The closure happened “in accordance with the order of the rabbis of the neighborhood,” according to an official Chabad website.

These are 'new normal' times, and many people are going to be hurting - physically, emotionally, and, alas, financially.

And it's not just seders. All sorts of Passover trips, programs, and activities are being cancelled - all over the world, and right here in New Mexico.

Sharon's Gourmet to Go is just one example. Sharon has been providing kosher and kosher-for-Passover catering for a bunch of years - but she's never had to face the COVID-19 pandemic before. Lots of food in and ready-to-go - but lots of events suddenly suspended, cancelled, or postponed.

And then there's Avi Schiffmann.

Never heard of him? You will - Abq Jew promises! There is reason for hope! Here is Democracy Now's interview - Amy Goodman and Avi Schiffmann.

Meet 17-Year-Old Avi Schiffmann, Who Runs Coronavirus Tracking Website Used by 40+ Million Globally 
A teenager's website tracking coronavirus has become one of the most vital resources for people seeking accurate and updated numbers on the pandemic. The URL is
We speak with 17-year-old Avi Schiffmann, a high school junior from Mercer Island outside Seattle, who started the site in late December, when coronavirus had not yet been detected outside of China. 
Now the site has been visited by tens of millions, from every country on Earth. It tracks deaths, numbers of cases locally and globally, and provides an interactive map, information on the disease, and a Twitter feed. 
The resource updates every minute or so, and pulls information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere.

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