Jewish community adapts to virtual Passover Seder during COVID-19 pandemic

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Thursday, April 9, 2020
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Passover Seder during the COVID-19 pandemic has forced families and Jewish congregations to take their celebrations, and turn to tech.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Many who are celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover are adding another item to their already elaborate table settings for Seder.

Shelter-in-place orders are changing this year's celebration.

Passover Seder during the COVID-19 pandemic has forced families and Jewish congregations to take their celebrations, and turn to tech.

RELATED: Seder in place: How to celebrate Passover during coronavirus

"The thing that's hardest on Zoom, that's such a core part of a Passover Seder, is singing," Amy Asin said. "Because we can't synchronize."

Asin is the Vice President for Strengthening Congregations for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).

Even without being in sync, those observing aren't skipping a beat.

Passover signals one of the Jewish calendar's most sacred holidays.

Jews tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, they celebrate their freedom, and often gather in groups for the Passover meal.

This year, instead of sitting across the table, the all-are-welcome spirit is happening on a screen.

"This is one of the first times in my life that I'm celebrating Passover at home," Esther Tebeka told ABC7 News. "Not going anywhere, not socializing, nobody coming in- completely just isolated at home."

ABC7 News first introduced you to Tebeka after she was evacuated from Wuhan, China, and was placed under federal quarantine. Those actions happened back in February.

"I did not- could not imagine this would happen in the U.S.," she said about the spread.

RELATED: Jews prep for Passover: Smaller but no less vital during coronavirus pandemic

However, adjustments are being made to accommodate congregants.

Many Temples across the Bay Area are providing Passover kits which can include ceremonial items and a meal.

On Wednesday, Che Fico in San Francisco dished out nearly 300 free Passover Seder plates.

"We have all the fresh baked matzo right over here. The guys are all kind of packing things up," Chef and co-owner David Nayfeld explained during a quick tour. "We have these wonderful lamb shanks and we're also doing some tri-tip back there."

For some, the Passover Seder is not only bringing about digital connections, but a deeper meaning.

"If we think to the story, the Israelites were sheltered in place that night- the first Seder. So, in some ways, I feel so much more of a connection to that story," Amy Asin with the URJ said. "And a connection to that hope for redemption that usually is kind of theoretical, but this year feels real."

Passover began on the evening of Wednesday, April 8. The celebration ends on the evening of Thursday, April 16.

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