Despite serious restrictions imposed by world leaders in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the pandemic, religious holidays and celebrations will still go on — they just might look a little different than usual. Much like the masses who will celebrate Ramadan or Easter this month, people who observe the Jewish holiday Passover will also have to make some adjustments.
Passover, which starts on Wednesday, April 8 and lasts until Thursday, April 16, usually means congregating for elaborate seders, where Jewish people gather to eat traditional foods like bitter herbs and matzo while observing the anniversary of when their ancestors escaped slavery. But this year there isn't an option to go to Temple or even congregate in small or large groups at someone's home for seders — stay at home orders have changed that. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to celebrate.
This year, those celebrating Passover will need to use a little bit of innovation to still honour the holiday and the Jewish traditions that go along with it. Whether it's hosting a remote seder for your first night, or attending virtual services on the second night, there are still tons of options to uphold the Feast of Unleavened Bread from the comfort and safety of your own home. Here are some tips on how to celebrate passover during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attend remote Passover services
Thankfully, lots of things like religious services and fun events that would normally only be available to people who can attend in person are now being turned into remote events. For Passover, there are many remote services around, no matter where you live. For example, Temple Beth Elohim is streaming services on Wednesday, April 8 for those who want to pre-register and attend. Throughout the Haggadah, when reading about your ancestors going through challenging times, it’s nice to be able to feel like you’re surrounded by community. Virtual services can make this possible.
Host a Zoom virtual seder for family and friends
If you aren’t finding an event to attend remotely that strikes your fancy, there’s no reason you can’t plan your own seder event over video chat. It might not feel the same to not be physically making seder plates with friends or family, and it might feel strange to be separate from them during traditions like the Haggadah or hiding the afikoman, but hosting your own Passover party is a way to bridge connections over the distance.
We all need community more than ever right now, and there’s no reason we can’t be the ones to create it ourselves. Thankfully, there are handy guides all over the internet on how to host your own Passover celebration.
Order your Passover meal online
If you’re somewhere like New York, household names like Zabar’s are offering deliveries for Passover seder dinners that can be pre-ordered and feed up to 12 people — and Kat’z Delicatessen has matzo ball soup by the quart. Some companies, like Commissary in Dallas, TX, are even offering a limited number of free Passover dinners. If reserved now, their dinner comes with a full Seder plate, matzo ball soup, kugel, brisket, and more — all topped off with a bottle of kosher wine.
If you’re somewhere else, order grocery delivery to try to snag the ingredients you need. Or perhaps there’s a local Jewish market selling what you need. A simple Google to see what’s being offered where you are should do the trick.
Substitute Passover foods you don’t have for your seder plate
If you’re worried that you live in a place where Passover essentials aren’t available or accessible, fear not. That doesn’t mean you have to give up Passover entirely. It just means that it might require some substitutions — and no one, not even God, will hold that against you. It’s completely possible to substitute ingredients you don’t have with you or aren’t able to get, so for substitutions for chazeret, you can try something like scallions. To substitute Z’roah, which is usually lamb, it’s fine to have chicken, or even a yam or carrot instead. There are plenty of other suggestions for substitutes online, if you need them.
Though we might all have to adjust our lives now significantly to stay safe and breathe through the “new normal,” it doesn’t mean we’re required to abandon community. In fact, the difficult things that people are experiencing now makes it even more possible for people to identify with the struggles of their ancestors, and feel solidarity this year during Passover. Take some of these ideas and go forth with your Pesach celebrations. Celebrate the arrival of spring, and celebrate newness and survival.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the Public Health Agency of Canada website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.