Sunday, August 7, 2022

Five ways to celebrate Passover from a distance

With the Jewish holiday of Passover beginning Saturday, Rabbi David Katz offers five ways to celebrate while maintaining social distance. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

WILLIAMSBURG  — While social distancing is still preventing large group gatherings for the  holidays, there are still many ways to enjoy them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saturday marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Passover, which is a religious observance commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. Passover begins with a traditional Seder meal and is celebrated for seven or eight days each spring.

For generations, families and friends have gathered around the table for Seder, where they eat symbolic foods relating to the holiday, telling the story of the holiday, and share in a religious service around the dinnertable. 

Last year, Passover began only three weeks into quarantine, and Rabbi David Katz of Williamsburg’s Temple Beth El adapted to the changing times by hosting Seder through Zoom. The virtual Seder was a success with more than 70 windows open. This year, Rabbi Katz will once again host Seder virtually. He noted that virtual Seder allows for loved ones who live outside of the area to still remain connected through these trying times. 

“My whole life living in New York, I never went to Seder that wasn’t at the home of family or friends,” said Rabbi Katz. “But in a place like Williamsburg, people don’t usually live here with all of their family. So the congregation creates something that helps bring people together.” 

Passover Seder plate (WYDaily/Photo by Edsel Little, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

One big difference from last year’s Seder is that Temple Beth El will host both the before and after of the religious meal. Last year, the temple only hosted the part that occurs before.

Despite this year’s Passover looking a bit different than others, the holiday can still bring family and friends together to celebrate old traditions as well as create new ones.

The question is how do Jewish families and friends celebrate a holiday such as Passover, where the being together and observing a religious meal are central to the observation?

Rabbi Katz offers five ways for families to come together and celebrate their joint history, which includes food, ritual, and music.  

1. Find a Zoom Seder to join. While Temple Beth El’s Seder is open to members of the congregation, Rabbi Katz said that there are organizations who also host the Seder through Zoom.

2. Watch a movie that tells the Passover story. Rabbi Katz recommends that families watch movies together that tells the story of Passover. Some examples include “The Ten Commandments” or “The Prince of Egypt.” 

Matzah (WYDaily/Photo by cottonbro from Pexels)

3. Make your own Matzah. An integral part of the Seder is the unleavened bread, matzah. Many people buy matzah from the grocery store prior to Passover. One way that Rabbi Katz suggests to celebrate together is to try making matzah at home. There are plenty of recipes available online, including this one from AllRecipes.com.

4. Make chocolate or salted caramel-covered matzah. Chocolate-covered matzah can be found in stores, but Rabbi Katz and his family enjoy taking sheets of matzah and baking it with chocolate or salted caramel on top. This makes for a great dessert during Passover. 

5. Watch A cappella parody videos.  A cappella groups like The Maccabeats from Yeshiva University in New York City, or the New York-based Six13, parody popular music using Jewish-themed lyrics. Years of parody videos are listed on YouTube for families to watch and enjoy during religious holidays like Passover or Hanukkah. 

From WYDaily, we wish you a Happy Passover!

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