‘Passover without worries’: Jewish congregations help families maintain traditions

by Beverly Church

On Wednesday evening, April 8, Jewish families around the world will gather to mark the first day of Passover, a week-long celebration of the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.

Families and friends typically gather on the first night for a Seder, a ritual feast that includes telling the Passover story.

This year, however, Passover traditions will look a little different.

Rabbi Jeffrey Falick
Rabbi Jeffrey Falick (Contributed)

Rabbi Jeffrey Falick of the Birmingham Temple for Humanistic Judaism, said that Passover is primarily a home-based holiday. The Birmingham Temple also has a traditional community celebration on the second night. But with social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, traditional gatherings won’t be possible.

To help, the Birmingham Temple put together a catered “Seder in a Box,” which members can order online for pickup on either the first or second night of Passover. The box contains many of the traditional Seder foods, with options for a Seder plate (which holds items that symbolize parts of the Passover story) and a Haggadah (the text recited during the Seder).

“We knew people would be struggling to put together a Seder in their own homes,” said Rabbi Falick. He will also be conducting a live Seder on April 9, which people can follow along with on YouTube.

“What we’re doing is trying to fill in the gap a tiny bit,” he said. “We can’t replace, but fill the space where the community Seder used to be.”

Rabbi Aaron Bergman
Rabbi Aaron Bergman (Contributed)

Rabbi Aaron Bergman of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills said members of his congregation are helping those in need get the ritual foods delivered or picked up in a safe way.

He said some people are anxious about properly maintaining all the Passover traditions under the circumstances, so he posted a YouTube video called, “Passover Without Worries”.

“I basically reassure people, do your best, and it’ll be okay,” he said. “Next Passover can be more traditional.”

He’s also planning an online Seder and a pre-Passover meditation to help families manage the anxiety.

The hardest part, said Rabbi Bergman, is not being able to gather with loved ones. That challenge hits home for him, too. While three of his four children are home, his daughter and her husband, who were recently married, are in New York. He will connect with them virtually.

“I’m just sad not being able to celebrate together,” he said.