How the Jewish Pavilion and others in the community celebrated Passover in 2020


April 24, 2020

Rob and Jonah Bloom preparing for the second night. Rob's sign says "Let My People Go" and Jonah's sign says "NO!"

The world is going through a pandemic right now and it has changed everyone's life in one way or another. Passover is a time for the family to gather together and celebrate. It is the closeness of family and being together that makes the meaning of the celebration all that more powerful. Here is how three families usually celebrate Passover and what they did differently this year, the challenges they faced and if this experience provided them with any changes they would make permanent? And while this Passover faced many challenges, the one thing that didn't change was the importance of this holiday as a family.

Celebrating Passover for Rob and Juliana Bloom usually means spending Passover with Rob's family who live in Florida, and Passover weekend is celebrated with Juliana's family flying in from all over the country and meeting up at her mom's house. But this year, the first night was celebrated in the living room and the second night via Zoom in the kitchen.

Emily Raij's family come from Manhattan and Miami to gather together in Orlando and get catered Kosher food from Winn Dixie. This year however they stayed at home, cooked in house, and used Zoom to be with family during the Seder.

Camy Schwam-Wilcox's entire family usually comes from New York and Georgia to celebrate Passover at her house, but this year they saw each other with Zoom.

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It can bring people together and keep them in touch especially in a time like this when we are living in a pandemic. Zoom allowed everyone to see each other, but not being able to hug those you haven't actually seen in awhile is hard. This year though technology was a challenge for many families. It wasn't just user error or a generational gap but issues like feedback and whether or not you had a strong wi-fi signal to stay online. Houses all over put their wi-fi strength to the test.

Wi-fi strength was just one challenge these families faced. Reading the Haggadah provided a challenge for the Bloom's family the first night and so Rob created a power point and put it on Zoom so everyone could follow along easily. Raij's family used Legos to help with the reading of Haggadah. Finding certain foods for Passover was hard. Schwam-Wilcox's family couldn't find a lamb shank and had to substitute a chicken bone.

Traditions and rituals provide us with a sense of unity and belonging that help us make memories that we want to pass down to the next generation. This Passover saw many of those altered or skipped all together. Some families passed on the brisket while others did the Seder all at once and then had the meal and others had trouble finding everything they needed for their Seder. Even with these challenges all of the families made the best of it. Having a Seder plate, reading the Haggadah and having some of the traditional foods allowed for this Passover to still have special meaning. Seeing as much of the family with the assistance of Zoom helped to provide a bridge.

For the Blooms, the shock of not doing it the same way they always do was an emotional challenge and having to come to terms with it. The changes though allowed all Rob's family to attend the Seder with the assistance of Zoom. For Raij, not being able to be together, having the kids play together and the overall closeness of being able to interact with each other was the hardest. Her parents are still in Chicago and with the assistance from Zoom they were able to do the first night Seder with them.

This year's Passover for Schwam-Wilcox's and her family was happy and sad. The plane tickets had already been purchased and everything was planned, including a birthday celebration for her niece while everyone was together. Zoom allowed for them to see each other and be together but next year it will be back to their very traditional Passover Seder.

Passover this year for all three families had more meaning and left them feeling very grateful. It reinforced for them the meaning of the holiday. The Blooms said this Passover has made them aware of their privilege and how grateful they are for it; Raij said this Passover made her grateful and made the holiday more meaningful; and Passover for Schwam-Wilcox and her family is their biggest family gathering, and this year's Passover reinforced for them the value of their traditional Seder.

One of the biggest questions on everyone's mind is when are we going to be out of quarantine and get back to normal. The Blooms are used to seeing Rob's family frequently and the kids are missing their grandparents. They are looking forward to being able to visit. Raij's family isn't able to spend time with other family members in town. Her kids have been making cards every week to send to their grandparents which is a new. In Schwam-Wilcox's house the isolation and not getting to be friends is taking its toll on some family members. There is a lot of painting, guitar playing and singing, and other creative outlets happening to help cope with isolation.

The Seder plate and Lego's that Emily's family used for the Passover Seder.

At the Jewish Pavilion we have made adjustments to our everyday routine and how we keep in touch with our seniors. We aren't used to not being able to see our seniors. Because we weren't able to go into the facilities and have a Seder, we made sure that the facilities had what they needed to have a Seder, we provided them copies of the Haggadah, made sure they had the right food and answered any of their questions. We sent cards to seniors and asked the community to remember our seniors by sending them cards. It was a huge adjustment.

Passover during a pandemic provided challenges for everyone. In times like this we see what we are made of and this year showed us the strength of loved ones and strangers. Whether we keep some of our changes or go back to our traditions, this Passover had a lot of meaning for everyone celebrating.


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