Erika Prafder, a marketing and communications director for her synagogue, Temple Zion, in Long Beach, is no stranger to the traditions of Passover and organizing a large seder meal for family and friends. But this seder will be different from all others for Prafder and Jews across the Barrier Island and the nation.
The coronavirus has crept so deeply into peoples' lives that they have been forced to isolate themselves for even such a festive holiday as Passover, which celebrates freedom, and begins Wednesday night, through April 16. Two seders are usually held the first two nights, and for some, two the final two nights
This year, Prafder, of East Atlantic Beach, has purchased a seder-to-go kit from Chabad of the Beaches, also in Long Beach, which was offering $45 boxes filled with items to be put on the traditional seder plate -a shank bone, an egg, bitter herbs, a vegetable, and haroset, a bitter herb. The box also contains a bottle of wine or grape juice, and a Haggadah, the Jewish text that sets the order of the seder.
Prafder purchased a box for herself and her nearly 80-year-old mom. Her seder will consist of herself and her three children. In other years, her sister, the sister's three children and their mom would normally be at the holiday table.
"It's all about keeping up the tradition," even in such extraordinary times, said Prafder said. She said that she will still be making the traditional seder meal - matzah ball soup and chicken.
Rabbis on the barrier beach said some Jews are using skype to keep the seder with relatives who would otherwise be at a table together. Others are limiting their seder to immediate family. And still, others are remaining at home, reading the Haggadah and saying the prayers.
Rabbi Baruch Kleinman of Temple Zion, said that this year, people need to be there for one another. "People are stepping forward and doing the best they can," he said. "They can be leaders of their own seders." He said his wife and their two sons will be together for the seder.
"I like to lead by example," he said.
Rabbi Eli Goodman, of Chabad by the Beaches, said he ordered hundreds of seder-to-go kits, and people are either picking them up outside his Long Beach house or having them delivered. (Those interested can visit chabadofthebeaches.com.) The rabbi said those that cannot afford the kits should contact him at 516 574 3905.
"Usually we have large communal seders," Goodman said of his synagogue. "But this year, a lot of people don't want to leave their homes." He said the initial thought was to provide the kits to hospital patients, but the demand for them was growing in the community.
"We have been asked for kits by people all over America, and we even got a call from someone in France," Goodman said. "People are still so excited about the holiday. This year, the holiday can be more beautiful. The seder can be a time of more reflection and deeper reading of the Haggadah."
Joey Naham, of Long Beach chairman of the Greens Party of Nassau County, which promotes social justice in addition to environmental causes, would normally boost 10 to 16 people for a seder. This year, he said, he, his wife and child will spend the holiday with his parents.
"It's going to be small because of the coronavirus," Naham said., "We'll make the best of it."
Rabbi Anchelle Perl, a leader of the Lubavitcher movement on Long Island, took a stand on the use of technology on Passover. In an email, he posed a question: "Can we do it over the phone or skype?" His answer: "As tempting as it may be, the answer is no. Shabbat and Jewish Holidays are a blessed respite from all-digital connectivity. That means you have the opportunity to lead your own seder, live and in person, for your household."
Rabbi Jack Zanerhaftt of Temple Emanu-El of Long Beaches said some will hold virtual seders and others will not. People must decider for themselves. He said also that Moses asked God a question: what happens if you are away for Passover? Zanerhaft said God's response was that Passover could be held another time. "Any time a barrier is removed, you can have Passover," Zanerhaft said,
Stephen Dresner, religious leader of Temple Israel in Long Beach, said he will be having a small gathering at his home with his immediate family.
"It's a very precarious situation," Dresner said. "You just have to do the best you can."