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Celebrating the pandemic’s second Passover

Restaurants can now be three-quarters full

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Leah Hartman, of Seaford, and her family saw their house go up in flames after a five-alarm fire spread from the first to the second floor and then the attic on Feb. 17. They’re expecting to be displaced for eight months to a year.

“I have to say, even though it’s really hard, I don’t know what I would do without my Congregation Beth Tikvah family,” Hartman said, referring to the Wantagh synagogue. “They have been very, very supportive, generous and kind in terms of their love and compassion towards me and my family.”

Faith has helped some families in Wantagh and Seaford deal with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. For Jewish families, this will be the second Covid-restricted celebration of Passover. The holiday will begin on Sunday.

“This Passover will be a very different one from last year,” Hartman said. “We are going to our family, my husband’s sister and my sister-in-law, in Brooklyn. We’ll be spending part of Passover in Brooklyn with them, so we’ll be blessed to have them.”

The Hartmans’ temporary three-bedroom apartment will be prepared for the holiday as well.

Members of Congregation Beth Tikvah are more likely to observe Passover Seders with their extended families this year because of the availability of Covid vaccines, while some will limit their observances to their immediate families at home, according to Rabbi Dr. Moshe Pinchas Weisblum.

Congregant Jo-Ann Hertzman, of Wantagh, said that she and her husband planned to hold a Seder on FaceTime with their two sons, who live in Manhattan and whom she hasn’t seen in a year. While she misses them, she said, she is thankful to be able to connect with them virtually.

Beth Tikvah will offer congregants the choice of attending in-person or virtual services, depending on their level of comfort. Last year there was no in-person service, and the congregation was adjusting to holding virtual events because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

“Last year was horrible,” Weisblum said. “We did everything virtual. I [led] from my house the Seder and the services; it was all from my house.”

There is a light at the end of the tunnel this year, however, Weisblum said, with the reintroduction of in-person services, at which precautions are taken, including temperature checks, social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity. Other programs at Beth Tikvah, like the Men’s Club, are still held virtually, along with lectures and games made available to the congregation.

“With all the restrictions and limitations now, we’re trying to operate at our very best to serve the community,” Weisblum said. “We always have hope, and we always know everything is going to be all right.”

It is that hope that has gotten the Hartmans through their displacement from the fire, with the support and donations of food, gift cards and meals from their fellow congregants. “Even though it’s hard and it’s overwhelming, we try to remember what we have and count our blessings that we survived the fire,” Leah Hartman said. “That’s the most important thing.”