By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – Jewish tradition includes holding the Passover Seder with a multitude of family and friends on the first or second night of Passover. This year, Passover is sundown April 8 to sundown April 16. But thanks to the coronavirus and the state’s stay-at-home order, this year’s seder will be a more intimate gathering for the immediate family.
Area synagogues of all sects, churches and mosques have not held prayer services for several weeks in accordance with NJ Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders instructing people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the sometimes-deadly virus.
According to a message from the Orthodox Jewish Leadership of Atlantic County, “the prudent and responsible course of action at this time is to suspend all synagogue activities,” including minyanim, which requires a group of 10 people over the age of 13 for public worship.
The Orthodox Rabbinic leadership team noted that closing of the shul is “unbearably painful,” and isolation “goes against all that we believe in.”
Nevertheless, it is “a golden opportunity to teach our children by example how to respond in times of crisis, by taking practical steps to protect our health while also turning to Hashem,” they wrote to their congregations. “Let us use (this time) judiciously and meaningfully on the pursuits we generally don’t have enough time for, like conversations and games with family, extra Torah learning, reading, and maybe even Pesach preparations.”
Israelis are conducting their “One People, One Table” seders on balconies or near windows to have the world’s largest communal celebration of all time.
Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport of Chabad at the Shore in Ventnor has a practical solution for those who want to partake in the seder ritual on a smaller scale.
“While the building is closed, we are very much open and active trying to connect to the community,” he said.
The seder custom includes telling the story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt, drinking four cups of wine, eating matza, shank bone, hard boiled eggs, bitter herbs, lettuce, vegetables dipped in salty water and a charoset – a relish made from apples, pears, walnuts and wine, all spread out on the seder plate.
“Normally people go to their families and friends and large groups, now everyone’s on their own and some may not know how to lead a seder,” Rabbi Rapoport said. “We want to be there for them to make it easy. Let people know how to do it, prepare it and make it Kosher.”
Rabbi Rapoport is planning a one-hour do-it-yourself primer 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 1 on the Zoom online platform. He will provide instruction on how to run a meaningful seder, including how to assemble a seder plate, nine steps to running a seder, and will offer anecdotes and jokes to share during the meal.
To register and receive the Zoom link, email Chabadac@gmail.com.
The Ventnor Shul will also be providing a “Passover in a Box” meal for anyone who needs it. A request for donations will fill the needs of a dozen or more families in need during the Passover season. Learn more about how you can help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Rapoport said “the Zoom” is also being activated to teach online classes in the congregation’s Hebrew school and adult study groups.
Learn more at Chabad at the Shore on Facebook.
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