Jews celebrate passover amid COVID pandemic with virtual seders

Jews worldwide aren't letting social distancing stop their Passover seders.

April 09, 2020, 3:58 PM

Passover seders are a communal ritual, with family, friends, neighbors, pretty much everyone except Elijah coming together under one roof to commemorate the story of Exodus.

As with almost everything in our world, that's been completely upended this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has put a global kibosh on gatherings.

But with some ingenuity—and clutch technology—Jews from New Jersey to Jerusalem are breaking matzot anyway with virtual seders.

PHOTO: A seder meal to celebrate Passover is prepared by Elynn Walter for celebrating with her family using video chat from each of their homes, as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Washington, D.C., April 8, 2020.
A seder meal to celebrate Passover is prepared by Elynn Walter for celebrating with her family using video chat from each of their homes, as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Washington, D.C., April 8, 2020.
Leah Millis/Reuters
PHOTO: Three siblings in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem, wave to their their grandmother in Haifa as she joins their Passover Seder via Zoom video conference as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) April 8, 2020.
Three siblings in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem, wave to their their grandmother in Haifa as she joins their Passover Seder via Zoom video conference as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) April 8, 2020.
Dan Williams/Reuters
PHOTO: Cheryl Noah and Alex Barkin use a computer during a family Passover Seder to connect with relatives who are unable to gather together due to the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Maplewood, N.J., April 8, 2020.
Cheryl Noah and Alex Barkin use a computer during a family Passover Seder to connect with relatives who are unable to gather together due to the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Maplewood, N.J., April 8, 2020.
Reuters
PHOTO: Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett of Temple Sinai in Newington, Connecticut, hosts a virtual community Seder on Zoom during the first night of Passover, as seen on a laptop computer in Washington, D.C., April 8, 2020.
Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett of Temple Sinai in Newington, Connecticut, hosts a virtual community Seder on Zoom during the first night of Passover, as seen on a laptop computer in Washington, D.C., April 8, 2020.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The virtual seders are just one of many examples of religions across the world quickly acclimating to worship in the age of coronavirus, a genre that includes livestreamed services (with some hiccups), drive-by confessionals, blessings to empty squares, and church services to rooms empty save for photos.

In the case of Wednesday night's seders, togetherness was simulated in large part thanks to what renowned international relations figure Richard Haass called "the Book of Zoom."

Zoom and similar teleconferencing services have rapidly become social-distancing mainstays as people everywhere scramble to work, teach, learn and socialize remotely.

Accoutrements of the COVID era—from hand sanitizer bottles to the puzzles many are using to keep from going bananas—were visible in numerous photos posted on social media and elsewhere.

PHOTO: A couple uses Zoom to join a virtual Passover Seder in Ossining, New York.
A couple uses Zoom to join a virtual Passover Seder in Ossining, New York.
Lauren Sher/ABC News

And while the rambunctiousness is an annual seder feature for many families, there are some benefits to staying in your own home:

Suddenly getting Virtual Seder FOMO? Don't worry—Henry Winkler has you covered this weekend:

Last night was only night one of Passover, meaning many more will be dialing in to seders tonight. We'll see if they can top this:

"My family was super confused," Sarah Seltzer told ABC News of her relative's Elijah trick. "My cousin got everyone good." Chag sameach.

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