Musical greetings. Online singalongs. Interactive meals.
This year, the Passover holiday will be different from all other Passovers.
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This year, the world’s Jewish communities are turning to technology and creativity to celebrate the holiday, as coronavirus requirements of social distancing changes usual mass gatherings around the seder table.
Israeli social initiatives, originality and resourcefulness are in full bloom with digital Passover-themed videos, live streams, apps, community outreach projects and more.
The commandment for the holiday of Passover is, “And you shall tell your children…” Until this year, this directive was all about sharing the story with the next generation of the ancient Hebrews’ enslavement in Egypt and exodus to freedom.
This year, the story is not simply about remembering the 10 plagues but actively creating and documenting Passover in the time of the novel coronavirus, which for all intents and purposes seems like the 11th biblical plague. There is a new resonance to the Passover story.
In the week leading up to the holiday, Hackaveret social innovation hub held an online hackathon — Pass Over (the) Challenge — to find a way to create a meaningful Passover for everyone in spite of isolation policies to stay home. The winning team, Local Story, launched a digital timeline that calls on families to post ways in which they will celebrate the holiday this year, for a collective memory of this Passover holiday during the time of COVID-19.
Passover is also a food holiday. From the seder meal, the ritual meal that marks the beginning of the holiday, to the last day of Passover, traditional foods and recipes passed through the generations are made, devoured and reminisced about.
The Global Jewish Food Platform, Foodish, together with the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv, has put out a call for your traditional, family Passover recipes for their upcoming interactive cookbook with recipes and food stories.
The seder – one in Israel, two abroad – is usually celebrated with friends, families, and communities. This year, we are each relegated to our own homes.
But numerous initiatives are ensuring that celebrating alone is not the only option.
The Am Israel initiative is calling on Israelis to sing the “ma nishtana” together at 20:30 in Israel. Known in English as The Four Questions, this passage is usually sung by the youngest person at the seder. It means, Why is this night different from other nights.
“This coming [Passover eve] every family in the country will celebrate their seder with an open window or on their balcony in order that the elderly, the lonely, lone soldiers, doctors and nurses on call, our armed forces on duty and those alone at home can celebrate Passover together with their greater family, the family of Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel),” reads their Facebook explanation behind the idea for this project.
Israel’s Channel 12 has taken it a step further and is hosting a live televised seder on Wednesday evening for everyone around the country. Those who want their family’s name to appear on live television are asked to sign up ahead of time.
The Haggadah, the prayer book used at the seder, has also been updated to address this year’s pandemic. Haggadah authors Noam Zion and Mishael Zion put together a Coronavirus Seder Planner that can be downloaded.
The Seder Live team put together a digital Haggadah that allows families and friends – no matter where they are in the world — to turn the pages together in sync. The Haggadah is illustrated and gives a new, colorful meaning to the holiday tradition.
And Passover is synonymous with traditional holiday songs.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra published a wonderful instrumental greeting of Passover songs to get us in festival mode:
The musical social initiative Koolulam is updating the playlist. They put out a 48-hour call to the world to take part in its first-ever online mass-singing event.
“We’ll be singing Fix you by Coldplay we chose this song because at Koolulam we believe in looking at the bright side, and actively looking for it. Even though humanity is now fighting a battle against this virus and paying a heavy price doing so, this is also a time to reconnect with our loved ones, to try new things and to take a break from the race. This song speaks of fixing what needs to be fixed in our lives. The number one lesson we ask to learn is that only if we unite as one global nation can both we win this battle and fix what needs to change,” reads the Koolulam mission statement for the global mass singing event.
And with Israel known for its tech-savviness, this year’s Passover-in-the-time-of-coronavirus comes with an Israeli app created for a bit of fun. Local software company, CloseApp, released a new online Corona Game to beat the virus.
This year’s interactive Passover initiatives are not meant to become new traditions for generations to come. Rather, let’s hope Passover 2020 will become part of the updated holiday story, which we will tell our children and look back upon this holiday to reminisce how we sat physically apart but thanks to creativity, originality and innovation still felt socially and culturally connected.
Happy interactive Passover!
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com