LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Thousands of Jewish families celebrated the first night of Passover Wednesday but had to do it mostly apart in a time where social distancing is required.
“It’s still a celebration even in the time of COVID-19,” Charles Cohen said.
Cohen would usually be back home in Little Rock to celebrate Passover with his family. Instead, he’s still back in Ohio where he’s attending law school and is doing the ritual dinner called a “Seder” virtually.
“I think we had over 30 at my grandmother’s last year,” he said. “My sister Liz will be joining me for Seder via Zoom and we’re just making do with what we can.”
It’s a reality American Jewish families are facing right now.
“You’re seeing a scaled-down Seder at a lot of places. I know my uncle’s family is doing a Zoom Seder with a bunch of friends and then there’s some families keeping it very intimate,” Cohen said.
The first night of Passover is usually the biggest celebration. Rabbi Barry Block instead set the table for four.
“For my immediate family who are sheltering in place together,” Rabbi Block said.
He also made a video of himself leading a Seder for his members who can’t make a family dinner. He said this Passover is about praying for those going through tough times right now.
“Thank God no one in our congregation has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but we do have members who have lost their jobs and that is a very difficult reality,” Rabbi Block said.
But Rabbi Block believes this Passover is bringing Jewish families even closer.
“Jews in Little Rock and around the world are making efforts that they don’t normally make to have Seders. Many people are used to going to somebody else’s house and the host doing all the work,” he said.
Cohen’s campus is stepping up and making sure students can still celebrate the first night of Passover.
“I know [they are] delivering meals to people to make sure people can have it,” he said.
Rabbi Barry Block’s congregation, B’nai Israel in Little Rock, is acting as if the state is under a shelter in place order. There will be no gatherings at the Temple this Passover, but he will be live streaming on Youtube.