WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the way we live.
The Jewish community celebrating Passover is no different. Passover begins with a seder in a synagogue like Temple Israel with large community gatherings. The core celebration is the same, but the community in the Wyoming Valley took to the net to get together.
“Over 100 people would be gathered together and we’d be sitting in these nice long tables,” Rabbi Eric Mollo of Temple B’Nai B’Rith in Kingston said.
Not the case in 2020. The Jewish community throughout the Wyoming Valley, adhering to social distancing guidelines, has opted for a safer approach.
“It’s been a crash course for me and Cantor Abaham trying to get this Zoom stuff, Facebook Live, live streaming, and the Vimeo, whatever this stuff is all called,” Rabbi Larry Kaplan, Temple Israel in Wilkes-Barre said.
But like many times in Jewish history, persistence pays off. Online seders are not only saving Passover for many but bringing some of the community back into the fold.
“What we’ve seen is by doing this stuff digitally and online, we are seeing dozens more people engaged,” Kaplan said.
That means more people sitting down over the next week, remotely, to celebrate the first holiday on the Jewish calendar.
“That’s the first holiday because that’s when the Israelites left Egypt and truly became a nation,” Kaplan said.
Rabbi Mollo believes that Israelite escape from slavery is similar to escaping the clutches the COVID-19 pandemic has on today’s society.
“We’ve experienced nearly a month of isolation, many of us, and we’re looking forward to being free of that isolation,” Mollo said.
Rabbi Kaplan agrees.
“We are living almost in their shoes in not knowing what the future is going to be,” Kaplan said.
There’s a saying at the end of the seder: Lashana Haba’a B’irushalayim, which roughly translates to ‘next year may we be together in peace.’
Both Rabbis Mollo and Kaplan feel it’s their duty to bring that measure of community by hosting these online seders, saying it’s the most face-to-face interaction their temples get and for some, makes all the difference in the face of this pandemic.