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Celebrating Passover and Easter During Coronavirus Pandemic

Rabbi Rosie Barron Haim of Celebrating Jewish Life is hosting a virtual Seder for Passover. [Gail Rueben Kerzner]
Rabbi Rosie Barron Haim of Celebrating Jewish Life is hosting a virtual Seder for Passover

Passover begins today and Holy Week is underway leading up to Easter Sunday. Sometimes memories of holidays can blend together from year to year, but this one will be different for many Northeast Ohioans celebrating during a pandemic.

Rev. Micah Sims of Lee Memorial AME Church in Cleveland is all in with virtual church, streaming services, posting updates and conducting much of church life with members staying in their homes.

Clergy around the world have accelerated their participation on various digital platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, to reach congregants. Sims also provides a conference call line to worship by telephone.

“People who don't have the technology to get online to watch have the ability to listen,” he said.

Rev. Micah Sims conducts a virtual Palm Sunday service. [Lee Memorial AME Church]

In no way is his church taking off Holy Week. Instead, they are inviting food donations in a drive-thru setting to keep up their mission work. Staff in masks and gloves collect goods from the trunks of cars and then give out what Sims calls a “Resurrection 2020 Kit.” The kits include prepackaged communion, readings and treats.

In Mayfield Heights, there will be a similar drive-thru setting where about 120 people will pick up Seder meals to-go for Passover. Celebrating Jewish Life usually hosts an in-person gathering, but Rabbi Rosie Barron Haim switched gears for this holiday.

“If you're by yourself, if you're just a couple people, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of planning to put together the different foods. And so that's why we thought we would continue the concept of having a dinner together,” she said.

A Passover Seder includes several symbolic foods. [ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock]

The dinner will take place online with participants logged on from their individual homes. The idea is to provide a sense of community.

“People can often feel more isolated during holiday times, in general,” she said.

Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood is also providing a virtual Seder. Leading up to Passover, the temple posted a sing-along online to get people in the mood for the holiday.

“The music has never been some kind of major production. It's been music that children could learn and children could sing. It's been music that amateurs could sing,” said Sarah Sager, cantor at Fairmount Temple.

Cantor Sarah Sager sings during a Shabbat service streamed over YouTube. [Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple]

Passover, which commemorates the Israelites’ freedom from slavery, will certainly be different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Sager said it’s also a chance for a new experience.

“Some of the themes seem so closely related to what we are experiencing, the concept of a plague, the concept of wanting to be liberated, the concept of being separated from our families,” she said.

Sims sees a similar opportunity for Christians this Easter, as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

“When Jesus went in, it was a little bit different than when Jesus came out,” Sims said. “I want people to begin to realize that when we come through this, our life, the norms of life, what we know as life, are probably going to change a little bit. And that, probably, may be for the better.”

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.