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Jewish Communities Prepare For Another Pandemic Passover

RENEE RODEN, HOST: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” That’s the questions asked each year at the Sedar meal during the Jewish feast of Passover. This year, Jewish communities throughout New York City are preparing for virtual sedars. And faith leaders are offering advice on how to celebrate a holiday about liberation, during a plague. We're joined today by Viki Bedo, a graduating student at Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. Thank you so much for joining us today, Viki.

VIKI BEDO: Thank you so much I'm happy to be here.

RODEN: Can you tell us, um, just how our communities in New York city preparing for the Seder meal and for Passover in a pandemic?

BEDO: One of the things that many synagogues are doing, including the place where, where I work, um, is, um, is ensuring that we have different types of virtual materials and, um, and support for people who might be spending Seder, uh, either by themselves or just in a smaller setting than they usually do. Most synagogues have a what we call a communal Seder.

So that even though the vast majority of American Jews celebrate Seder in their homes with their families, there are always some people who will go to the synagogue for a Seder. And so instead of that, Communities will either do a zoom Seder or I've also seen people record different, different parts of the Seder, um, and put them on YouTube so that people can just follow along if they need extra support or songs.

RODEN: What the tradition was, um, in updating haggadah, the current moments, or to incorporate, um, sort of new struggles or contemporary events?

BEDO: So, yeah, so the Haggadah is the kind of the instruction manual for the Seder evening that guides us throughout our conversations about slavery and redemption and, um, it actually comes from the word hagid, to tell, because one of the main commandments of the Seder nights and a Passover is to tell the story of, of the Exodus, to tell the story of Passover to the next generation.

The pandemic has opened up a whole new areas of questions around: “what does it mean to be celebrating freedom?”

During a time of lockdown during a time of fear during a time of like grief and death and everything that has come, come this past year. Um, and so several, uh, organizations and synagogues have done like pandemic Haggadah supplements, where they really think about the Passover story and the Seder in relationship to the, um, uh, to the pandemic.

And the best way to do that, the best way to truly feel that the Exodus is ours and it's contemporary and it's truly a, um, an experience of, uh, of our generation as well is to think about it through the contemporary lens. So I think that it's very powerful to be thinking about, um, not just the pandemic, but also questions about, about social justice and human rights and refugee crisis and race, and a lot of the things that have been, you know, in the air, um, and thinking about those contemporary challenges as a lens through which we can view the Passover story.

RODEN: Celebrating this celebration of freedom during lockdown down last year, Were there any insights, um, anything that struck you that you're going to take into this year’s celebration?

BEDO: Everything that happens in our tradition is also something that can be understood in the 21st century.

And so when we, last year, when we were going through the plagues, which is one of the sections of the Seder, we repeat all the plagues that struck Egypt. Um, and as we're going through these plagues, I mean, I don't think that there was a Seder in this country that did not think about: what does it mean for us to be living under a plague?

So something that I'm, I'm really thinking about is how to make, how to make the past, um, meaningful even in, uh, under these difficult circumstances.

RODEN: Viki, thank you so much for joining us and have a wonderful week.

BEDO: Thank you. Pleasure to be here. Chag Sameach. Happy, happy Passover.


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