Experts talk about Passover strategies
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COVID-19Personal freedom and future hopes

Experts talk about Passover strategies

The season is always ripe for caring

Matzah and a mask. Image by Liudmila Chernetska via iStockphoto.com
Matzah and a mask. Image by Liudmila Chernetska via iStockphoto.com

As increasing numbers of people get vaccinated, pre-pandemic behavior is becoming more common. Still, Passover will be challenging for some this year, whether because they haven’t been vaccinated, they’re unable to travel or they’ll be separated from family and friends.

Amy Gold, a social worker and information and referral specialist at AgeWell at the JCC, has been talking to seniors about Passover strategies.

Along with encouraging people to contact their doctors about personal health concerns and review CDC guidelines, Gold promotes pre-holiday communication.

“Every individual and family has their own comfort level,” she said.

Questions concerning mask wearing, hugging and distancing can be addressed well before breaking the middle matzah. Some families may decide that another year of Zooming or outdoor visits is the best approach, continued Gold. “We just need to remember that our older adults are especially vulnerable and you have to weigh the risk and the benefit of being alone or gathering,” she said.

Rabbi Dovid Small has been thinking about the impact of isolation this Passover. As director of pastoral care at the Jewish Association on Aging, Small is organizing a model seder for residents and staff prior to the holiday’s start. He hopes to record the event so it’s accessible for later viewing.

“One of the most important things is connection,” said Small. Whether it’s a phone call or delivery of a food item, “some sort of connection makes the holiday more meaningful.”

Reaching out yields mutual benefits and reflects a theme of the holiday, he continued: “Passover is a time of personal freedom, and finding that personal freedom in your own life, leaving Egypt in your own life, I think it’s special when we can share that with people who are special in our own lives.”

Red kosher wine with a white plate of matzah. Image by vladi79 via iStockphoto.com

Stefanie Small, director of clinical services at JFCS, said one of the pandemic’s silver linings has been discovering how technology helps people connect, she said. But there are other ways, too, to bolster the holiday experience. For instance, if someone locally doesn’t have a place to celebrate Passover, offer a safe option.

“Reach out and invite someone to sit on your porch with you,” said Small. “Maybe sing some seder songs during the day. Nobody says that all of those have to be done at night.”

With proper planning, popular holiday foods, like chocolate matzah, can be enjoyed by people outdoors together, especially now that the weather’s nicer. “We’re not in the middle of winter,” Small said. “We’re back in springtime.”

So much of Passover is about hope and freedom, said Small. “We’re still not past the restrictions of the pandemic, but with all of the vaccinations and all of the knowledge — the medical knowledge — we’ve gained, we have hope for the future. We’re not in our normal situations, but this holiday can be a beacon of hope of what is yet to come.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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