Some vaccinated Pittsburghers plan in-person seders
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COVID-19Vaccine offers freedom from more than slavery this Pesach

Some vaccinated Pittsburghers plan in-person seders

“If I wasn’t vaccinated, we wouldn’t be doing this."

Dee Weinberg is looking forward to celebrating Passover with her family this year. Last year's seder table featured setting for Weinberg, her husband the guest of honor: a computer screen. Photo by Dee Weinberg.
Dee Weinberg is looking forward to celebrating Passover with her family this year. Last year's seder table featured setting for Weinberg, her husband the guest of honor: a computer screen. Photo by Dee Weinberg.

Sheryl Weissberg Silverman and her husband, Michael, got their COVID-19 vaccinations a couple months ago. They are now looking forward to celebrating Passover in Florida with family. It will be a welcome return to normalcy in a year that has been anything but.

The day before Pittsburgh entered lockdown, Michael was diagnosed with cancer. The Silvermans’ son celebrated his bar mitzvah during the quarantine over Zoom. Their family sat shiva online for Sheryl’s mother at the beginning of March 2021. Two of their children, living in different cities, contracted COVID-19.

“For us, things have really moved to a better place,” said Sheryl, a South Hills resident.

Michael has been declared cancer free and both children have recovered. The family is grateful for the opportunity to be together, Sheryl said.

“The idea of just sharing some of the important parts of our family and our Judaism is exciting,” she said.

Sheryl remains guarded about the future, though. She does not yet feel completely at ease in public settings and is still wearing a mask.

“When someone you know has a serious illness, it doesn’t allow you to judge other people and their choices,” she said. “People are fragile. I err on the side of being really, really careful. We need to protect people in the community that need protection.”

Rosalind Katz Ainsman and her husband spent 12 days in the hospital last July with COVID-19. Ainsman was in intensive care for four days.

“I had double pneumonia and everything that went along with it,” she said. “We were lucky. I am lucky to be here. I had excellent care. We made it through.”

The couple have been vaccinated and plan to share a seder with two of their three daughters and their families.

Ainsman, a Morningside resident, is not sure if she or her daughter will host the seder. What is certain is that the eight guests will represent a smaller number than the 25 or 30 Ainsman typically hosted at her sister’s residence pre-COVID.

Despite having had the virus, and having been vaccinated, Ainsman is not ready to fully head back into the world — although she is hoping to celebrate her grandson’s bar mitzvah next year in person.

Mt. Lebanon resident Stu Chaban is planning to host a hybrid seder with as many as 13 people at his home, 10 of whom will be vaccinated before the holiday. The guest list is limited to family members.

The group plans to follow post-vaccine CDC guidelines, meaning they will not wear masks while together, although Chaban is slightly apprehensive about his son, niece and niece’s husband, who have not been vaccinated.

“We worry about them because we don’t want them to get sick,” he said, “but they’re young and they all live in small bubbles.”
Chaban and his wife, Sandy, will Zoom with other family members who have not yet been vaccinated.

“If I wasn’t vaccinated, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Chaban said. “Being vaccinated has opened up the world to me. Before, I would not go anywhere. I just didn’t do it. I have a compromised immune system, so I was afraid to get it.”

Chaban plans to visit one of his sons in California in May. He is not giving up his mask just yet, though.

“That’s no problem,” he said. “It is my habit. I’ve been doing it for the last year. It’s only temporary — we just don’t know how temporary. There are still a lot of people that haven’t been vaccinated yet.”

Charlese Liptz Farkas and her family will have two seders, neither of which will be at her home. She and her husband have been vaccinated and plan to attend at least one celebration at her middle daughter’s house in Ross Township.

The guest list is currently at six, including one non-family member who celebrates Passover with them each year. The final count may grow by two, adding Farkas’ third child and wife.

“We have to decide whether they’ll be willing to eat inside or not,” she said. “We’re hopeful.”

But Farkas doesn’t see Passover as the start of regular visits to friends and acquaintances.

“I think I’m still going to limit it for now,” she said. “I think the tipping point will be when my children are comfortable with me being with them and a few friends. I’m letting them guide this because they’re who I most want to be with.”

The two seders Farkas attends will be a welcome return to form. Last year, she had two untypical seders. The first was limited to just Farkas, her husband and a family friend. The second was on Zoom.

“It was shocking,” she said, explaining that her seders typically include at least 20 guests. “That’s what I miss most — having those people with me.”

Dee Weinberg and her husband celebrated Passover last year with a Zoom seder that included her daughter’s family in England. This year, they’ll have an in-person seder with her daughter who has moved back to the States and lives nearby in Squirrel Hill.

“It’s interesting, I was just looking at my photos from last year,” Weinberg said. “My dining room table had two lonely place settings — my husband, myself and our guest of honor, the computer screen.”

An event planner, Weinberg said her life will not return to pre-pandemic normalcy after Passover.

“None of my friends are ready to go into a restaurant yet,” she said. “I think the fact that we have been homebound for one year, to all of a sudden lift that is hard. It creates a lot of anxiety and ‘what ifs’ and ‘what should’ and there really are no guidelines. Everything you read is different. I’m comfortable with my bubble, probably through the spring and early summer, and then I probably will venture out a little bit.”

Rikki Rabbin, on the other hand, is eager to begin living life again. The 36-year-old was looking forward to a pre-Passover, post-vaccination haircut.

After receiving her COVID-19 vaccinations in February, Rikki Rabbin will celebrate Passover this year with her family, albeit it will be slightly smaller than Pesach’s in the past, like this one from 2019. Photo provided by Rikki Rabbin.

Rabbin works in the health care field and was fully vaccinated in February. She will share a seder with her parents, her sister and her sister’s fiancé, all of whom will have had at least one shot by Passover. But
Rabin’s parents have requested she not see her old friends beforehand “because they’ll only be one vaccination deep.”

In addition to family Passover there is something else Rabbin is excited about now that she’s vaccinated.

“I’m going to go to Dobra Tea and just sit there and enjoy it,” she said. “I’ll have my book and just enjoy life.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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