Passover 2020: How to Practice a Safe Zoom Seder

Tonight’s Seder is different from all other Seders.

We know this even before we get to Ma Nishtana, the Four Questions. Following the directives of public health authorities means Passover is different this year. This time around, we are asking new questions: How will we see loved ones during Passover? How will the Seder work without everyone in the same room?

These are not ordinary times, but Passover is no ordinary holiday. We’ve put together some tips and ideas for having a (socially) connected Passover in a (physically) distanced world.

The Zoom Seder

It’s the trend that’s taken off this year. Tonight, across Canada, families and friends will be logging on to Zoom to conduct their Seder.  Similar to Skype, Zoom is an online video conferencing platform which allows for multiple people to be on the same meeting.

(Many observant Jews refrain from using technology during Shabbat and holidays, including Passover. Shutting off your tech for the chag? check out the Seder before the Seder  below)

Some tips on how make your first Zoom or Skype Seder a success:

 Learn how to use it

Would you make Charoset without first learning how to make Charoset? Probably not. So before hosting a Zoom Seder, take some time to learn how to use the platform. Make sure you’ve covered the basic skills, like how to schedule a meeting, how to join a meeting, and how to use the controls during meetings. Is someone in the family particularly skilled with technology? Ask them to set everything up.

Set a Password

Eliyahu should be the only one who crashes your Seder this year. To ensure no one uninvited pops up in the middle of Dayenu, set a password for the meeting. Your (virtual) table is joyous enough without the extra guests.

Detailed Invitations

Moses led an entire nation out of Egypt without providing them with much detail on the journey. You however, aren’t Moses. Your guests will require some key details about how a virtual Seder works. Let them know what Zoom is, how to use it, and make sure they have the correct meeting link and password (see last tip). Tell your guests to make sure everything works on their end, including a stable Wi-Fi or wired internet connection. This means testing out their computers, iPads, laptop mic and camera, etc. well before the Seder.

Time Change

The “no travelling” rule means that guests may be across various time zones. If you schedule your Seder for 8:00pm in Halifax, specify 8:00pm Atlantic Standard Time in the invitation. You wouldn’t want your cousins in Vancouver joining the meeting, ready to begin the Seder, just as you’re starting verse one of Chad Gadya.

On the same page

If possible, try and use the same version of the Haggadah. It will make it easier to follow along throughout the evening. Several options are available for download online.

Delegation of Authority

Tradition teaches us of the importance of delegating tasks, like when Moses’ father-in-law Yitro, advises him to delegate some of the smaller tasks to others. The same lesson applies to making a Zoom Seder a success. Have one person on standby to address any technical issues which may arise. If possible, let your guests know ahead of time what sections you would like them to read or lead.

The Sound of Silence

Before beginning the actual Haggadah shel Pesach, go through the Haggadah shel Technology. Is everyone, aside from the Seder leader, on mute? Is everyone’s video on? Volume up? All good? Yallah.

The Seder before the Seder

Not using technology during the holiday? Host a quick Zoom gathering with family and friends prior to candle lighting. Schedule a Zoom meeting ahead of time and send out the link (with the meeting password) to guests.

Candle lighting times are later this year, which gives families some extra time to have a virtual visit with friends and loved ones. Use this time for children to show their grandparents (virtually) the Seder Plates they made at home. With your (virtual) guests, you can share stories and sing your favourite Passover songs before it’s time to say goodbye.

Time Difference

Candle lighting times vary by city. Ensure the timing of your virtual visit takes into account different lighting times in different locations.

Reading List

Normally, holidays are spent in synagogue, with friends, and at meals with many guests. This year is different. The entire holiday will be spent at home, with just the family members who live there. Many Jewish publishers, institutions, and schools offer free printable downloads online, specifically for Passover reading.

 

No matter where or how you are celebrating, we wish you and your families a Chag Pesach Samech.

May you feel liberated and at peace, even under different circumstances than we are used to. Next year in Jerusalem…and in person!

 

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