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When we sent our Passover Guide to print, none of us could have anticipated just how different this night would be from all other nights. That being said, we should not give up on Passover. Our people have observed Passover under the most harsh conditions imaginable. The very first seder was observed as plague stalked the land of Egypt. Jews kept Passover in secret behind locked doors during the Inquisition, and used scraps of potato for both matzah and carpas in the Nazi death camps. We face some serious challenges this year, but it is our hope that we can each find ways to observe the holiday that will give us strength to face challenging times.

Below, you will find information regarding:


If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at anytime at rabbi@bnaitorah.org. We wish you and your family and healthy holiday.


Seders During Social Isolation

Many of us draw strength from having large Seders with family and friends, or joining groups. A meal bringing together multiple generations of grandchildren and cousins with older grandparents, or welcoming those without nearby family, is normally a beautiful thing. This year, that kind of mixing could be incredibly dangerous. Medical advice, and in some areas, civil orders, will almost certainly forbid gatherings of multiple households by the time we reach Seder. Every family in our congregation should follow this advice and limit Seder guests to those already living in the household. To paraphrase a classic rabbinic statement (Yoma 85a), “Let one Passover be abandoned so that many more may be observed.”

However, having Seder in a smaller group doesn’t mean canceling. Maimonides, in his laws of Passover, notes “If he is alone for Seder, then he asks himself, 'Mah Nishtana'.” One may have a Seder as a couple, or even just as an individual. We realize that this may be emotionally challenging. In the current circumstances, we would encourage groups that would normally gather in person to do so virtually by setting a screen at one end of the dining room table, and keeping a video conference open through the Seder. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts each have pros and cons. Each family should do what is comfortable for you, but there is certainly no halachic issue with setting this up prior to candlelighting for the first Seder. Rabbi Heller's guidance on this topic is available here.

We will be making matches for virtual Seder this year for those who may not have family to join, even at a distance. If you would like to match, please email sarah@bnaitorah.org.

We can also help you get Seder essentials if it is not safe for you to go shopping for Passover. Please email Ashley Cohen at acohen@bnaitorah.org if you are in need of these essentials.

If you normally go somewhere for seder and need haggadot, here are some options:

  • Buy physical haggadot here and have them shipped to your home.

  • Download a haggadah here.

  • Create your own here.


Passover Services

We will be offering Passover services, including Yizkor and the siyyum for the firstborn, online. Our first Shabbat of Zoom services was successful, and as we continue to refine our technological capabilities, we will be posting an updated final schedule and access links a few days before the holiday.


Passover Learning and Spirituality

We are offering a number of opportunities for pre-Passover learning and spirituality. Rabbi K will also be available for one-on-one virtual meetings for those who have found themselves leading a Seder for the first time and want to brainstorm ideas or ask questions. Please email Rabbi K at rabbik@bnaitorah.org to request a meeting.

See below for instructions on how to access Virtual B'nai Torah.

 Healing Service - Sunday, March 29 at 5:00 PM
We will have a Healing Service in the Virtual Synagogue. We will use music, text and conversation to let go of some of our anxiety and prepare to enter the Passover season.

 Fireside Social with Rabbi Heller - Monday, March 30 at 9:00 PM
Chat with Rabbi Heller in the Virtual Classroom.

 "Care for More Matzah?" - Tuesday, March 31 at 12:00 PM
Lunch and Learn with Rabbi K in the Virtual Classroom.

 "Four Cups, Four Questions" - Tuesday, March 31 at 8:00 PM
Rabbi Heller will be observing his father's 10th yahrzeit. Please join him in the Virtual Synagogue for a short Ma'ariv service followed by a virtual L'chaim toast and study in his honor. The discussion topic will be "Four Cups, Four Questions."

 Fireside Social with Rabbi K - Tuesday, March 31 at 8:30 PM
Chat with Rabbi K in the Virtual Classroom.

 Tefillah 101 - Wednesday, April 1 at 2:00 PM
Making sense of our siddur with Rabbi K in the Virtual Classroom.

 Fireside Social with Rabbi Heller - Thursday, April 2 at 10:00 AM
Chat with Rabbi Heller in the Virtual Classroom.

 Parsha Class - Thursday, April 2 at 8:00 PM
Adding Our Own Commentary to the Torah with Rabbi K in the Virtual Classroom.

 "Seder Secrets" - Friday, April 3 (Time TBA)
Rabbi Heller is leading a learning session called "Seder Secrets" in the Virtual Classroom.

 First Time Seder Leader Workshops - Sunday, April 5 at 1:30 PM and 8:00 PM
Have you found yourself leading Seder for the first time this year? Join Rabbi K for one of two Seder Leader Workshops in the Virtual Classroom.

 "Seder Secrets" - Tuesday, April 7 at 12:00 PM
Lunch and Learn with Rabbi Heller in the Virtual Classroom. This session is a repeat of Friday's class.

 Young Family Bedikat Hametz - Tuesday, April 7 at 5:00 PM
Rabbi K will lead a fun search for hametz activity for young children in the Virtual Community Room.

 Shacharit and Siyyum - Wednesday, April 8 at 7:30 AM
Join Rabbi K in the Virtual Synagogue.

 Virtual Burning of Hametz - Wednesday, April 8 at 10:30 AM
Join Rabbi Heller in the Virtual Synagogue.


How to Access Virtual B'nai Torah

Accessing our "Virtual Classroom": When it is time for the class to begin, visit http://zoom.us/j/5584913175 to enter the Virtual Classroom. If you'd prefer to join the Virtual Classroom via phone conference instead of video, dial 1-929-205-6099 when the class is scheduled to begin. When prompted, enter this Meeting ID: 558-491-3175 followed by the "#" key.

Accessing our "Virtual Synagogue": When it is time for the service to begin, visit https://zoom.us/j/8297008085 to enter the Virtual Synagogue. If you'd prefer to join the Virtual Synagogue via phone conference instead of video, dial 1-929-205-6099 when the service is scheduled to begin. When prompted, enter this Meeting ID: 829-700-8085 followed by the "#" key.

Accessing our "Virtual Community Room": When it is time for the activity or event to begin, visit https://zoom.us/j/5682481607 to enter the Virtual Community Room. If you'd prefer to join the Virtual Community Room via phone conference instead of video, dial 1-929-205-6099 when the event is scheduled to begin. When prompted, enter this Meeting ID: 568-248-1607 followed by the "#" key.


Selling Hametz

This year, we are especially reluctant to get rid of any hametz that we have stockpiled. We will not be doing hametz sales in person. Hametz may be sold online here.

You should still search for and destroy any hametz that will not keep through the holiday. While it is traditional to burn it, if this is not feasible, (very) small quantities may be flushed down the toilet. Larger quantities may be thrown away (sprinkle some household cleaner on it, and throw it away).

Maot Chittim: Maot Chittim, "wheat money," is an ancient tradition in which Jewish people donate money to Jewish people in need in order for them to purchase food for Passover. This year more than ever, it is appropriate to give so that others may observe the holiday. You can do so through JF&CS. This group of volunteers coordinates the distribution of food and funds to Jewish families.


Kosher for Passover

Normally, Rabbi Heller adopts a relatively strict stand on koshering for Passover and what foods are acceptable. His usual guidelines are found in this year's original Passover Guide.

While reports are that many of the supermarkets are currently stocked with Passover goods, and there is plenty of matzah around, some of us are still used to going from store to store looking for that one missing ingredient. However, based on conversations with our COVID-19 task force experts, we want to discourage all of us from making any more trips to the store than absolutely necessary.

If you are in a high risk category and concerned about going out to do Passover shopping, please contact Ashley Cohen at acohen@bnaitorah.org, for assistance.

The Conservative Movement's updated Coronavirus Passover Guide provides guidance on what to do if you cannot get your preferred kosher-for-Passover items safely or if koshering for Passover creates new challenges this year.

A few highlights:

  1. Any raw, non-processed kosher meat (steak, chicken, etc. - not ground or smoked) is considered kosher for Passover. You may already have what you need in your freezer.
     
  2. Any fresh fruits or vegetables (including those referred to as kitniyot - rice, beans, corn, etc.) are kosher for Passover and may be eaten without hesitation. If kosher certified frozen vegetables are not available, try to get frozen vegetables without ascorbic or citric acids as additives, and when you open, check that no hametz was mixed in.
     
  3. Items listed in the B'nai Torah guide that need to be purchased before Passover may be purchased during the holiday if need be.
     

Some of us are not used to cleaning for Passover, or are doing so without assistance this year. The guide above includes guidance on how to "pass fail" Passover cleaning if that is necessary this year.

All of us at B'nai Torah pray that you and those who are dear to you have a meaningful and safe Passover. We will send out further updates as we get closer to the holiday.

Mon, March 30 2020 5 Nisan 5780