Another pandemic Passover is right around the corner — the holiday begins on the evening of Saturday, March 27. While, yes, some lucky, vaccinated people may be gathering for a seder IRL, most of us are still unable to travel and get together for the in-person seders of yore. So, yes, a lot of us are looking at yet another Zoom seder.
For all of us — and for parents especially — the feelings of Zoom and pandemic Jewish holiday fatigue are very real. So at Kveller, we thought we’d try to help parents feel a little less overwhelmed, a little more prepared, and — gasp! — maybe even a little excited about this year’s Zoom seder.
We enlisted Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder — who is the rabbi-in-residence at Be’chol Lashon, as well as Kveller’s go-to person to help us feel less stressed out about pandemic parenting challenges — to teach us how to host a family-friendly Zoom seder. This fun, communal workshop was held on Monday, March 15, and you can watch it in full below.
Here are some highlights from this incredibly meaningful and helpful session:
Will one person lead the seder, or will this be a collaborative effort? Will there be a seder plate in each house? Would eating before having the seder be easier for your family? What haggadah will your family be using? (Yes, we do have a Kveller Haggadah, thanks for asking!) Would it be easier to plan a menu for everyone ahead of time? Make all these decisions early on to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.
An important part to plan if you have kids at your seder is the singing of the Four Questions. Since you can’t really sing together on Zoom, you can assign one verse to each kid (if you have enough kids) to make them all feel like they participate and to make things more orderly and exciting.
Make prep exciting
You can make Passover special for your kids before it even starts by amping up some Jewish rituals. Since Passover starts right after Shabbat this year, you can make havdalah special this year by incorporating spices and songs, or do it even if you’re not used to it. You can make the bedikat chametz (the search for leavened products) extra fun with some delightful activities for your kids, or by giving your kids a special chametz treat to eat.
Planning a Zoom seder doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. Got a tech whiz in the family? Make them in charge of the Zoom logistics. Got a talented musician? Make them perform some (or all!) of the songs! If leading the seder is not or something you’re comfortable doing on Zoom, find someone more comfortable with leading Zoom programming in your fam to do it.
Ask yourself: What are the things you must have?
What are the things that really make Passover for you and your family? A certain dish, or a certain song? Maybe you can’t go through the whole seder this year but can get together to sing a few songs. Maybe having the same dish together, even if you’re far away, is what makes it for you — be it brisket, chicken soup, or a special haroset recipe. Finding what is essential will help you know what you can let go of, which leads us to…
At this point of the pandemic, we’re all running on fumes. Cutting corners is not just smart — it can truly be essential. If you’re fewer people than usual, cook less. If your family loves chicken soup, you can center the entire meal around that! Or you can buy food that is already made. You don’t have to do the entire seder, or you can make seder into a brunch or a DIY matzah pizza bar. It’s OK to do whatever works for you.
Keep everything close at hand
If you’re leading the seder, make sure you have everything close at hand, from the bowl for netilat yadayim (handwashing), to your haggadah, to your seder plate, and anything else you might need.
Use a playlist
Normally, when we’re all having a seder at the same place, we try to keep the screens away. But with a Zoom seder, that’s not an option — so why not lean in and use all of the different technological props at our disposal? We’ve created a delightful playlist with fun and exciting Passover songs for you to play, perhaps instead of some of the singing, or just to help you connect through music:
You can also watch fun Passover videos together.
Have fun with Zoom backgrounds
Yes, Zoom backgrounds are cheesy. But they’re also delightful and they help get everyone, especially the kids, in the mood for Passover. We’ve assembled some of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the 10 Plagues in a handy-dandy Google Drive folder for you, but if you have a particularly artistic person in your family, maybe ask them to create some!
Find meaningful ways to connect
There are so many ways we can connect, even when we’re far apart. From cooking the same things to playing family games, like an interactive afikomen hunt. One grandparent suggested buying the same afikomen bag for each household, and hiding it in the same place in each home (a bathroom cabinet, or above the fridge). Each household could get a clue, and all the kids can work together to find it.
It’s OK to talk about how this year has been hard. It’s OK to talk about how living through a plague, like the ones in the Passover tale, isn’t easy. It’s OK to talk about the freedoms we are missing.
Record for posterity
Recording your seder IRL is a difficult feat but it’s so easy with Zoom. If you have a professional account, you can simply record the session, or use another app to screen and sound record. It’s a really special memento to have, especially if you have older relatives Zooming in.
Be kind to yourself
This is not the year for perfect. This is the year for making it through and making the best of it. Be kind to yourself, and take as much off your plate as you can. As parents, we lead by example, and we can teach our kids that when things are tough, it’s OK to take a break. Even if that means canceling the seder this year, and only getting together with family for a few songs over Zoom, that’s OK.
You’ve got this!
Watch Rabbi Ruth for more advice, tips, and tricks:
Header image via lipmic/Getty Images