Breaking News
More () »

Passover in the age of coronavirus: 6 tips for hosting a virtual Seder

While many things this year may be different, it doesn't mean those in-person traditions have to be lost.

Passover, a major holiday for Jewish Americans, begins at sundown Wednesday. 

Millions will sit down and take part in Passover Seders on Wednesday and Thursday night, a service and meal often held in people's homes as well as synagogues where whole extended families and groups of friends gather together to celebrate Pesach. 

But this year, those services have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social gatherings are prohibited completely across much of the country, even world, and people are only supposed to be in physical contact with those they live with. 

So many are turning to virtual Seders. Or, as some have dubbed it, a "Zeder," since many will be using Zoom to connect with each other.

And while many things this year will be different, it doesn't mean many of those in-person traditions have to be lost.

1. How to set up your virtual Seder

Let's start with the basics. If you want to see the faces of all your friends and family, there are multiple different tools out there to help. 

Zoom, the tool many are now using for business meetings and school lessons, is one option. The company is allowing users to sign up and host video conferences for free, and is a fairly easy-to-use tool, even for the technologically-challenged. It's also a good option if you have a large group that normally gathers together for Passover, as it can hold probably more people than those dining room tables can. 

FaceTime is another good option for iPhone and Mac users, especially if you typically have a more intimate Seder or will only have a few people calling in. 

Google Hangouts also has a video chat tool that can connect up to 25 users together at one time, no matter what kind of phone or computer they're on. This option might be a bit more involved than Zoom technically, though, so this explainer sheet from Google is helpful. 

Both Zoom and Google Hangouts offer multiple ways for users to join the video call, including the ability to just send participants meeting codes or links.

2. Act like you're still hosting or going to it in person

Normally, you might have hosted all your friends and family. If that's you, you would have set your table, right? Still do that. 

Place your Seder plate prominently on your table or in a spot where you'll be able to show it to everyone else. Still set up the candles, the china, the tablecloth, too. 

That way, during the video call, everyone can still see your set-up, and it might just provide some normalcy to this all. 

For those who don't normally host, you might not have all the necessary arrangements for a full Seder. But, that doesn't mean you can't set your own table to the best of your ability with what you have available.  

Hosts, don't be afraid to give your normal guests some advice beforehand on how you set the table. 

And don't be afraid to dress up. Yes, you won't be leaving your house, but the act of dressing like you would have normally can help bring some regularity, and fun, to the very irregular times we are living in. 

3. Cook together

Seders traditionally have a number of different dishes like matzo ball soup, kugel, brisket, gefilte fish, Charoset, the list goes on. But without everyone getting together this year, Grandma's perfect matzo ball soup and your aunt's amazing noodle kugel likely aren't going to be on the menu. 

So have everyone share their recipes beforehand (as long as it's not that much of a secret). You can then cook together, with the chef in the family setting up a virtual cooking class to take everyone through the steps to make that perfect dish. It's a great way to stay connected with each other, spend some quality time together and even learn a thing or two.    

Even if you can't cook all of the dishes from a traditional Seder, making the effort to have one or two to eat can help make it feel more like the holiday. 

4. Give Elijah a virtual cup

Typically during a Seder, you would set aside a cup of wine for Elijah on the table and leave a door ajar for him. There's no reason you can't still do that. 

Each person can set out their own cup out for the prophet, but you can also get virtual with it. Have someone from one home connect to the video conference with a live look at their cup for Elijah, while another person has their video connected as well so you can actually see them. You can even have them join the meeting with a name like "Elijah" or "Cup for Elijah" if you want to get creative with it or inspire some imagination. 

5. Hide the afikoman and have a virtual hunt

Just because you're not together in person doesn't mean the kids don't still get to guess where the afikoman has been hidden.

Have whoever will hide the afikoman join the call with their phone. That way, they can leave the phone while they sneak away to hide it and then grab the phone to take the group on a virtual hide-and-seek for the matzo. Have the guessers (why not have some adults join in, too?) take turns at picking different spots or rooms to find it. 

Just try not to hide it too well, this time, or you might be at it all night. 

And try to still give out the prize to the winner in some way or another.

6. Use a digital Haggadah that everyone can follow along with

Many synagogues and congregations have made the transition to virtual learning and services, and with that many have shared copies of digital Haggadahs with their followers. The Jewish Federation and Chabad both also have digital versions that can be printed out, as well. 

Whatever you use, just make sure everyone on your video conference has access to the same Haggadah to follow along with as you all go through the Seder together while apart. 

Happy Pesach! 

More on WFAA:

Before You Leave, Check This Out