Matza in Israel (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90) Yossi Aloni/FLASH90
PASSOVER

“Seder-in-a-Box” makes holiday preparations easy for people forced to spend Passover alone due to coronavirus limitations.

By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler

Passover is a Jewish holiday that traditionally brings family and friends together from near and far, especially for the festive seder meals, during which Jews retell the story of the ancient Israelites’ miraculous salvation from slavery in Egypt and their entry to the Land of Israel.

Coronavirus restrictions this year marked holiday preparations particularly challenging. Many people who have never made their own Passover seder are ordering “Seder-in-a-Box,” which includes all of the ritual foods required for the seder meal, in addition to a decorative plate. Some suppliers even include paper goods and a Haggadah, a book that includes the rituals of the seder and the story of the exodus from Egypt, which is read during the seder.

Navah Rosenblatt, who runs a home catering business in Jerusalem, recognized the challenges that single people and families face this Passover season and decided to offer “Seder-in-a-Box” in one-person portions through various family sizes. She is also offering specially prepared child-friendly meals.

“I work in a kindergarten so I know how hard it is for parents to work from home, clean, cook and prepare for Passover with kids around,” Rosenblatt told United with Israel (UWI). “I really want to help by providing something that can be checked off of a person’s ‘to do’ list and ease some stress.”

Rosenblatt hopes her beautifully prepared seder plates and tasty meals will help de-stress the tense situation under state-mandated “stay-at-home” regulations implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“Everyone wants to be superwoman or superman,” she said. “But, most of us can’t be, even in easier times. Now it’s even harder.”

As the orders come in, Rosenblatt plans to pay her profits forward.

“I really want to help people more than make a living,” she told UWI. “I am donating five percent of my profit to AZ House,” a recovery center where 20 men are striving for sobriety.

“I want to ensure that they too have a nice seder and care,” Rosenblatt added.

Help for New Immigrants

Recognizing this year’s Passover challenge, especially for new immigrants (olim), singles, and the elderly, the leading immigration non-profit Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) subsidized 500 “Seder-in-a-Box” meals. Since 2002, the organization has brought about 60,000 people to live in Israel, 45 percent of whom are single.

“So many singles and elderly are alone for Passover this year,” Donna Horwitz, head of Community Integration Division for NBN, told UWI. “We are finding that the singles are especially feeling a bit lost, as they normally would attend seder with family, friends or even fly back to their country of origin to celebrate, all of which are impossible now. We can’t change that physical reality but we want to support them and let them feel like they are getting an extra hug.”

Every NBN-sponsored “Seder-in-a-Box” includes a letter from Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder of the organization. “This year feels strangely different as we all find ourselves away from our familiar places and people that we had originally planned to celebrate with,” he wrote.

“At such difficult moments, it is important to pause, and not just have an appreciation of our personal blessings, but to ground ourselves with remembering our roots and contemplate how we will be moving forward.”

Rabbi Fass pointed out that the word seder means “order.” He said that the sages formalized the way we commemorate Passover to make order of the chaos that existed in the world following the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

“As we are today in a time of uncertainty, we can try to bring ‘order’ to the frenzy around us,” he wrote. “Know that you are marking this holiday at the same time that millions of Jews around the world are doing the same. Although we are not physically in the place we imagined or with the families and friends we imagined we would celebrate, you should take strength in the fact that you are actively creating a link in the chain of Jewish heritage. May this holiday be a source of strength, even as we celebrate it differently.”

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