While many families across the globe connected for seders through Zoom videoconferencing, five resourceful Jewish families in North Atlanta decided to disconnect and get some fresh air.
They set up a circle of tables in their cul-de-sac at least six feet apart, as per CDC recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and shared the first night of Passover tradition – outdoors.
“We are kinda celebrating together, a way to be community. It’s very uplifting,” said Dorie Sokol, who set up a table with her husband for the seder Wednesday night. Those participating brought their own food, utensils and seating. An online haggadah was printed and dispersed for those gathered so all would be on same page.
“It’s great. Anything different to bring a little joy and community,” Sokol said. “We are all missing our community and family and it’s not the same on Zoom. Passover is traditionally a lot of people singing. This is an opportunity to be with our neighbors and friends and their dogs and kids running around,” Sokol said of the experience.
“It’s nice at this time, and a rarity. Most people do it by Zoom.” She said she had talked with other friends and “none of them are excited about Passover. They are grandmas and used to having their kids and family. It’s tough emotionally.
“The advantage of Zoom meeting and other similar sites is that it can bring family members closer together. Seders such as ours remove the walls of technology and allow a closeness that technology does not, at a time, when many people are craving it.”
The five Jewish and interfaith families that participated – representing diverse levels of observance – make up about 30 percent of the small neighborhood. “Some of the non-Jewish neighbors walked out and asked what we were doing and learned about the holiday,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman.
The idea for the seder developed when neighbors gathered outside – at a distance – and compared notes about their plans for the holiday. As Padilla-Goodman recalled, the group decided, “Why don’t we do it right here?”
The outdoor seder was an opportunity to share rituals, build community and “celebrate a big festival of freedom and unity,” she said.
“It was lovely and unusual and nice. Frankly, it maybe something we want to do every year.” She said she hoped future years might involve potluck instead of bring-your-own, similar to past neighborhood gatherings. “It’s very special we have Jewish neighbors to lean on.”