Over the past three weeks or so, the world has transformed to a virtual reality for education, business, social and communal life. Jewish Atlanta has mobilized right along with it while preparing for one of the most widely observed holidays, bringing families and community together to celebrate our deliverance from slavery to freedom.
Although we are no longer slaves, there’s still a sense of bondage all are feeling cooped up in their homes for the global cause: saving lives. Still, wanting to bring the community together, at least figuratively through technology, various Jewish communal organizations decided to hold virtual seders. You will find more than a handful of them on AJT’s Calendar within these pages and on the Atlanta Jewish Connector online. As of deadline, there were at least five seders on the first night of Passover conducted by various synagogues and organizations listed on the Connector, and at least four on the second night.
We also include in this Passover issue stories about a few of the virtual seders that began March 26 and continue through April 13. There’s the annual women’s seder sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women and Congregation Or Hadash that became a mini-seder via 60 computers across the globe.
Another interesting livestreamed program was The Downtown Seder presented by City Winery Monday, April 6, including celebs Peter Yarrow, Speech of Arrested Development, Congressman Jerry Nadler asking four important questions; Al Franken from his shower; and comedian Seth Herzog performing the 10 plagues.
Also Monday night, a virtual Unity Seder took place on Zoom with leaders from various faith and ethnic communities from around Atlanta sharing messages of hope and unity. About 150 people attended virtually.
“We were not planning on hosting a Unity Seder this year,” said Dov Wilker, regional director of AJC Atlanta. “However, in light of COVID-19, we decided to create an opportunity for unity before the holidays.” He said he believed it was the only seder of its kind bringing the community together “solely focused on unity.”
The program was led by Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus of The Temple and included speakers from Atlanta churches along with the Latin and Muslim communities. Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath also attended.
Moishe House, which provides programming for young adults, is hosting a virtual seder on the second night. “We decided there are a lot of people who are misplaced right now in terms of their typical Passover routine,” said Josh Schwartz, who lives in the house. His sister, Rachel, a Jewish educator, will help him lead the service, he said.
“The goal is to just, while people can’t necessarily practice all the traditions around Passover in terms of celebrating with family and friends in person, our hope is to remind people how to connect to Passover and give them the opportunity to celebrate it the best they can given these unseen circumstances,” Schwartz said.
“We’re handing out our own haggadah we’re custom developing. We’re also doing a cookbook of five or six recipes around matzah. Also, the necessities of what’s on a seder plate. Those two ideas have been well-received and also well-supported.”
Even after Passover, there are opportunities for communal unity. The first virtual Hunger Seder takes place Monday, April 13. The seder is an interfaith event re-imagining the traditional Passover seder that includes learning about hunger and food insecurity, problems and community-led solutions, according to the Jewish connector listing. “Join the Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish and other faith partners for an online evening of Passover symbolism, presentations from experts, and breakout discussions. Their theme this year is urban community farming and gardening,” the listing states.
For more information about virtual seders, visit www.atlantajewishconnector.com.