To connect the global Jewish community for its first Passover in the age of social distancing, JDC, the global Jewish humanitarian organization, is deploying special online and digital holiday tools to strengthen community and help Jews in isolation reach their families, friends, and wider Jewish world. These offerings include a first-time, free digital download of ReOrdered, the JDC Entwine at-home global Passover Toolkit, and an Israel-based hackathon that will fast-track platforms for virtual Seders and Passover resources for Jews and Jewish communities facing COVID-19 restrictions. These innovations — including an online Passover University for Jews in post-Soviet states — are among other JDC-sponsored virtual Seders, holiday classes, educational programs, and materials aimed at creating a meaningful Passover experience from one’s home.
“Despite the many challenges the coronavirus pandemic has posed for Jewish life today, Passover provides us the opportunity to reconnect to the people, traditions, and rituals that reinforce our bonds as a people. We’re making sure Passover’s message of freedom can be experienced by those facing the loneliness of quarantine and those yearning to brighten their tables, absent of family and friends, with new tastes and practices that can heighten the holiday’s meaning. We’re widening our Passover experience beyond borders and physical space to embrace the fullness of Jewish peoplehood and ask others to commit to do the same,’ said JDC President Mark Sisisky and JDC Interim CEO Asher Ostrin.
JDC Entwine, JDC’s young adult platform, is now offering a free digital download of ReOrdered, its successful DIY Passover toolkit that gives users a global, interconnected experience around the themes of the holiday. Through ReOrdered, toolkit users get a chance to explore eight global Jewish communities – including their traditions, recipes, and stories – and to reflect on their own experiences as a global Jewish citizen. This year’s newly redesigned kit offers users an inside look at Jewish communities from Morocco, the former Soviet Union, Sarajevo, Argentina, Greece, India, Poland, and Ethiopia. The free kit was used last year at more than 400 Seders in 18 countries around the world and this year, more than 1,000 physical kits were ordered and distributed before the new digital version was deployed.
JDC-Israel is challenging the community of social entrepreneurs at its Hackaveret social innovation hub in Lod to create digital platforms that ensure individuals and communities in isolation can have a meaningful holiday experience through its new #PassoverChallenge. Companies, start-ups, organizations, and innovators are being asked to come up with tech solutions that provide ways to prepare and hold an experiential Seder in a virtual space as well as resources to provide meaning and connection throughout the holiday, which lasts a week. In this time leading up to Passover, participants are embarking on an accelerated innovation process, which will provide them with content, tools, and mentors from various fields. The winning team will receive a grant and their program will then be distributed to international Jewish communities for their use ahead of the holiday which begins on April 8th.
In the former Soviet Union, where Jewish communities have experienced a revival of Jewish life since the fall of Communism, the Passover University has been rolled out for the first time online. The seminar teaches participants about the history and traditions of Passover and gives them the skills to conduct their own seders. Allowing participants from all around the world to partake and feel connected to the global Jewish community, the course already has 54 participants drawing from Russian-speaking communities in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and England. The curriculum includes various virtual lectures and activities with Jewish educators 2-3 times a day, as well as online meetings with group leaders for ongoing feedback and discussions. The course will conclude with a virtual Passover party for all its participants. Passover University, which was held previously for five years through in-person classes, was launched by JCC Solomonika in Dnipro and is now conducted partnership with JCC Beit Dan in Kharkov, Ukraine.
In addition to the Passover University, JDC has modified dozens of Passover activities for online audiences, including more than twenty online Seders which will be led by JCC’s and community centers across the region this year, and was able to carry out in some former Soviet Union locations its three-decade old tradition of distributing matzah to needy Jewish elderly so they can savor the tastes of the holiday, even at a time of social distancing. The distribution was safely conducted with minimal to no contact, with aid workers wearing masks, gloves, and taking appropriate sanitary measures. This matzah distribution effort is made possible through JDC’s partnerships with the Claims Conference, Jewish Federations, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).