New York, NY — This Passover, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), is reaching widening global audiences with hundreds of online events, holiday content, and its century-old tradition of delivering matzah to needy Jews. While in-person activities are happening in some global communities, those still facing COVID-19 regulations and lockdowns are seeking out meaning and connection in growing numbers. They can access JDC virtual seders (the ritual holiday meal), educational programs, cooking classes, and digital materials to help bring the Passover experience home. Among them, homebound elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union will be able to participate in holiday activities through specially outfitted smartphones.
“At the heart of the Passover story is the timeless value of freedom. We’re deploying innovative tools to ensure thousands of Jews still facing pandemic restrictions can transcend them to celebrate Passover on virtual platforms providing meaning and community connection at a time when it’s needed most. We’re especially proud of our ability to guarantee the most vulnerable – the poor and the elderly hardest hit by the pandemic – share in freedom’s promise and know there is a global community that welcomes them to our virtual holiday tables,” said Ariel Zwang, CEO of JDC.
In keeping with its nearly three-decade tradition, more than 30,000 boxes of matzah will be delivered by JDC to needy Jewish elderly in the former Soviet Union ensuring that they will be able to share in Passover celebrations even during this second year of the pandemic. This effort is supported by JDC’s partnerships with the Claims Conference, Jewish Federations, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
In addition, Entwine, JDC’s young adult platform, is once again offering ReOrdered, a free DIY Passover toolkit that shares a global experience of the holiday for those using it. The downloadable kit highlights traditions, recipes, and stories from Jewish communities around the world including Morocco, Greece, Poland, Argentina, India, Sarajevo, former Soviet Union, and Ethiopia.
Around the world, JDC Passover offerings include:
- India: JDC-supported JCC Mumbai will offer a variety of online programs for local community members of all ages. Passover events for children and youth include a seder scavenger hunt and quiz games. A community-wide Passover celebration and one for the young adult population will be offered online, while seniors who reside at Bayiti, the JDC-supported Jewish home for the elderly, will receive matzah and other holiday treats.
- Morocco: JDC will support children’s programming including virtual teachings of the Haggadah, Passover song seminars – sharing both traditional and Moroccan tunes – as well as a seder plate preparation class.
- Egypt: Continuing its decades old-tradition, JDC will provide kosher for Passover food, including nearly 90 pounds of matzah, to the Jewish community to help them celebrate the holiday.
- Poland: In addition to a virtual Passover cooking class on Facebook, a subsidized matzah sale run through JDC’s JCC Warsaw is giving all community members access to the holiday staple.
- Romania: More than 500 participants took part in the 3rd Bereshit learning program, a flagship initiative of the Romanian Jewish community supported by JDC, which focused on Passover. Participants from more than 25 Jewish communities attended ZOOM & Facebook Live sessions dedicated to holiday traditions and wider Jewish cultural and educational offerings. Additionally, in the cities of Timisoara, Oradea and Iasi, Passover holiday box, including holiday foods, will be delivered to the community members at home.
- Hungary: In Budapest, the JDC-supported JCC Budapest – Bálint Ház has created a dedicated Passover website with all the information needed to celebrate the holiday. In addition, to help people hold Passover celebrations from home, community members will be able to order a “Passover Box” containing two Haggadot, one pack of seder cards, a pound of matzah, and a ten plagues-themed coaster set.
- In the former Soviet Union, where JDC’s vast operation reaches thousands of locations, the deployment of hundreds of local Jewish volunteers through JDC’s 57 volunteer centers in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and other locations to deliver Passover holiday packages to poor, homebound Jewish seniors. JDC’s volunteer network in the region is carried out in partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group. In addition, JDC activities include a model teen seder in the Kiev region, Ukraine, teaching youth how to conduct and lead a seder, as well as the history and tradition of the holiday, while in Moscow, Russia, over Zoom and YouTube, one of the many online Passover seders being hosted will include an online culinary class on matzah making.
- JDC is also leveraging Jointech, its initiative to provide care and community through tech solutions, to reach poor Jewish seniors in the region during Passover and beyong. In Kishinev, Moldova, and Zaporozhye and Melitopol, Ukraine, homebound Jewish seniors will attend a variety of online Passover programs – model seders, concerts, and holiday seminars – through smartphones with specially designed, age friendly software for easy use by elderly. JDC launched Jointech last year to help combat isolation among Jewish elderly as a result of the pandemic. This pilot program is made possible with support from the Claims Conference and UJA-Federation of New York.