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To Zoom or not to Zoom? Jews grapple with how to celebrate Passover safely

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Eli Barashi, owner and chef of Inspired Catering, pulls chicken from the oven in 2020. Barashi and his staff prepared 600 meals for Passover using the kitchen at Beth Sholom.

Andrea Miller has been torn about what to do about her family’s annual Seder supper to celebrate Passover, which begins Saturday, March 27.

Last year, Passover took place at a time that Miller remembers as mysterious, unknown and scary. Schools and nonessential businesses were closed. Gatherings, including for religious holidays like Passover, were forbidden.

But Miller, who is director of the Rochester Jewish Book Festival and the Rochester Jewish Film Festival for the Jewish Community Center, found comfort and community in her faith. During the first weeks of the pandemic, she and a few family members gathered in a driveway on Friday evenings. Spaced according to social distancing guidelines, they said traditional Shabbat prayers and shared wine and challah bread. 

When it came time to celebrate Passover, she used Zoom to connect with family and friends around the country and even in other countries. “Those were real moments of connection, even when it was on Zoom,” she said.

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