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Winnipeg Free Press Interviews Rabbi Anibal Mass About Virtual Pesach Seders

27/03/2021 04:00:00 AM


Rabbi expanding guest list for virtual Passover seder

By: Brenda Suderman

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Rabbi Anibal Mass is opening up his home to most of the city’s Jewish community for a virtual seder on Sunday evening.

After inviting dozens of households inside his Linden Woods home for a Passover seder last year, a Winnipeg rabbi is throwing open the doors to most of the city’s Jewish community in 2021.

"This is an unintended blessing that COVID brought — it brought us together," said Rabbi Anibal Mass of Congregation Shaarey Zedek said of the virtual community seder at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the second night of Passover.

The seven-day Jewish festival, which celebrates Jews’ freedom from slavery in Egypt, begins on sundown on Saturday and runs until the evening of Sunday, April 4.

Last year, Winnipeg’s Jewish community celebrated Passover from their individual households just weeks after Manitoba went into lockdown and places of worship closed to public gatherings.

Already accustomed to livestreaming from his Wellington Crescent synagogue, in 2020 Mass set up his home computer equipment on his dining room table and invited synagogue members to participate virtually with his family.

Now with the Jewish community preparing to mark its second pandemic-style Passover, Mass will host a community-wide Seder, or ritual dinner with music, liturgy and traditional foods such as unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and wine, from his own synagogue, inviting members of Temple Shalom and Etz Chayim to join in.

"Even though we are sharing it from Shaarey Zedek, it comes out from every congregation as though they are streaming it," he said of the two-hour service, which also features pre-recorded music and readings from people of all the participating organizations.

Jews have always opened up their homes to their Seder table, and this large virtual Seder is an extension of that hospitality, said Rabbi Allan Finkel of Temple Shalom.

"Even in these challenging times, we seem to be defining community in the biggest and best ways imaginable, and we at Temple Shalom are thrilled to participate in the biggest virtual seder ever, bringing together our entire Jewish community and those walking on the path beside us under a single virtual roof," he said.

The community seder is also sponsored by Rady Jewish Community Centre, PJ Library, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and Jewish Child and Family Service.

The move to virtual events means this year children and families of Congregation Etz Chayim could watch short videos explaining various aspects of Passover, including the components of the meal illustrated by juggler Seth Baker.

"The purpose behind any of these videos is that they’re interesting and engaging and hopefully they’ll be a conduit for someone to experience and celebrate Passover," explains Steven Hyman, synagogue board member and organizer of the annual Chocolate Seder for families.

Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg also posted more online content this year to help families celebrate Passover, intended to explain the rituals, meals, and preparations in advance of the holiday, said Rabbi Avrohom Altein.

Since Orthodox Judaism does not allow virtual gatherings for Sabbath or holiday services, the online resources are meant for advance viewing.

Altein said holding the second consecutive Passover under pandemic restrictions creates hardship for Jews longing to see their family and friends again, but the lessons of the past may also help them understand the current situation.

"In history, there were terrible plagues, they came and caused terrible devastation, and then left," said Altein.

"We have to keep our hopes up because we don’t understand how everything works."


Wed, 22 May 2024 14 Iyyar 5784