East Cobb synagogue to start Passover with ‘Zoom Seder’
Last year, Congregation Etz Chaim held its first Passover Seder at the synagogue on Indian Hills Parkway, a departure from the tradition of starting the solemn Jewish observance in family homes.
This year, the in-person Seder had been called off due to renovation work at Etz Chaim’s social hall. But for the last few weeks, as many faith communities have been resorting to virtual worship due to Coronavirus restrictions, the synagogue is gathering its congregation together after all, online, to mark the first night of Passover.
What Rabbi Daniel Dorsch calls a “Zoom Seder” will begin the eight days of Passover right before sundown on Wednesday. The seder is aimed at families and children but is accessible to anyone, and is part of a new ritual that has had clergy and congregants alike scrambling to get connected and share their faith.
“I’m working differently than I ever have before,” admitted Dorsch, whose synagogue has had a fairly active social media and online presence.
Like many businesses and organizations, the Etz Chaim faithful are meeting via Facebook Live streaming and on Zoom, a business teleconferencing tool that has become an increasingly popular way to stay in touch.
Many churches in East Cobb also have been using Facebook Live and Zoom in recent weeks, and are making similar plans during Holy Week this week, culminating in Easter Sunday.
Etz Chaim has used Zoom for several worship services, including Havdalah, or the end of the Shabbat, last Saturday (screenshot above).
Dorsch—who’s shown in the bottom center photo— said it’s far from ideal not to have everyone together for worship, especially during special occasions like Passover. But the changes have resulted in a few silver linings, including outreach to those who’ve been homebound.
“I’ve gotten some very touching e-mails from people saying how much they appreciate it,” he said.
“This is a time when it’s really needed.”
Recently more than 100 households connected via Zoom for a service, a strong number given Etz Chaim’s membership is at around 600 families.
Dorsch said some members who haven’t been attending in person are participating online, “so they can be in touch.”
Reverting the Seder on the first night of Passover to the home environment, he said, is a good learning opportunity for younger people to become more active in the event and absorb the rituals of the observance.
He said there are some congregants who’ve told him online worship “isn’t the same thing,” and he and other synagogue leaders have been working to contact all members by phone to see how they’re doing during what figures to be an extended absence.
Etz Chaim also has postponed bar and bat mitzvahs and other special events, although Dorsch has presided over two funerals with social distancing measures in place.
As the online Passover viewing schedule was finalized, a special e-mail went out to Etz Chaim members, wishing them a “a zissin Pesach!,” or Happy Passover.
“At least we can be together this way,” Dorsch said. “We can still be together.”
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