• Barbara Sarshik

Singing Together at a Pandemic Passover

On the first night of Passover, my extended family held our “Zeder” – our Zoom Seder. We’ve always gathered at my home for Seders, with relatives traveling in to share my mom’s brisket and a Passover service filled with song parodies. This year, like many other Passover observers, we turned to Zoom to bring us together virtually.

A little advance planning helped our Seder flow smoothly, including a pre-Seder Zoom meeting to make sure we could all handle the technology. We agreed on a start time – no small feat when dealing with time zones three hours apart. My sister created a Haggadah in PDF format that everyone could print out in advance. Each of the nine households made their own arrangements for food and, of course, wine.

Singing together on Zoom presented another challenge. We discovered that we couldn’t hear everyone simultaneously, just individual voices in split-second snippets as the squares on our screens lit up like a pinball machine. Also, the lag on Zoom meant that we were never singing the same notes at the same time. When we tried using my pre-recorded piano accompaniment, we all heard the music at different times. This made it so hard to synchronize that we stopped using the piano tracks.

The different timing was physically grating to most of us. For me, it was oddly comforting. From my usual perch at the piano in the living room, the group in that room is always in sync with me. The group in the more distant dining room? Not so much. Over the years, I’ve grown used to – and even fond of – hearing my family sing at different speeds. So the lag on Zoom made me feel more at home.

Family felt especially important this year. Though our dinnertime conversation flowed less easily on Zoom than in real life, we kept it going longer than I’d expected. Everyone wanted to be together as much as possible. If we’re not able to gather in person in the future, our Zoom Seder will still enable us to celebrate the holiday as a family.

The messages of Passover took on a heightened meaning this year: liberation, our people’s survival, the hope for better times associated with Elijah, feeding the hungry and caring for the oppressed. Everything about our “Zeder” was different — except for the things that really matter.

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