Coronavirus and Passover: Tips for keeping everyone safe and healthy

Passover is one of my favorite times of year because I get to gather with my family to participate in a seder lead by my father. I enjoy the communal spirit in partaking in rituals observed by our ancestors and passing on these traditions to my children.

Given the spread of the Coronavirus in the United States and health organizations advising everyone to take extra precautions to avoid getting sick or passing on germs to others, you may be anxious about how you will spend your Passover.



Maybe you had a big trip planned to Israel and now have to observe the holiday at home. Maybe you’re living in a containment zone and can no longer host the big seder you planned. Or, maybe, you are just anxious and can’t prepare for the holiday the way you normally would.

Whatever the reason, even during this time, we can still find ways to have a meaningful Passover, while still keeping our families and loved ones safe.

Keep reading for my tips, and feel free to share yours in the comments.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

If you usually host a large gathering, don’t be afraid to limit the number of guests at your seder, or to opt out of hosting one at all. If you often travel elsewhere for the seder, let the host know you may not be joining this year. This is not the time to worry about “offending” anyone. If your level of observance allows, maybe offer family and friends the opportunity to join the seder via video chat. Or, if you don’t use electronics on yom tovs, plan a time before candle lighting to speak with loved ones out of town.

Spare The Kisses And Opt For Warm Smiles

When guests come to your home greet them warmly and express your desire to not hug, kiss or shake hands. This is also an important time to remind friends and relatives that children, regardless of the current situation, should never be forced to hug or kiss anyone.

Insist Guests Wash Hands Upon Arrival

Though you can’t prevent every germ, having guests wash their hands when they arrive (and before you eat), can make a difference. And no, ritual washing for the seder does not count.

And, remember, proper handwashing should last for about 20 seconds. Here’s a fun guide from PJ Library that helps you wash for long enough and practice singing “Dayenu.”PJ Library Dayenu.png

Limit Shared Foods At The Seder

The seder has a lot of parts which usually involve many guests sharing or touching the same foods. Even with the best efforts, the usual practice of breaking off pieces of matzo and passing them around or all dipping in the same bowl of salt water can spread unwanted germs. To keep germs at bay, perhaps offer each guest their own personal portions of matzo, eggs, charoset and other seder items to enjoy.

Check Out PJ Library For Great Activities To Do With Your Family

If you are observant, and don’t use electronics or social media on yom tovs, PJ Library has a lot of wonderful non-digital activities and printables. Prep some ahead of time to use at home or to bring to family. If you will be home with the kids during chol ha-moed, or the non-holy days of Passover, PJ Library offers a wonderful collection of digital content and activities.

While you are there, register your kids for PJ Library, and let them experience the joy of receiving a new Jewish-themed book each month. It’s free!

Remember Health Above All Else

These are unusual times, and we have already seen many Jewish leaders closing synagogues and postponing gatherings. While it is uncertain how bad the coronavirus pandemic will be come Passover, chances are we will all need to exercise caution to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

Jews believe in the ideal of pikuach nefesh — preserving human life above all else. And while I hope and pray we are all able to fulfill the mitzvot (requirements) of Passover, I know, in many cases, that may not be possible. Even if all you are able to do is share the story with your family, I would say that’s dayenu — enough.

Disclaimer: As a PJ Library influencer, I am compensated for promoting this program. All opinions expressed are my own.

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