As the weeklong holiday of Passover begins Wednesday night, people are adapting to a new reality that’s changing nearly every part of the Jewish observance — including getting the right food on the table.
In Nashville, with its mid-sized Jewish community, shopping for Passover can be a hassle even in normal times. It often takes multiple trips to the grocery store to gather all the ingredients necessary for a seder: the foods that help re-enact the slavery and liberation of the Israelites in Egypt, plus an entire festive meal in the middle.
For the past 16 years, Kevin Alexandroni’s catering company, Sova Food, has been providing the food for many community seders — the other option for those who don’t want to schlep to the grocery store and cook for yourself. This year, of course, the big community meals aren’t happening, and going to the store comes with new risks.
Enter “Passover in a box”: all the fixins, including a meal for four, pre-made for the homebound seder. Alexondroni has spent the better part of this week doing curbside delivery at a local synagogue.
“It’s basically anything you need to do for Passover,” Alexandroni says. “All the ingredients for the seder plate. You know, traditional Passover matzah ball soup and gefilte fish, brisket, few sides, desserts.”
This kind of food preparation, which Jewish communities across the country are offering this year, is one of many adaptations for Passover during a pandemic. Families who normally travel to be together might be connecting over video call instead. Observant Jews who don’t use technology on the holiday are opting to go small, having a seder with one or two people to avoid breaking social distancing rules.
It’s certainly an upheaval, says Rabbi Saul Strosberg, who leads the Orthodox congregation Sherith Israel in Nashville. But he says he sees a silver lining: People are realizing that the “nice holiday meal” isn’t the whole point of the holiday.
The themes of Passover, like deliverance from suffering, take on new layers during this unusual time. Strosberg says having a small, pre-packaged seder, doesn’t make that any less meaningful.
“There’s deeper meaning in the seder,” he says. “And any time we do anything different is an opportunity to be more reflective.”