A Facebook post from earlier this week from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Dr. Lenora Noroski Inselbuch, inspired me to write this story. She and I went to medical school and were co-pediatric residents together. We have remained good friends for over 3 decades. When you look up the word "resilience" you will find Lenora's name there in the dictionary. Dr. Noroski-Inselbuch is a pediatric clinical immunologist at Texas Children's Hospital, and she and her family have been severely affected by Houston flooding. Three times they been displaced from their house, having to literally swim to a neighbor's house for safety. This year, they are finally back in the sheltering walls of their own home, but forced by COVID19 to celebrate Passover apart from their elders. It didn't stop her and many other Jewish families from inviting innovation to the Seder table.
Every Pesach Jewish families around the world meet for a multi-generational traditional Seder dinner to remember the Exodus of Egypt. April 8, 2020 is likely only the second Passover in history that was spent ALONE, as pointed out by author Justin Zaroovabeli in his Medium piece "The Second Passover Alone."
The first Passover, which took place in the Jewish Calendar year of 2448 (circa 1313 BC) and 2020's Passover share some uncanny similarities. The uncertainty experienced centuries ago and now have led many to experience a panic and fear never before experienced. Like the Death of the Firstborn plague, Coronavirus poses a threat to everyone’s family.
There is a destroyer; in 2020 it is the novel coronavirus. During the first Passover, it was the 10th Egyptian Plague that threatened life and future existence of a family.
There is a silence on the streets in 2020, much like the silence that was present during the first Pesach. Families sheltered in place, with the blood of a lamb symbolically painted on the locked doorpost to avoid the entry of the plague that was killing first-born sons.
This year, the COVID19 virus forced families to forgo their usual traditions of traveling to grandparents' homes to commemorate one of the most important holy days of the Jewish faith. Technology-averse elderly parents and relatives were taught how to "download" and "Zoom" and "facetime" and celebrate the Seder as a family remotely. Tradition dictates that the eldest family member retells the story of Passover during the dinner. This year, improvisation was invited to the table. At the first Passover, families were instructed to apply blood to the house and were "Quarantined until death passed." In 2020, the people were again quarantined, to flatten the curve that appears to bring death to the elders and those with weakened immune systems.
It has always been the Jewish tradition to hear the Passover story from the eldest person of the family each Seder, as the eldest is thought to share the closest connection to ancestors. In the Inselbuch family, they didn't let a tiny little vicious coronavirus take away their traditions. They made new ones!
The family members took turns with the important responsibility of the retelling of a people's redemption. Frank (whose father recently passed away) communicated with his mother and siblings via Zoom. Lenora prepared a beautiful and delicious meal, and captured a beautiful picture of her daughter Ilana tenderly reading the Passover story to her younger brother Isaac, who is thrilled she is home, but scared and anxious because his daily routine during quarantine has been disrupted.
Hopefully social distancing will become a thing of the past, and 2020 will be the last Seder dinner alone apart from family for all across our nation and world.