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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Before the End of Nisan

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

#passover #seder #passoverseder #covid19 #coronavirus #innovations #innovate #newmodels #crisisbreedscreativity #wordshavewings #mothersanddaughters #sayingkaddish #writinghistory #wherewereyouinApril2020 The month of Nisan comes to a conclusion in just a few days and before the month of freedom and spring ends I wanted to post about the seders of Nisan. I have heard many stories of people's seders recently. Faced with the prospect of doing the seder on their own this year, individuals, families, synagogues and community organizations rose valiantly and creatively to the occasion and created Zoom rooms large and small for families to mark the Festival of Freedom together. Extended families across countries and continents shared a virtual table together and many benefited from the experience. People who might have been alone now had ample opportunities to have a seat at the Seder table on both nights. Passover: A night of timeless stories in a period of time where our own stories are still being written about this modern time of plague, uncertainty and a new type of bondage. For our Seder this year each of our participants was asked to write their own narrative of what their lives were like before the pandemic and how their lives have subsequently changed. At our seder after each person participated in the dear and ancient customs, each of them read their own narrative, which will act as a record of this very moment. We have a blessing that marks our reaching a new and unique moment. Does the She'hecheyanu blessing apply to reaching this moment of pandemic? Here are some of the narratives of our Hagaddah supplement this year. Next year at this time, may we merit being here to read our accounts and learn from them.

Thank you to Michael Bogdanow for the use of this artwor.

KOBE , age 8

I am usually at school during the week. I take the bus there and back. There I learn Hebrew, English, Math, Art, Reading, Science and Judaic Studies. I take three days of afterschool where I usually do science, legos, art or put on puppet shows with my friend for younger students. My favorite thing to do is to play outside with the neighbors and ride my bike. 

Now that we are home, I am reading a lot. I just finished the sixth book of Harry Potter! I also do virtual school from 9am-3pm. They are also offering after school enrichment classes but I haven’t done that yet. I am playing a lot with my sisters, which is kind of annoying.


I am the COO of the household. We have a rigorous schedule each day and I can usually be found driving around town shuttling kids to and from school or activities. This year was the first time  (in 7 years!) that I had a few hours a day for myself and I used that precious time to exercise. Exercising is my most favorite thing to do. My other favorite thing to do is sit in front of the fireplace on a snowy day while eating cookies and watching Bravo. 

Much like before, I care for the kids all day (only now there is no break). My husband is working from home and is busy all day but he is the designated head chef and he takes the time to make us lunch and dinner, which is a great help since I am a terrible cook. When this all began, I was very overwhelmed by the prospect of homeschooling my kids and losing the time I had to exercise, which had given my life meaning outside of my role as a mom. After two weeks, we are settling into a different routine. Our new schedule is more flexible. I would like to say it is more meaningful, but I am not sure that it is. Mostly, we are trying to fill our days with activities that keep our brains working instead of just passively watching screens all day, though there is plenty of that, too. We get outdoors as much as we can, even when the weather isn’t great (which is definitely a change from before). Getting out into nature as a family for hikes or bike rides has been a welcomed benefit of isolation. Everyone’s mood improves when they are out in nature getting fresh air. I hope that this distance helps us all to step back, take a deep breath and reevaluate what is meaningful to us. I hope we hold on to those meaningful things when we eventually go back to our “normal” lives. 

Adaptation is a familiar concept for the Jewish people. This year we will need to adapt in order to participate in the togetherness, story telling, remembering and connectedness that are important family-oriented themes of Passover. We are in isolation WITH our immediate families, and at the same time, in isolation FROM our extended families. To bridge the physical gap between us,  we will have a virtual seder. While we are exploring this new medium of being together, we will be following traditions of generations past, telling stories, sharing memories and perhaps most importantly, building new unforgettable memories in this extraordinary time. 


In normal times, we are a very busy family. Aviv is a real estate attorney and works many hours a week, often from early in the morning until the evening. Megan is at home with Maya and Micah. Maya is in preschool three mornings a week at the Temple Beth Avodah Early Learning Center. Micah is five months old. We are lucky to be part of a wonderful, large extended family that really enjoys spending time together. We usually spend time with Aviv’s parents, siblings and their families every Shabbat. Maya really looks forward to playing with her cousins each week. We also love to visit the park, restaurants, and stores in our neighborhood.

Things have changed for our family due to the pandemic. Maya is home from school now. Aviv is working from home for part of the day, but still has to go out to meet with clients. We spend a lot more time together as an immediate family, which has been really nice. We have started to play a lot of board games and have been enjoying taking lots of walks around our neighborhood. Instead of visiting our favorite places, we wave to neighbors. It’s been fun to see people we typically don’t see out in our neighborhood. We have not seen any extended family or friends in-person in many weeks. We keep in touch with people via FaceTime and Zoom. 

Passover is a holiday that typically brings our big extended family together. Each year we really look forward to our huge Passover gathering of family and friends. Though we’ll miss being physically together with everyone, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to prepare our own little seder at home. 

From Maya: (age 4)

Before the virus it was fun. I went to xxxxxx more. My teachers are Amy and Stacey. I like to play inside at school. My favorite thing is circle. 

Now I do all sorts of stuff at home. I made a doll hospital. I play with a lot of stuff. 


Our life in normal times:

Greg and Meaghan have been living in Boston where Greg works in XXXX and Meaghan works in XXXX for an insurance brokerage firm. We typically stick to a set routine during the week where we each take an early morning exercise class before heading to our respective offices for the day. Once our workdays end, we usually meet up again at our apartment for dinner and evening spent together on the couch watching television. Whether it be a critically acclaimed documentary or a favorite trash reality show, we don’t discriminate. 

When we're not working, we enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling together to new places near and far, going for walks around Castle Island, and trying new restaurants that seem to always be opening around our neighborhood.

Recently, we found ourselves in the midst of wedding planning while also searching for our first home purchase together. Our once leisurely weekends had suddenly become consumed with appointments and attending open houses all over the suburbs of Boston.

What our life looks like now:

As a result of the pandemic, we are both now working remotely from our apartment. While it has been an enormous adjustment, we are finally easing into our new normal and could not be more grateful for the discovery of headphones.

With a sluggish spring housing market and our wedding plans at a standstill, we have found a bright light in rediscovering abandoned hobbies we had lost the time for until now. For Greg that is running outside along the waterfront, while Meaghan has been cooking old favorites and trying out new recipes each night.

Passover as a holiday that brings together family and how this year falls into that theme.

 Passover is always a wonderful time to get together and connect with family. The last few years have been very special as the next generation is participating more and more. In these uncertain times, we are thankful that the Passover holiday is still bringing us all together, though in a new forum.

Barry and Berta Gershkowitz

Now that Barry and I are starting the third week in isolation, I am thinking how we have changed since the beginning. The first two weeks were complete fear and panic attacks. We were stuck in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Miami. It seemed that we took turns to keep each other sane when it was necessary. Sometimes though, I thought to myself: “If the Covid19 doesn’t kills us, we will die at each other’s hands!”. We were sure that every cough, mucus, or hot flash we felt, were a sign of COVID19. We were glued to the TV and we could not believe our eyes. Life was never going to be the


We kept our routines as much as possible. We exercised outside for one hour, I did yoga and Barry davened in our living room, and we started meditating together for 20 min. I am cooking every day and Barry cleans the apartment. We both are used to working from home, so that has been a blessing. Come 6:30 pm, we have a happy hour with or without booze following Papa and Baubbie’s tradition. We have been watching historical movies and documentaries at night, trying to learn something new.

In the last few days though, I have felt a wave of optimism. I do believe life will never be the same. It will be better. With this pandemic, we will all realize that the nations must work together to solve the problems of the 21 st century. From what I have learned, a pandemic was expected at some point. A pandemic cannot be fought just by one county, state or nation alone. It must be a coordinated effort.

We also know that global warming will produce vast number of migrations from the coastal areas, if we don’t do something about it now. Again, one country cannot make a difference alone. We are all interconnected for the good and the bad. Maybe now we believe these things can really happen in our lifetime! We need to learn to work together and realize that what we do here has an impact somewhere else. To aim for stability in this world, we need to make sure we include everyone. Maybe we can learn to fear less and love more.

This situation has reminded me of another time in our lives that we were in lockdown. We were stuck in a hospital room for six weeks during Daniel’s transplant. We followed the same instructions as today; wash our hands while singing happy birthday twice, keep distance, stay inside. Daniel had only about a 20% chance of getting better when he went into that room. His happiest moments were seeing or hearing from all his family members, from Colombia to Miami to New York and more. He always joked with the doctors and nurses and kept his famous Shit List poster on his wall. He has inspired me to be strong, have disciplined, have a sense of humor and reach out to the people I love.

Thank you, Zohar, for your service.

Stay safe and let’s have an amazing Passover!

Berta and Barry

Noa: Age 10

My Life Before Covid-19

It was better than this.  I liked it because we could go to school and during gym we could actually play kickball. If we needed to work on something it would be easier. If we had to make a puppet theater out of a box, we could do it. You can't do that now.  You could go over to people's houses and social distancing wasn't a thing.  

Now during lunch we can't talk with our friends, so the only way to do it is by Zoom meeting.

A good thing is riding bikes during social distancing.

My friend Addie and I are making a book.  In the book there is a portal. There are three main characters. A boy gets trapped in a portal.  We started the story before school ended. I think about how people look and she writes it down.

What is life like now?  You can wake up late, which is good.  I get up at about 8:30. I can ride my bike.  I can go on bike rides when I am six feet away.  During breaks from school, if I want to organize my room I can do that! It's been fun for the past few week but it might get old soon. 

Me and my cousin Gabi are writing letters to each other.  The last time we wrote, I sent a letter to her and she sent a letter to me!

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Leann Shamash
Leann Shamash
Apr 22, 2020

Llayman, I felt that we were all building time capsules this year with our seders. Ours happened to be written, but all of us had that same experience of building something new. Thanks so much for making a comment.


Apr 21, 2020

I loved reading what everyone wrote to share at your seder - what a great idea and wonderful to share more widely on your blog!!

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