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Marking Passover during pandemic shows Jewish community’s resilience: Winnipeg rabbi

Rabbi Kilel Rose.
Rabbi Kilel Rose. Congregation Etz Chayim

With Passover, one of the most important holidays for members of the Jewish faith, beginning Wednesday night — smack-dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — a Winnipeg rabbi says he’s still taking an optimistic approach.

“In many ways, this is not the ideal situation to celebrate this kind of holiday,” Rabbi Kilel Rose said.

“For Jews everywhere around the world, Passover is really one of those central moments where families and friends gather together.

“As I keep saying to my congregation, the whole idea of not being physically together is so antithetical to Judaism… and any set of religious belief systems.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus crisis not shaking Winnipeg rabbi’s faith in people

Rose’s North End faith community, Congregation Etz Chayim, will be recognizing the holiday from home, and connecting online in lieu of traditional services and community events.

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“We’ll be doing all sorts of wonderful and interesting rituals together and people will be joining us on YouTube live and the telephone for people who are not as comfortable with the computer technology,” he said.

“It’s happening in every Jewish community all around the world,” he notes of the turn to alternative ways to worship during the pandemic.  “And of course, it’s happening in every religious faith tradition.”

Rose said one of the most important aspects of Passover — which recognizes the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt — is connecting with historical tradition and applying its lessons to present-day life.

“Historically, we recall when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and we see ourselves as re-enacting that moment of redemption… and it’s also incumbent to see ourselves in this very moment as being free from whatever (present) ‘Egypt’ — as a metaphor now, not the actual Egypt,” he said.

Getting through the pandemic, he said, although it’s ill-timed and unwanted, could be a good present-day metaphor for that historic goal of freedom.

“One of the things about Jews in general, is we are an unbelievably resilient people, and we have celebrated Passover and all of the other Jewish holidays under extreme duress before,” said Rose.

“This is not the first time… and this is certainly not the worst scenario we’ve ever lived through.

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“What we can do is remind ourselves that we are really fortunate. What a luxury it is to live in this country, especially at this time.”

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Multiple faiths change worship practices during COVID-19 pandemic