Denver rabbis move to virtual Seders to usher in Passover

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DENVER — Chag Sameach! On Wednesday evening — to mark the start of Passover — Jewish people across Colorado and around the world gathered for virtual Seders. Families and friends come together every year for Seder meals and prayer.

This year’s circumstances are reminding the faithful of the first Passover. Just before the Israelites escaped from Egyptian slavery, a plague kept people home and isolated during the first Passover. The COVID-19 pandemic is drawing striking similarities to that time with an ancient warning in the Torah.

“The warning is, don’t go out of your homes tonight … stay put,” said Rabbi Rick Rheins of Denver’s Temple Sinai. “I’m sure Gov. Polis will be able to quote that tonight.”

Colorado’s first Jewish governor spoke Wednesday about the challenges people of all faiths will endure during the holy days.

“My parents, ‘Grandma and Papa,’ are going to be safely in their home,” the governor said. “We’ll have an iPad up showing them [during our Seder].”

The Seders streamed online Wednesday evening. Rick and his wife, Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins, co-led the rituals from their home with hundreds watching on screens around the world.

“We go through a specific ritual to re-tell the story,” said Susan. “A time of redemption. A time of healing for the whole world.”

Rabbi Joseph Black leads Denver’s Temple Emanuel. He is also bringing people together virtually.

“We are able to reach many, many, many more people than we normally could,” Black said. “So that’s a positive. The negative, of course, is that we can’t be [physically] together.”

Synagogues have been working to make sure meals are provided to those who cannot leave their homes.

“We did provide meals for about 180 members of our community,” Black said.

The celebration is a time for storytelling, praying, singing, eating and drinking. It’s also an opportunity to focus on the blessings in life even when that might seem challenging to do.

“If we stick together, and we have love and we have faith, we can get through even the most difficult of times,” Rick Rheins said.

Passover will continue through the evening of April 16.

For Christians, online Easter services will be streaming this Sunday.

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