In time of coronavirus, a call to make Seder communally on balconies

“One people one table” invites everyone to join so that anyone left alone in their home can celebrate the Passover Seder with their big family - the nation of Israel.

A seder plate (photo credit: JTA)
A seder plate
(photo credit: JTA)
A grassroots initiative on social media and organizations’ networks is calling on Israelis to conduct their Seders on balconies or near windows to create the biggest communal celebration of Passover ever.
“We cannot choose the situation we find ourselves in, but we can choose how to react to it,” Yaniv Mezuman, who initiated the project “One people, one table,” told The Jerusalem Post.
Passover begins next Wednesday, April 8, at sundown. But regulations to contain the coronavirus outbreak prevent people from visiting relatives and friends, and the authorities constantly highlight the importance of staying at home even if it means families are going to be apart.
As a result, most people are going to be forced to celebrate the Seder in much smaller settings than they are used to, if not by themselves.
In the light of this situation, “One people, one table” invites everyone to join “so that the elderly, lone soldiers, doctors and nurses on duty, security forces on guard, and anyone left alone in their home can celebrate the Passover Seder with their big family – the nation of Israel,” the description of the event on Facebook reads. Balconies have become a way for people to come together throughout the world. 
Mezuman, a father of five, is the chairman of the pre-army program Mechinat Meitarim Lachish at Kibbutz Beit Guvrin and heads the organization that represents most of the pre-army programs in Israel.
“Young people enrolled in our programs are volunteering all over the country with the permission of the Health Ministry and following its directives,” he said. “We see that many families are worried about the issue of Seder night and the isolation in general, with elderly people saying that if they are not going to die from the coronavirus, they will die from isolation.”
Since Passover is one of the most family-orientated holidays, if people were to go out to their balconies and yards and sing together during the Seder, it would uplift spirits or at least reduce the sense of loneliness, Mezuman said.
“This way, we will be separated but still do something together and feel that our hearts are together in the moment,” he said.
A central part of the celebration will be for everyone to coordinate so that at 8:30 p.m. children will sing “Manishtana,” one of the central and most beloved moments of the Seder, with the youngest asking their parents to explain why this night is different from any other.
The Seder is very different from all the other nights of the year, with matzah instead of bread and bitter herbs instead of other forms of vegetables. That will be the case this year all the more so, with no extended family, synagogues closed and no possibility to travel.
The organizers hope the collective Seder and singing will spread from home to home, from neighborhood to neighborhood and from city to city, creating a human chain like a sequence of signal fires.
For this purpose, they are promoting the initiative via social media, organizations and local authorities.
Mezuman said people are reacting very warmly.
“My children also really liked the idea,” he told the Post. “They know that this year we are not going to be with their grandfather, so I told them that we will go out, see the neighbors, and like a chain this hopefully will reach him too.”
“It is important for me to emphasize this is an initiative for everyone regardless of their backgrounds: secular, religious, haredim, new immigrants and so on,” Mezuman said. “We were all united in the exodus from Egypt; we are all together in this situation.”
View project on Facebook.