Millions of Jews around the world prepare for Passover

This year’s planned Seders vary from a Kosher Passover meal for prisoners in Ukraine, a Shrek-themed Seder in New Zealand, escape rooms that will make Jews feel as if they exited Egypt themselves.

 The Jewish community in Bucharest, Romania. (photo credit: CER)
The Jewish community in Bucharest, Romania.
(photo credit: CER)

On Wednesday evening, millions of Jews around the world are expected to sit around festive tables, filled with traditional foods, symbols and, of course, matzot in honor of the Passover Seder.

This year’s planned Seders vary from a kosher for Passover meal for prisoners in Ukraine, a Shrek-themed Seder in New Zealand, escape rooms that will make young Jews feel as if they exited Egypt themselves and Seders for Jewish refugees across Europe.

Dozens of Jewish prisoners will celebrate the Seder in Ukrainian jails. Religious services within prison grew with the recent appointment of Rabbi Yonatan Markovich, chief rabbi of Kyiv, as rabbi of Ukraine’s prisons.

Passover Seders in Ukraine's prisons

Seder kits were sent to dozens of prisons holding Jewish prisoners, who also received kosher for Passover food and other supplies.

Additionally, more than 100 soldiers and officers from Kyiv who have been fighting the Russian invasion also received boxed matzot and Seder kits.

 Jewish soldiers in Ukraine. (credit: JCC CHABAD COMMUNITY IN KYIV) Jewish soldiers in Ukraine. (credit: JCC CHABAD COMMUNITY IN KYIV)

In Kyiv, over 1,000 Seder kits, with food and holiday supplies, were sent to residents of the city forced to celebrate the Seder at home, instead of with the entire community, due to the daily evening curfew.

A multilingual children's Haggadah

The Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora has published a children’s Haggadah in 22 languages including Bulgarian, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Serbian, Turkish, English, Dutch, Danish, Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Portuguese, Polish and Russian. Roi Abecassis, the center’s director-general, said it is “attentive to the needs of the small Jewish communities around the world. These communities struggle to maintain the dwindling number of congregants.” The way to strengthen these communities, he added, “is by making the Seder night accessible to the next generation of children in their own language.”

The Haggadah, filled with illustrations and explanations, can be downloaded for free.

Passover Seders for Jewish refugees fleeing Ukraine

Jewish refugees from Ukraine have joined Jewish communities across Europe as the war drags on. Some 5,000 food baskets worth $150,000 will be delivered to thousands of Jewish refugees across Europe through the Relief Fund of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER).

The CER will be assisting Jewish refugees in Poland, Romania, Moldova and Hungary. The initial funding of $3 million was donated by Yuri and Julia Milner, who established a special fund for Ukrainian refugees to assist them in finding a home after being uprooted.

CER president Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said that “the war in Ukraine continues with its ensuing economic ramifications and the refugee crisis that Europe is grappling with. We will continue to work tirelessly around the clock to ensure that no Jew remains hungry on Passover.”

The children in Odesa’s orphanage will celebrate Passover in their new home in Bucharest, Romania. Rabbi Shlomo Bakst, chief rabbi of Odesa, said that “the Tikva community comprising over 1,200 people had fled Odesa into a temporary shelter in a hotel in the city of Neptune in southeastern Romania and was recently able to relocate to a permanent apartment complex in Bucharest.” He added that the community is now joyously preparing to celebrate the holiday, alongside Rabbi Rafael Kruskal, who is heading the project.

Dads & Lads Seder in Bulgaria

A special “Dads & Lads” Seder will take place in Bulgaria: According to the country’s Chief Rabbi Yoel Yifrah, “the community had difficulty finding local solutions for shechita [kosher slaughter] arrangements due to a meat shortage in Europe.” The theme of the Seder night this year will be Avot U’Banim [Dads & Lads]. In addition, a special Seder is planned for lonely and elderly community members. According to Yifrah, matzot have been distributed to over a dozen communities in Bulgaria, including Burgas, Salisstra and Varna.

Passover Seder in Argentina

The Jewish community of Argentina has been working around the clock to assist community members who cannot afford to host a Seder. Rabbi Eliahu Hamra, president of Va’ad Hakehilot of Argentina and member of the Assembly of International Associated Members (AIAM) of the CER, said that “additional economic aid for the upcoming holiday is now being provided in the aftermath of Argentina’s major financial crisis.”

According to Hamra, some 400 food baskets were distributed to 50 communities across the country. Community members have also been sent to remote regions of the country to conduct Seders for Jewish communities and Israelis who are visiting.

An escape room Seder in Barcelona

Rabbi Daniel Ashkenazi of Barcelona said that this year the Jewish community in Barcelona prepared a special “escape room” for the students of the local Jewish school, so they can experience the story of the exodus from Egypt “in a vivid and dynamic manner.” As well, Hebrew, Spanish and phonetic Haggadot will be distributed to the children. On Seder night, a series of exciting games are planned to encourage children to participate. “More than 200 people will be attending the Seder, seated around three festive tables, each decorated with different themes, such as Egypt and the plagues and the Red Sea splitting,” he added.

Shrek Seder in New Zealand

World Bnei Akiva emissaries in New Zealand have been working diligently together with members of the Jewish community to prepare for the first and second Seder night events. Elisheva and Noam Fogel together with the community heads are expected to host the first Seder, which will mainly consist of Jewish converts and singles from across the island.

The second Seder will be held with over a hundred participants, including Bnei Akiva counselors, participants and family members, in the format of a Broadway musical; this year’s theme will be Shrek.

Seder in Germany

Liora and Ariel Wilner, World Bnei Akiva emissaries in Dortmund, Germany, are expecting to run four Seders during the first two days of Passover. “We’ve lived in Dortmund for the past four years but we’ve never had so many Seders at once,” they told The Jerusalem Post.

On Wednesday evening, they will participate in a Seder led by the local rabbi in German with about 150 participants. At the same time, they will be leading the youth Seder for Bnei Akiva with 30 teenagers “who would not celebrate Seder in their homes since many community members are from the former Soviet Union and do not celebrate the Seder as a family.”

Some 50 college students are expected to participate in the second Seder on Thursday night as well as a community Seder that will be led in Russian. The Wilners said that celebrating the holiday of freedom in Germany is different and special.

“A generation of young people who are a combination of the survivors of Stalin’s Communism and Nazi Germany, sitting and celebrating the Seder together is the greatest proof of the victory of our people,” they said.

Another World Bnei Akiva emissary, Ahinoam Wider in Düsseldorf, shared with the Post that she is expecting 80 students to participate in the Seder she is organizing. “The organizers of the Seder are going to be the students themselves who are already preparing ideas of what to say about the Passover traditions and texts,” Wider said.