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JFS Passover Traditions


By Morgan Goad, Associate Director of Development, Jewish Family Services

Many things changed with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic: our work, our social lives, our schools. For two years, many of our Passover Seders were also different. Some were quiet, with two guests instead of 20. Some were on Zoom. Some became a time to remember family and friends missing from the table.

But traditions always evolve over time as families grow and change. The Four Questions get recited by 23-year-olds. Teenagers ransom the afikomen for cash. Zoom Seders are masterfully orchestrated so every family member has their moment to shine.

JFS’ Sydney Fleischer described her childhood Passovers as “a bit minimalist,” and remembers well when her own Seders became crowded, maximalist affairs.

“Coming to JFS, things changed. I started preparing a Passover Seder for my family, with many new Americans from the former Soviet Union included. One time we had 26 people! I remember the first time I learned gefilte fish didn’t just come in a jar. One of the new Americans made it from scratch and brought it to the Seder,” Sydney shared.

“Everyone at JFS is involved with Passover somehow,” CEO Wendy Kreuter explained. JFS staff and volunteers assist with the annual EnRich Seder. In-home care aides help their clients clean out the chametz and stock up on matzah.

JFS also hosts a “mock Seder” for staff every year. We carried on with our potluck Seder in 2021, despite celebrating in individual offices rather than packing the board room. Singing in a group over Zoom is a real challenge, but everyone enjoyed the taste test of different haroset recipes in tiny plastic cups.

“We’ve really missed that time together,” Wendy continued. “So many people have led our mock Seders over the years, welcoming new staff members and sharing their families’ traditions. It’s one of my favorite things that we do together at JFS.”

“Passover is a special time of renewal and rebirth,” Sydney added. “It’s especially meaningful this year.” It’s a time when we all belong: together, around the table. Its themes of redemption and hope resonate everywhere this time of year. We are reminded of what it means to Transform Lives and Strengthen our Community – to welcome and serve our neighbors.

Jewish Family Services is supported, in part, by a generous annual contribution and programming grants from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.

(Top of article photo) The EnRich Intergenerational Seder in 2018 with Rudlin Torah Academy students. (Middle) Sydney Fleischer teaching Passover at Bickford Assisted Living in 2019. (Bottom) A JFS “mock Seder” way back in 2005.


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