With Passover right around the corner, we would normally be planning on gathering around the table for a Seder with our loved ones. We read from our Haggadah, celebrate, and give thanks for the liberation of our people from oppression. This gratitude might feel difficult, however, with the current COVID-19 plague looming overhead. Instead of being brought together, we are embracing “social distancing.” The isolation becomes its own oppression, making many search for the freedom of celebrating the holiday with the community.
To make Passover accessible to people with disabilities, RespectAbility along with partner organizations is creating a virtual Kehila (Community) specifically geared toward people with intellectual disabilities. This will kick-off with a tailored Passover Seder which will be a fun, engaging, and informative time for all involved. The Seder will take place on Monday, April 13, 2020, at 7:00pm Eastern time, or 4:00pm Pacific time. All are welcome and you can join this Seder by clicking here to register. We at RespectAbility want to wish you all a wonderful Pesach and look forward to seeing you all on Monday the 13th.
If you want to do a seder on your own, we are here to help. Many are using new and creative ideas to hold Seders virtually; yet this “redemption” may inadvertently be unavailable to Jews with disabilities, who are most isolated and needing liberation. Hence, here are ways to help include your loved ones who have intellectual disabilities. We created this resource guide to help tailor your Seder to them. For more resources, you can also click here.
Many people who have intellectual disabilities use the services of home aides to help with their day-to-day lives. Since these aids may not be Jewish, we will start this article off with some simple guides on how to prepare a Passover Seder. We understand that elements may need to be modified based on availability of supplies. (Remember, Judaism values human life above all else; ie, we should never place ourselves at risk to obtain a ritual object.) Passover is about celebrating our freedom, our shared history, and identifying with all those who are oppressed, not about what food is on our plate. We have compiled a few short videos on how to prepare your Seder.
- Let’s start with a quick instructional video about what goes on a Seder plate: Click here to view it.
- Next, is the Charoset, which can be made with just a few simple ingredients: Click here to view the video.
- Another popular dish for your Seder is potato Kugel. Recipe is found by clicking here.
- For some further ideas and tips for putting together a Seder, click here.
When hosting a Seder, it is always important to engage our participants, and this is especially true for those of us whose disabilities might make it more difficult to focus for a long period of time. Making our Seders a fun time for all is a good way to keep our participants engaged. Gateways: Access to Jewish Education has put together a wonderful article about making Seders more engaging. Gateways has also published its own Haggadah, specifically designed to be engaging and fun for children with special needs. Please find it here. Ideas such as using visual stimuli, encouraging our participants to ask questions, and incorporating fun games and activities into our seders are all great ways to keep people engaged and interested.
Another important factor is making sure our participants understand the story and why we do what we do to celebrate. Remember that the very purpose of the Seder is not the ritual, but rather an exercise in communal education, where we teach each other how and why we celebrate Passover. With frequent introduction and ongoing explanation, our Seders can exemplify this. Want to start with a quick story? Find one by clicking here.
If you are hosting a Seder virtually, please take the time to ask yourself, “am I being inclusive of the people who have disabilities, and have I made my Seder accessible to them?” We want to say thank you to Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters for providing us with a wonderful Haggadah specifically catered to people who have intellectual disabilities that it used to conduct its own virtual Seder, which can be found by clicking here.
We hope that you will join us on Monday, April 13th! Details for this Seder will be provided shortly.
Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
In our weekly Shabbat Smiles, RespectAbility welcomes a wide spectrum of voices. The views expressed in each Shabbat Smile are those of the guest contributor.