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The Portland-area Jewish community adjusts the Seder celebrations during the pandemic; Passover begins on the evening of Wednesday, April 8.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Seder plate can be fancy or ordinary, as long as it has the main symbols of passover: the roasted bone, the hardboiled egg, the bitter herbs and more. What Seders can't have this year are large gatherings, thanks to the quarantine. Passover normally is a time when members of the Jewish faith gather to celebrate the emancipation and exodus from Egypt of their ancestors. But Passover in 2020 will be a much different experience.

Passover begins at sundown Wednesday, April 8, and continues through April 16. The main ritual of Passover is the Seder, a festive, hours-long feast during which the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt is told.

The High Holy Days in the fall are considered the most sacred on the Jewish calendar, but Passover might be the holiday most celebrated by American Jews, according to Bob Horenstein, director of community relations and public affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.COURTESY PHOTO: BOB HORENSTEIN - Bob Horenstein, director of community relations and Public Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.

The first Seder occurs Wednesday and the second Seder on Thursday.

For Portland-area Jews, the stay-at-home orders mean these often large gatherings will be limited. The Oregon Board of Rabbis recently issued a statement directing that each household should have their own Seder attended only by those who live in the home.

Horenstein noted that he was supposed to have 20 people attend his family's Seder on Wednesday.

"We've gone from 20 down to four," he said.

Instead, his family will connect online. The Horensteins planned to gather at 4 p.m., earlier than normal, so that their children on the East Coast can participate via the internet.

Early Wednesday in Portland, Horenstein's wife, Dorice, joined her extended family living in Israel to share the Seder via Zoom.

"That's what everyone is doing," Bob Horenstein said.

He noted that Israel is under a complete lockdown order.

One challenge is finding kosher food needed for the Seder meal. The Oregon Board of Rabbis has emphasized that following social distancing guidelines is more important than risking safety to fulfill rituals, Horenstein noted.

In its statement about social distancing, the Oregon Board of Rabbis said:

"In this painful time, we are allowed to place limitations on this year's Seder observance in order to save lives and ensure that we can celebrate Seders next year with the people that we love in health and joy."

To ease the sense of isolation, several area synagogues are hosting online Seders either Wednesday or Thursday. That information is available at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland's website.

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