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Passover begins as COVID-19 concerns cast shadow over holy celebration

Changes for Passover celebrations due to COVID-19
Changes for Passover celebrations due to COVID-19

RICHMOND, Va. – Passover is a time of holy celebration for the Jewish faith, but it will certainly look different this year.

As Passover began at sunset on Thursday, social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19 outbreak remained in effect.

Gatherings of more than ten people are banned in the state of Virginia, and Gov. Ralph Northam encouraged observers to hold Seder -- at-home gatherings that happen during Passover week -- through teleconferencing.

“This is normally a time for those of the Jewish faith to come together, but please celebrate the Seder only with those you live or in a virtual Seder, not in a large group," Northam said before Passover started.

Sen. Tim Kaine heeded Northam’s advice. Kaine posted on Twitter that he would organize a digital Seder through Zoom instead of meeting in person.

Rabbi Noam Marans of the American Jewish Committee said the celebration may be different this year, but the crisis provides a modern context to the season.

“Passover tells the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery and oppression onto freedom,” Marans said. “This year, we are enslaved to a pandemic, and if we do what the authorities are asking of us and be safe, next year we will be free.”

Passover lasts until April 16.