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Struggling Families Get Seder Help For Passover During The Coronavirus Outbreak

seder meal
Courtesy of the Dorit and Ben J. Genet Cupboard, in Davie
Seder meal baskets for families struggling to afford food during Passover this week.

The holiday of Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday. It is a time to be with family and friends, and to tell the Biblical story of the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt, and from slavery to freedom.


Seders – the ritual meals – are key to the celebration. 


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This year, a local nonprofit is pitching in to get some families the seder ingredients they need during the coronavirus pandemic.


The Dorit and Ben J. Genet Cupboard has been around for almost three years. It's a kosher food pantry in Davie, run by Goodman Jewish Family Services. 


The cupboard distributes meals to support more than 530 households every month. But it also helps with special meals for holidays.


"In that bag of groceries they're going to have matzah, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup mix, tuna fish that's kosher for the holiday … grape juice," said Lourdes "Lu" Fiegler, the cupboard's director. "They're also going to have fresh produce, kosher chicken, and two dozen eggs because this is a holiday where we do a lot of cooking and baking with eggs." 


Fiegler estimates the Cupboard has received about 50 calls in less than three days from new people needing help to feed their families.  


"Now, since COVID-19 came along, some of our families have seen loss of income, and other families that weren't in this position are reaching out to us," Fiegler said. 


Vicky Fried is the administrative assistant at the Cupboard who keeps in touch with the families. This year is different, she said. Many people are more isolated. 


"Our typical clients who do have families, they're like 'What are we gonna do for Passover? You know, we can't go share it with our extended family,'" Fried said. "And I just tell them, just try to enjoy the moment and be safe."


Read More: Food Banks Are Feeling The Pressure Amid The Coronavirus Crisis


Tracey Bitton is leaning on the kosher groceries she gets from the Cupboard even more now that COVID-19 has disrupted her life. She picked up her ingredients to help her celebrate Passover at her home in Hollywood this year. She said she works as a home health aid, and at various synagogues. But they're closed right now because of the coronavirus outbreak. 


"I've been out of work for two weeks," Bitton said.


Many families and groups of friends are doing virtual seders this year. The Anti-Defamation League even released a guide on how to host, and make the most, of a virtual seder.


Bitton, however, is Orthodox, so something like a Zoom seder is out of the question for her. 


"I can't be on the phone or TV, any electronics," Bitton said. "So that's why I'm very lucky to have my children and I'll be having the seder with them." 


A traditional part of the Passover seder is the phrase: Next year in Jerusalem. This year, some people plan to say: Next year in person.


WLRN wants to hear how you and your family are handling holidays during the COVID-19 crisis, whether it’s Passover or Easter, this coming Sunday. Let us know at talktous@wlrnnews.org.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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