A Seder plate holds symbolic foods in honour of Passover (File contributed/Wikimedia Commons)

Religious leaders look at options to comply with COVID-19 as holiday weeks begin

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are starting soon

Religious leaders are finding creative ways to stay connected with their communities during the holidays while respecting the restrictions brought forward by COVID-19.

The upcoming days and weeks are especially important for three large religious communities in Greater Victoria; Passover begins on Wednesday, April 8, Easter begins with Good Friday on April 10 and Ramadan begins on April 23.

For Rabbi Harry Brechner, who leads Victoria’s Congregation Emanu-El, Wednesday’s Seder dinner will be very different than usual.

“In my own family we usually have 25 people gathered for a Passover Seder,” he said. “We’re going to be maybe four people this year.”

On Tuesday, April 8, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry participated in a conference call with more than 130 religious leaders, and urged communities to partake in celebrations virtually.

“We can still celebrate and care for those around us in virtual ways,” she said. “I encourage people to continue to look for those connections online.

“To the followers and congregations around the province here in B.C., please, now is our time that we need to pay special attention to our elders and our seniors. Our elders hold our history, our language and our traditions and are a precious part of our communities around this province.”

READ MORE: B.C. faith leaders, Horgan discuss need for virtual religious ceremonies

The shift is significant to most celebrations, including Passover, which emphasizes togetherness in the celebration of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

Specific foods are usually required for the celebration, but so far the congregation has been good at ensuring everyone has access to the ingredients they need.

“My synagogue managed to ensure that everyone who didn’t have the wherewithal to go shopping for things like parsley, often used as a symbol of spring, have been able to put together the symbolic food for everyone in need,” Brechner said.

The congregation, which has more than 250 families has also been hosting regular gatherings online over Zoom.

“It’s so nice to go into the gallery and see all the peoples’ faces and see that we’re all doing the same thing at the same time,” Brechner said.

Greater Victoria’s Catholic community is also streaming masses online, with Greater Victoria Bishop Gary Gordon leading live-streamed masses during Holy Week and this weekend’s Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.

“Though we are unable to gather in our traditional ways during these holy days of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are together in Spirit and Truth (and remotely with live streaming),” Gordon said in an emailed statement.

“The sadness of our separation and the loss caused by the coronavirus is our collective global experience this Easter season. With perseverance, vigilance, and great charity to remain at home, we will truly experience the inner freedom and joy promised by the Risen Christ. We will be made stronger by this ordeal and we will emerge into new life and hope.”

ALSO READ: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

Victoria’s Masjid Al-Iman Mosque has restricted its services since March 13, asking the vulnerable to stay home for daily prayers and cancelling all congressional prayers until further notice.

In the meantime, Imam Ismail Nur has been hosting lectures online for the community to watch. Black Press Media reached out to the BC Muslim Association to learn about what alternative options will be available during Ramadan, but did not receive a reply.

In the meantime, however, Brechner reminded everyone that now is a time to be kind to yourself as well as others.

“Go easy, if you can’t get it exactly right that’s okay; we’re living in a difficult and different time,” he said. “The psychic and spiritual energy you need to keep the anxiety at bay and to maintain being positive … that takes energy, so you may have less energy than you usually have, so be okay with that.”

With files from the Canadian Press

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook, send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

CoronavirusHolidays

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Racism is here too, say Victoria’s black community leaders

White Victorians have role to play in combatting systems of oppression, prejudice

Shortage of foreign workers costs Saanich Peninsula berry farmer thousands

Gobind Farms says hiring local has been difficult during pandemic

Pedestrian, cycling overpass now open at McKenzie Interchange

Bridge connects Portage Road, Galloping Goose Regional Trail

Pandemic spurs egg-citement for backyard chickens in Greater Victoria

Fowl surge in popularity during COVID-19 pandemic

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Most Read