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

Saanich police see spike in excessive speeding compared to previous years

Nearly 100 excessive speeders caught since January 2020

Colwood branch drop-off to continue throughout summer

COVID-19 safety measures remain in place

Welcome to grilling season: Saanich firefighter talks barbecue safety tips

Grills should be cleaned, serviced prior to use, firefighter says

Cycling scavenger hunt comes to Tweed City

Cyclists scour Oak Bay for clues in Bike to Work Week event

Colwood woman launches Adopt a Grad

Facebook page aims to support students during pandemic

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

Most Read