Under quarantine, West Orange families have found new ways to celebrate Easter and Passover this year.
West Orange families may be stuck inside their homes during a pandemic, but that isn’t stopping them from celebrating their faith.
Horizon West resident Laura Cobb and her daughter, Harper, are excited for their Easter festivities. Despite only celebrating at home, the two have some special plans, including watching an online church service at home by Family Church in Windermere, an egg hunt in the front yard, a traditional meal at home and a special Easter basket for Harper — all while sporting their Easter dresses.
The mother and daughter recently made Easter eggs from colorful construction paper. Their creations will be put on display in their front windows as part of a community-wide Easter egg hunt in Independence.
They also plan to say “hello” and “Happy Easter” to family members on the big day through Zoom.
Laura Cobb said its important to continuing celebrating Easter regardless of the circumstance and create special memories for her 5-year-old daughter.
“I’m treasuring the time,” Laura Cobb said. “Especially for a holiday — we want to make it special. She’s too young to know that she’s living in history right now. She’s going to be looking back on this in 20 or 25 years. … I hope she’ll remember a little bit of it, being so young — knowing that it was a stressful time, but it was also a special time.”
Just a stone’s throw away in the Summerport community, Jennie Clarke and her family also are preparing to celebrate Easter.
The Clarkes decorated their front door with palm fronds for Palm Sunday and are participating in another window Easter egg hunt put on by Orlando Mom Collective.
An Easter meal with relatives through video conference is also in the plans after watching a Citrus Church service through Facebook Live, Jennie Clarke said.
The message behind Easter is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“Easter, to me, means hope,” Jennie Clarke said. “The idea that hope exists — we need that right now, we do,” she said.
Although it’s been a difficult three weeks inside the house, Jennie Clarke said there has been a silver lining.
“We’re able to slow our lives down and focus on things that really matter most: our family and our kids and being with one another without the busyness of life,” she said. “In some way there is a potential blessing around this.”
Yosef Konikov, the senior rabbi at Chabad of South Orlando in Dr. Phillips, is celebrating Passover with his family through April 16.
Celebrations often include community Seders for which hundreds of people gather during Passover, but the real Passover celebration is much something done from home, Konikov said.
The pandemic has prevented the Konikov family from inviting extended relatives, friends and strangers to their house, but Konikov said the circumstances have provided a unique opportunity for immediate family members to celebrate together without distractions.
“Sometimes, we often get caught up doing a lot of things,” Konikov said. “Not just myself, but so many people in the community. … They always have guests over and people get very busy with entertaining their guests and impressing their guests. This year, for the first time, people really have to get real and really be themselves.”
Realizing many families would be celebrating Passover isolated at home, Chabad of South Orlando sold Seder plate kits leading up to the holiday for residents to take home. The packages included all the symbolic items — matzah, the Haggadah, a Kiddush cup and a 15-step guide to the Passover feast.
Konikov said he looks forward to celebrating with his wife, Chani, and their seven children. In many ways, the pandemic has served as a wake-up call to what’s truly important in the midst of everyone’s busy, daily lives, he said.
“The whole message of Passover is to be free, in other words, we celebrate freedom, which means sometimes people get caught up in different lifestyle habits and get caught up in different things,” Yosef Konikov said. “Passover tells us to free ourselves of a lot of these habits and find our real identity. To me, we’re not celebrating Passover despite the pandemic. We are celebrating Passover, in a way, because of the pandemic. The pandemic perhaps is a reminder to the values of Passover.”
Reuben Romirowsky, CEO of the Rosen JCC, said some members of the Jewish community are celebrating Passover using digital platforms — even hosting “Zoom Seders.”
It’s important that everyone holds on to a spirit of compassion during this time, Romirowsky said.
“We have to put ourselves in the position of empathy of people who live in great difficulty — (such as) the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt,” he said. “So, this year, our hearts go out to all of those affected by the pandemic — those (who) have died and the families who have suffered losing a loved one.”