Family: Back to the Basics

Family, after all is at the core of who we are and what we do. I’m speaking here about families, no matter how you define them – could be bio or adopted families, nuclear or extended, or community. Last night, I experienced something incredibly connecting during this period of social distancing.

Usually, our family has a couple of huge seders – 2 dozen generally forms the core and another dozen or so, rounds it off nicely. Obviously, this year there is going to be something different. It needs to be something very special though, to bring 4 generations of our extended family, scattered all over the U.S. together. We decided last night to do a trial run to make sure that our elders, my parents and my aunt, could all log into the platform we selected and that everyone had the equipment they would need so we could see and hear each other. Last year, to compensate for the absence due to illness, of my son and his family, we scanned our family haggadah and emailed it to him. That scan means that we can all be on the same page this year. Literally.

My sisters and I got on line and walked first my aunt and then my parents through setting up their connection. What we thought would be about half an hour took over 3 hours. Everyone connected, and while we were at it, chatted , laughed, and shared stories. It made each of us feel like we were, if not in the exact same place, then in different rooms in the same vicinity. It was extremely powerful. Tonight, we are going for take two of our set-up. My sisters and I connecting with our parents to make sure that the computer they are using, when set up in their dining room works as well as it did in my dad’s study. Their dining room, home to so many family gatherings for many years will be the perfect backdrop. Last night, we saw, behind my dad, the photos on the wall of many family celebrations, decades ago. We spoke of those and made comments about the wallpaper on my computer desktop – a 1924 family seder in Brooklyn. The photo appeared in the Daily Forward as a “typical American seder”. I gues after being in the U.S. since 1910, that family, my mom’s paternal family, was considered to be thoroughly integrated in American Jewish life!

The first arrival of my family from Eastern Europe was in the 1880s. They settled in New York, and as spread out as we are now, all over the U.S., I think New York is our base. The extended family has been gathering to celebrate Passover in the U.S. for over 130 years. This year will be no exception. Why is this year different?


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