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For Australian Jews, Passover forges on – matzah balls and all

The 25-year-old joined a 30-strong family Zoom on Wednesday night, despite usually following tradition and shunning technology over the holiday period.


“I opted for being connected with family. It was pretty amazing to see all of us get Zoom up and running, even my grandparents who are well over 80,” she said.

For Noah Abulafia, who this week had two relatives in the United Kingdom hospitalised with coronavirus – one sadly dying on Thursday – connecting online brought his family closer than usual.

“Mum and dad were super happy we actually did the seder this year,” the 21-year-old law student says. “Other years we would just say ‘sorry, we’re in a different city'”.

Social isolation has not just helped bring Jews together across cities, but across countries, too.

Australia’s 150,000 Jews, many of whom migrated from Europe amid World War II or arrived later via South Africa, have been able to connect with overseas relatives they rarely see.

Entertainer Hylton Chilchik found new work recording and presenting the several Passover songs that mark the celebration, and demand for his homemade guide quickly went global.

Hylton Chilchik provided a seder service for thousands.

Hylton Chilchik provided a seder service for thousands.Credit:Brett Yudelman

He estimates as many as 500 families – most in Australia but some joining in from the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Zimbabwe, France, New Zealand and Mauritius – used his songs to connect online.

“Passover is really about connection. You do get together with your closest loved ones,” Chilchik says. “I had one elderly couple message me saying they were feeling depressed, and this lifted their spirits so much and made such a difference to their lives.”

In a uniquely Australian twist to the religious holiday, Lorge’s family also had their spirits lifted during their Passover Zoom.

Comedian Hamish Blake joined the seder.

Comedian Hamish Blake joined the seder.

Halfway through the pre-dinner prayers, comedian Hamish Blake – one half of Hamish & Andy – joined the video chat. This past week, Blake has been making Instagram gold by filming himself entering Zooms (anything from after work drinks to book clubs) and compiling the reactions.

“He of course brought a bottle of wine because he said he didn’t want to look like a schmuck,” Lorge says.

“It was hilarious… but I think my grandparents were a bit confused.”

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