By Chani Goldberg
On Passover, families and friends across the world break matzah together, joining in a timeless celebration of Jewish freedom and nationhood. Yet each year, as we sit with our loved ones sharing good food and newfound inspiration, there are countless Jewish men and women who find themselves confined and alone as they spend the holiday in hospitals, medical rehabilitation facilities, or homebound – too ill to attend a private or communal seder.
But not this Passover.
This Passover, a new initiative spearheaded by Chabad on Call – a project of Merkos 302 that provides resources and training to chaplains and rabbis within the medical community – has developed an innovative product to bring the Passover seder to Jewish patients who may be left out from mainstream community programming.
The “Seder-to-Go” kit was designed to bring a complete seder to Jewish patients, including all necessary food and supplies, in an elegantly designed and easily distributed package. Each kit includes a seder guide, ke’arah placemat, labeled containers for the seder plate items, Hebrew/English Haggadah, matzah bag, and a cute plastic frog (because bringing a smile to a person’s face is itself a mitzvah; and at every age it’s still everybody’s favorite part of the story).
“Chabad on Call was born from the widespread need to provide spiritual and practical support to Jewish individuals receiving medical care, whether in the hospital or at home,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos Suite 302. “The Seder-to-Go kit is the latest of many meaningful resources which patients and their families can now receive from their local Chabad rabbi or chaplain.”
Since its launch in 2016, Chabad on Call has developed a network of over 385 Chabad rabbis and chaplains throughout North America. Through its chaplaincy training, patient resources and support network, Chabad on Call is the intersection of empathy and high-quality pastoral care, enabling rabbis and rebbetzins to bring Jewish comfort and connection to the medical community.
“Many patients and their families feel isolated and a profound disconnection from normal life while in a hospital. We have the power to give them hope and strength just by being there for them as another human being,” shared Rabbi Shalom Stiefel of Arcadia, CA. “The training I received from Chabad on Call has given me the tools to create a meaningful and long lasting impact with each visit.” Rabbi Stiefel plans to deliver 30 seder kits to patients at his local hospital.
More than 600 Jewish patients will celebrate Passover with “Seder to Go” kits this pilot year, with greater expansion planned in the year to come. Other projects in development by Chabad on Call include Jewish cultural awareness training course for hospital staff, hospitality suites for long-term outpatients and family members, community volunteer networks, and more.
Chani Goldberg is director of Chabad on Call medical support network.