With Passover less than a week away, Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum was on the road Tuesday evening, delivering shmurah matzah to people in his community. Grossbaum, who with his wife, Goldie, co-directs the Chabad Jewish Community Center serving Folsom, El Dorado Hills and the surrounding region in California, will spend some 50 hours getting the round, handmade matzah to area residents before the holiday begins this Friday night, March 30.
The Chabad center’s preparation for the eight-day festival (seven days in Israel), which commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt, started even before Purim. They placed orders for shmurah matzah, which the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—had long encouraged. The round, handmade matzah, which was watched to make sure the flour used to make it did not come into any contact with water or moisture, also serves as a way to raise awareness about the upcoming holiday, says Grossbaum.
He and a group of volunteers will deliver some 100 to 150 boxes of the matzah for people to use at their Seders as they join Jews near and far in drinking four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus on Friday and Saturday nights (Friday night in Israel). The Grossbaums, like Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the globe, will be welcoming guests to community Seders, theirs in Folsom and also in Placerville, some 25 miles away.
Thousands of such Seders will be taking place in hundreds of cities around the globe. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, emissaries Rabbi Asher and Henya Federman of Chabad-Lubavitch of the U.S. Virgin Islands will host some 100 Jewish local residents, as well as private and government contractors, on the island for the relief and rebuilding effort following hurricanes that raged through the islands in September, for the first night’s Seder. Meanwhile, Rabbi Yosef and Chani Konikov of Chabad-Lubavitch of South Orlando are getting ready to run Seders simultaneously in Hebrew and English for hundreds of visitors who head to the central Florida city for its warm weather and theme parks over the Passover holiday.
In rural Australia, Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, will bring rabbinical couples and students to hold Seders in 11 locations, for nearly 1,000 Jews in remote cities. Chabad of Central Africa will be hosting seders in 20 locations from Zambia to Zanzibar. And in Russia, Chabad-Lubavitch will hold nearly 400 Seders in more than 200 communities. Meanwhile, some 4,500 attendees are expected to converge for Seders in Bangkok, Thailand, and another 2,000 in other locations around the country. Additionally, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Rabbi Chezki and Chani Lifshitz are preparing for what’s considered the largest Seder in the world, which draws close to 2,000 travelers, many Israeli backpackers, in Kathmandu each year.
Preparing for the Holiday
All over the world, Chabad emissaries will be helping people this holiday season with the many pre-Passover activities, including distributing millions of shmurah matzahs and holiday guides in 17 different languages, cleaning for Passover, selling and burning chametz and other preparations for the eight-day holiday. More than a million people around the world will sell their chametz via their local Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, either in person or via mail.
Online, Chabad.org offers a full range of inspiration, information and services leading up to the holiday on the Chabad.org Passover mini-site. More than 80,000 people sold their chametz through Chabad.org in 2017, and website administrators say they are expecting even more to use the service this year.
The holiday is a time for gathering together, says Mushky Glitsenstein, youth director of the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska in Anchorage. They’ll be hosting a model matzah bakery for elementary-school kids, parents and community members where participants will be able to make their own matzah, from grinding the wheat to making the dough and rolling it out. They’ll also have a live, mega-sized seder and interactive game show competition with 3-foot by 3-foot Haggadahs and matzahs 4-feet long by 4-feet wide ahead of the holiday. And they’re running a Passover experience program that lets kids bake their own matzah, shred their own maror (bitter herbs), and make their own charoset (paste of fruit and nuts). It’s a way to help engage kids and make Passover memories that will stick with them the rest of their lives, says Glitsenstein.
“The goal is really for people to connect to the holidays, to identify with the story of Passover to make it relevant, to make it interesting, fun and something they want to be a part of,” says Glitsenstein. “When people experience the joy of Judaism, that’s when they want to bring it into their lives and make it something that’s lasting.”
The Chabad center, which flies in all of its Passover food from Seattle, will host a community Seder on Friday, March 30, sharing the holiday many feel a deep connection with, explains Glitsenstein.
“There is something about Passover that wakes up a Jewish soul,” she says. “Jewish people, no matter who or where they are, want to be at a Passover Seder. They want to celebrate it.”