Jewish matriarch Masha Fisher spent last year’s Passover almost entirely alone for the first time in her 85 years. Mrs Fisher, a widow who lives by herself, avoided using technology to celebrate because religious principles forbid it but she joined in a brief ritual at a neighbour’s front fence. “I fulfilled the blessing of Passover without having a Passover,” she said, admitting without her neighbour’s kindness the occasion “didn’t seem like anything”.
Masha Fisher surrounded by family at the table for Passover as easing health restrictions allow the Jewish gathering to occur in homes.
More than 30 of her family members, including 10 great-grandchildren, relatives from interstate, and everyone in between, attended a traditional Seder dinner in North Caulfield on Saturday night — 100 visitors are now allowed in homes. “I am very thankful,” Mrs Fisher said.
Pesach – Passover
The event recounts the story of the 10 plagues that finally forced the Pharaoh of Egypt to free the Jewish people. During the celebrations, younger family members traditionally ask their older relatives questions about the meaning of the eight-day festival, which began last Saturday night.
A thin, flat bread called matzah is served while leavened food products are forbidden, a nod to the story that Jewish people fled Egypt so quickly their bread had no time to rise.
Mrs Fisher’s grandson, Yoni Fisher, a rabbi in the Kollel Beth HaTalmud community, said his family followed Kosher rules year-round that became “doubly strict” during Passover. “Food like potato chips have to be imported from specialist facilities overseas,” he said.
Mr Fisher said the produce often came at a high price and he and others raised money to help families afford the celebration. He enjoyed the intimacy of a smaller Passover last year but missed his grandmother, who fled Poland for Australia as a child in 1939 and plays an important role at the traditional dinner.
“There are a lot of discussions, particularly from the head of the household … as they tell younger generations the tradition and the Jewish history,” he said.
“It’s a dialogue. Everybody is invited, and should speak up.”
Judy Fetter, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, said many in Melbourne’s 50,000-strong Jewish population celebrated with their direct family, not in excessive numbers. Ms Fetter said the opportunity to gather in homes was particularly important for the elderly and those living alone.
“We are mindful, however, that fellow Jews across the world remain impacted by the pandemic with lockdowns,” she said. “The Jewish community appreciates the challenges faced over the past year in Victoria and truly values the opportunity to once again celebrate.”