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Family holiday traditions go virtual during the pandemic

This Holy Week, celebrated by Christians worldwide, coincides with the Jewish holiday Passover, when people often join family for religious gatherings. But these aren’t normal times. NewsHour Weekend’s Melanie Saltzman recently met a neighbor who is finding ways to cope and observe the holidays while being away from her family.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This holy week, celebrated by christians worldwide, coincides with the jewish holiday passover, usually that means being with family for religious gatherings. But these are not normal times. NewsHour Weekend's Melanie Saltzman recently met a neighbor who is finding ways to cope and observe the holidays, while being away from her family.

  • Gloria Strong:

    Some parsley to dip in salt water.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    Gloria Strong is my neighbor in Brooklyn, New York. We met just a couple weeks ago when I saw her on the elevator.

    She lives alone. That means this year, because of social distancing, she'll be celebrating the Passover holiday alone, too.

  • Andrea Strong:

    I think Emily's teacher has it.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    Her daughter, Andrea Strong, lives nearby and visits when she can.

  • Andrea Strong:

    We're going to get through it. We will.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    Andrea stands outside of the apartment. Gloria uses a measuring tape to reassure her daughter that she's far enough away.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    What has this time been like for you with the social distancing and the isolation?

  • Gloria Strong:

    It's kind of lonely. I find myself crying at the silliest things. You know, I just start crying. And then I'll be okay. But I miss being able to touch, to hug my kids. That's the worst part. You know, with my daughter saying, "You're not to go down for the mail. I don't want you leaving your apartment." It's too much.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    That's how we met. I ended up seeing you going down and saying what are you doing, 'I'm going to go get the mail for you. Stay home.'

  • Gloria Strong:

    You know, going down at least I could see the doorman, talk to someone. I mean I feel like I'm losing my voice. I don't talk at all.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    Strong, who normally eats Kosher food, says it's been harder to find it these days.

  • Gloria Strong:

    All the supermarkets say they have no delivery. They're not taking orders online. There's a lot of work preparing for Passover usually but this year it's become very difficult because of being unable to get out to the stores and get what I need, so I'm just making do. You know when I was younger I don't think I appreciated family as much as I do now. I used to get annoyed with some of my cousins. Spoiled brats. But now it's different. I do miss seeing them all.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    Strong says she'll especially miss a Sephardic tradition that commemorates the Jewish captivity in Egypt.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    What do you normally do for Passover; how do you celebrate?

  • Gloria Strong:

    One of our customs which the kids love – we all love – is we take scallions and we whip each other to remember what used to happen to the Jews when they were in Egypt and they were slaves.

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    So are you going to be doing that virtually?

  • Gloria Strong:

    Oh, I bought scallions. I'll just beat myself (laughs).

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    On Wednesday, the first night of Passover, Strong's seder plate had the traditional symbolic items, including a boiled egg and lettuce. She used substitutes for the things she couldn't find, like a chicken bone instead of lamb shankbone.

  • Granddaughter:

    What will be different about this seder from all other seders?

  • Melanie Saltzman:

    And she's still managed to be with her family like so many people this holiday season: online.

  • Gloria:

    Why aren't you hitting each other?

  • Son-In-Law:

    We need to sing.

  • Gloria:

    Well, come on, start singing!

  • Andrea Strong:

    Love you, Mom.

  • Gloria Strong:

    I love you.

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