The OJA’s COVID-19 Documentation Project


July 22, 2020

covid 19 documentation

We are living through a formative period in our community’s history. The global outbreak of COVID-19 and the response of countries and communities around the world will be the study of researchers for years to come. With restrictions on gatherings, Jewish traditions are being transformed. There have been Zoom bar mitzvahs, brit milot, baby namings and even funerals. On April 8, 2020, thousands of Jews across the province celebrated Passover in a completely different way than before. What will future generations know about how the COVID-19 pandemic uniquely affected the Jewish community?

The Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) is looking for photos, films, audio and video recordings, journals and reflections, email correspondence, recipes, and artwork (digital captures of music, drawing, poetry, and painting) documenting your experiences during this unprecedented period. The records will become part of the COVID-19 Documentation Project collection at the OJA. Click here to learn how to submit.

COVID-19 Collection

Below are four user-submitted records documenting the Jewish community’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to view the full collection (updated as new materials come in)!

Eliyahu Hanavi horns, Pesach 2020!

The Annex, Toronto, Ontario

During the pandemic, two days after my son Arlo’s barmitzvah (via Zoom/screen), I started a band with my two kids (Shai 17 on Tuba, Arlo 13 on trumpet, I’m 44 on trombone) to cheer on frontliners and to cheer up the neighbourhood (plus ourselves). We were soon joined by two more horn players at a distance. Their other band? The Toronto Symphony Orchestra! And then another two. We call ourselves Horn on the Cob and the Social Distance and have played a newly arranged song from our front porch and yard every night at 7:30pm for 50 nights in a row (as of May 9, 2020). Nomi Rotbard, my spouse, introduces and videos each night’s song. This one was special: I arranged “Eliyahu Hanavi” for erev Pesach, April 8, 2020 – it was such a pleasure to share a Passover moment with our neighbourhood!

— Adam Seelig

Porch: Adam Seelig (trombone), Shai Rotbard-Seelig (tuba), Arlo Rotbard-Seelig (trumpet)
Driveway: Neil Deland (horn), Vanessa Fralick (trombone)
Sidewalk: Marcus Thompson (cornet), Jack Vandermeer (trumpet)

Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2020-4-16.

Zoom Seder, 9 April 2020., Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2020-4-13.

Zoom Seder 2020: Reitman Family

Toronto, Ontario

On the day of the first night of Passover 2020, we attended our Uncle Allan’s Montreal funeral by Zoom. He had died of Covid19 alone in hospital. His wife, Auntie Dorothy, was home, suffering from the virus.

His three adult children and five grandchildren were unsure if they would attend our Zoom Seder that evening. We told them about the Jewish law about not mourning on holidays. They all attended.

We dedicated the Seders to the memory of Uncle Allan, placing his memorial candle on the table so that his soul, his presence, could be seen and felt among us all, and we read Rabbi Jarrod Grover’s (Beth Tikvah) Passover message: “In one sense, it’s quite odd to take a candle which represents the soul of a loved one, and place it on a dining table. In another sense, however, Rabbi Sofer’s compromise enhances and elevates the ritual. As our tables are illuminated with the brightness of missing souls, we remember that presence can be more than physical nearness.”

And in the spirit of Passover, which is so much a holiday of story telling, we invited everyone who wanted to, to tell a story about Uncle Allan. And because this was a Zoom Seder, friends and family
from Montreal,Toronto, New York, Singapore, Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, and Los Angeles could and did contribute and appreciate vivid stories about our colorful uncle.

I believe this opportunity, and the Jewish law to observe the holidays, were liberating elements, setting the stage for reliving the Passover exodus, the journey toward freedom. And despite distancing and social isolation, no one had to make this journey alone.

Outside of Beth Emeth from the parking lot on March 22, 2020. Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2020-4-7.

Dina Solsberg

Toronto, Ontario

The first 2 photos were taken outside of Beth Emeth from the parking lot on March 22, 2020. The third was taken at Irv Chapley Park (before the city-wide closure of public parks) on March 24, 2020. The fourth image was shot from the door of Beth Emeth on April 20, 2020. The last photo was taken at our family seder on April 9, 2020.

Eliot Bucholz makes homemade matzah, 10 April 2020. Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2020-4-12.

Homemade Matzah at Passover

Collingwood, Ontario

In an effort to limit visits to the grocery store this year, Ren Bucholz makes homemade Matzoh (for the first time) with his son Eliot.

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