From Red to Orange to White and then back to Red, the coronavirus “zones” in Italy are constantly in flux, upending the lives of millions as they try to navigate an ever-changing set of rules, just as they did one year ago. As conditions change daily, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries across the country are again working the clock to find ways to ensure that everyone’s Passover needs are met.

Italy is not alone. With spiking numbers resulting from a combination of factors, including new virus variants, halting vaccination rollouts and premature reopenings, many European countries are reintroducing lockdowns and restrictions.

But come what may, the army of Chabad representatives across the continent are nimbly doing what they can to be the resource they always have been for their communities.

Half of Italy’s 20 regions, the cities of Rome, Milan and Venice, entered new coronavirus restrictions beginning on March 15. The measures will be effective through April 6, according to a decree issued by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet.

“These new lockdown measures run right into the first days of Passover,” Rabbi Menachem Lazar of Chabad Piazza Bologna, Rome, told “Initially, we were planning on hosting in-person Passover Sedersaround town, but with recent developments, we’re adapting and making ‘Seder-to-Go’ kits available for pick up or delivery if necessary.”

Lazar described the situation on the streets of the nation’s capital. With the resurgence of new variants, citizens are being discouraged from venturing outside, advised to go out only if absolutely necessary. “The local police are going around and stopping people at random. You must be able to declare where you’re coming from, where you’re going to and why you’re going there to proceed. In such an environment, we’re letting people know that since they will probably be doing the Seder at home alone, we’ll make sure to bring the Seder to them.”

In Rome, packages with supplies for the Seder.
In Rome, packages with supplies for the Seder.

Authorities are mulling over the possibility of allowing limited parties of two to get together to celebrate the seasonal religious holidays. “If that goes through, we plan on encouraging people to get together with one other party and celebrate the Seder together. We will do whatever we can to put people together,” said Lazar.

As for vaccinations, Lazar is hopeful that news swirling around that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on its way for mid-April will help vastly improve the situation.


Further to the north, in Germany, Rabbi Yochanan Gordon of Chabad of Frankfurt is choosing from the available options. A country that initially handled the coronavirus quite well has been besieged by rising numbers once again, and as in the Bel Paese, the situation is very much in flux. “Vaccination efforts have been slow here, and much of the citizenry is still not yet inoculated,” reported Gordon. “So we’re figuring out how to best address the needs of our community, as it looks like we might be headed for another lockdown.”

Every state and city has different rules in Germany; as such, each individual rabbi must decide how to approach the Passover holiday in accordance with the local rules. “In some regions, a socially-distanced, outdoor Seder might be possible, while in other places, due to curfews past 8 p.m., one idea going around is perhaps to briefly do the ritual elements of the Seder—the matzah, maror and first two cups of wine—together, and then send people home with pre-packaged meals and instructions how to conclude the Sederat home. We’re really not sure yet, but whatever it is, we’ll make sure people have what they need to celebrate Passover in the best possible way. We’re certainly delivering ‘Seder-to-Go’ kits to people, as well as the usual shmurah matzah sales and distribution.”

Gordon speaks of a special “Gottesdienst” dispensation allowed by the German authorities for religious rituals. Whether or not that extends to a Passover Seder at home, or whether it is plausible to utilize such a device is part of the internal discussions being conducted between rabbis. Time will tell, but either way, Passover will be celebrated.

Rabbi Yochanan Gordon of Chabad of Frankfurt, Germany, recently hosted a matzah-baking workshop.
Rabbi Yochanan Gordon of Chabad of Frankfurt, Germany, recently hosted a matzah-baking workshop.


Across the channel, vaccination efforts are well underway in the United Kingdom, and Chabad representatives are holding out hope that some sort of in-person Seder will be possible for this Passover. Lockdowns are currently still in place, but there’s hope that reopening may just come in time for the holiday.

Rabbi Mendy Korer of Chabad of Islington, London, recently took part in an opening ceremony for a vaccination hub in the center of town and is strongly encouraging all to take part in the inoculation effort.

Lending his blessing to the new hub, Korer said that “we continue to see incredible unity across communities in supporting each other through the challenges of the pandemic. As we are opening this vaccination hub at a very auspicious time, just before the festival of Passover, may we all see the redemption from COVID-19.”


In La République, the vaccination story is much the same, limited as it is for the meantime to only the elderly and to those who can show significant ailments.

“There has been a lockdown in place for the past four months,” Rabbi Hershy Drookman of Chabad S. Maur, France, told “Just the other night, the local authorities introduced a more comprehensive lockdown, with a curfew at 6 p.m. So, we’re preparing Seder boxes to distribute to community members, and we really believe that come what may, Passover will be celebrated in true style.”

Drookman speaks of his efforts over the past few months to rally his community over Zoom, and how, in his words, “to bring the party to their home.” After distributing packages to everyone, Drookman coordinated a time for all to log online and celebrate holidays together. To date, they have jubilantly reveled together for Tu B’Shevat and Purim. While Zoom isn’t possible, of course, for Passover, the joyous spirit most definitely is.

To wit, Drookman has been distributing matzah around town already from the day after Purim.

He has also been involved in educating people about inoculation, as he described a situation in France of much misinformation. Having personally received his two doses already, Drookman is doing his best to help people learn about the vaccine and receive it as well.


Holland, too, has been slow to the vaccination effort, and is also staring down the barrel of new lockdowns. Rabbi Menachem Evers of Chabad of Amsterdam describes how Chabad representatives across the country are banding together to distribute more than 1,000 “Seder-to-Go” packages that include a full festive meal. To aid the distribution efforts, Evers is drafting young professionals from the community to hand the packages off to their circle of family and friends.

“Last year, we saw that people were in shock, and we really didn’t know what was going to be,” Evers told “Not very many people applied for the kits then. It’s been a rough year, and for Passover this year, especially the young single community, people are really yearning to celebrate together with others. It’s been surprising to see just how many more people than we imagined are applying for our Pesach Seder. They’re looking forward to feeling the freedom. Even as we pray for better days, we try to make these days better.”