The Passover holiday is right around the corner but the customary pre-holiday excitement is missing. For the vast majority of the Jewish communities around the world, this year’s Passover holiday will be virtual. As the global pandemic forces us to maintain social distance rules, we will not be able to celebrate the traditional Passover seder with our friends and families. To help Jewish families and organizations around the world, we created Yahad.net — the easiest, simplest and free way to host an unforgettable Passover seder.
Creating Yahad.net has been a labor of love. The Jewish Heritage Network (JHN) is a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam specialising in creating innovative experiences with Jewish heritage using modern technologies and tools. My colleagues and I — working in close partnership with our content-providing network of Jewish museums, libraries, and archives — have vast experience in collecting historic Jewish heritage materials from around the world. Our goal is to engage online audiences with the history and culture of the Jewish people.
Last year, shortly before Passover, we created Yahad.net. This platform offered access to our unique collection of historic Haggadot in combination with a video conferencing service. The idea was to go beyond the well-known video chat room by augmenting it with the shared experience of reading a Haggadah together. When one participant turns the page, it is automatically turned for all the others. All the Seder guests are virtually on the same page of the Haggadah. We combined this with masterfully digitized Haggadot from across the centuries. Thousands of Jewish families around the world utilized the Yahad.net platform last year for their Passover Seder.
This year as the pandemic continued to spread around the world, the JHN team decided that we must build out the Yahad.net platform so that every Jew around the world will have the option to celebrate a seder, even virtually. We improved on our technology capabilities and added the ability to seamlessly integrate with the Zoom conferencing service that has become such a common part of our day over the last year. Thanks to the tireless assistance of heritage professionals around the world, we have created an extremely large library of beautiful digital Haggadot available in ten different languages. Among the Haggadot included in the Yahad.net collection:
- The Prato Haggadah (1300s) — The earliest known illustrated Haggadah.
- The new Australian Haggadah (2016) — This Haggadah highlights fundamental social justice themes.
- The Tafialet Haggadah (1700s) — This illustrated manuscript was written by Yossef Ben Avraham Lezra in Morocco at the end of the 18th century
- The PJ Library Family Haggadah (2020) — This Haggadah is designed to help families with young children enjoy a Passover seder together.
In addition to the Haggadot, the platform also features a rich gallery of Passover-related materials: audio and video recordings of Passover liturgy by various Jewish communities, historical footage and photographs and rare texts. Our special Passover blog is a platform for guest contributors around the world to write about the history of the unique Haggadot, Passover foods and customs and much more.
The Yahad.net platform is available free to every Jewish family and organization around the world thanks to the generosity of the Fooksman Family Foundation. We are exceedingly fortunate to have their support and partnership.
On behalf of the JHN team and everyone at Yahad.net — we invite you to use the Yahad.net platform for your virtual Passover seder. Utilize our special suite of tools for Jewish organizations to host their virtual seder. Browse our Passover resources of blog posts and other holiday resources. Search through our collection of Haggadot to find the perfect one for you, and if you have a suggestion for another one email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish you, your family and your community a safe, enjoyable and unforgettable Passover holiday.
Pavel Kats is the Executive Director of the Jewish Heritage Network.