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American Jews And Muslims Offer Advice On How To Celebrate Holidays Safely

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We're told to avoid traveling this Thanksgiving. It's to protect family and friends and ourselves from people who don't know they have the coronavirus. That means a lot of virtual Thanksgivings, which is going to be a new experience for many people, but not everyone. You see, some American Jews and Muslims had to resort to remote gatherings for Passover and Eid this year. And they have some tips for the rest of the U.S.

IRENE KATZ CONNELLY: It really does, I think, improve the ambience if you just get dressed up.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Irene Katz Connelly is a reporter for the Jewish newspaper The Forward. She wrote a guide to virtual holidays because even now, not everyone uses online video every day.

KATZ CONNELLY: Organize a practice Zoom call before the real thing where you can teach everyone how to mute, how to use the chat, how to enter and leave breakout rooms if you want to use breakout rooms.

CHANG: Clea Stiebel of Denver found her virtual Passover Seder was not like those of the past. She thinks we should expect virtual Thanksgiving to be that way, too.

CLEA STIEBEL: It's not what it normally is and finding ways to enjoy the things that are different.

KELLY: After an Eid service on Facebook Live in the morning, Detroit-area doctor Iltefat Hamzavi and his family prepared for the traditional meal. He checked in with his distant relatives over the Internet.

ILTEFAT HAMZAVI: Everybody kind of shared recipes in the morning, and everybody decided, I'm going to make this one; I'm going to make this one. And then they would have a Zoom. And so the process of making the food became a communal event.

KELLY: Best tip - Dr. Hamzavi says they did not share the eating of the food on video. Some things aren't the best for Zoom.

CHANG: New Yorker Martha Ackelsberg says it might be smart to cut down on making all of your favorite desserts. At Passover, she made a big sacrifice.

MARTHA ACKELSBERG: The one thing that we did not do this year was make chocolate matzo seven-layer cake. There weren't going to be people to eat it.

KELLY: Rabbi Tom Gutherz of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, Va., noted the importance of decorating - you know, making your holiday space look special.

TOM GUTHERZ: Some people brought special tablecloths and set them up under their workspace. Other people brought family photos or candles or other things.

CHANG: Now, backgrounds, desserts and technical difficulties aside, Dr. Hamzavi in Michigan believes it can be made to work.

HAMZAVI: The spiritual element of being thankful for what we have this moment in time, even though it's not what we always wanted - that was a huge part of Eid and I think for - Thanksgiving's also a similar holiday.

CHANG: Advice for virtual Thanksgiving from people who have already held video family gatherings during the pandemic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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