First Family Self-Portrait during Passover

Hanna’s first seder during Covid-19, Submission to the “Passover in Times of Corona” call for collection items, 2020

A man, a child and a woman sitting in front of a laptop

Hanna’s first seder during Covid-19; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jasmine Bakalarz

The first Jewish holiday that came during the Covid-19 pandemic was Passover 5780 (2020). What is different when the entire family cannot come together on the first seder evening? In order to answer this question in all its various facets and to preserve the responses for the future, the Jewish Museum Berlin issued a call for submissions of photographs, films, and other materials depicting Passover in times of corona. Jasmine Bakalarz sent in a photograph for our corona collection. Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Toronto, the photographer lives with her husband and daughter Hanna Cora in Berlin. Only one year old at the time, this was Hanna Cora’s first seder evening.

What motivated you to submit a photo?

I was interested in the idea that a museum had an open call regarding a contemporary issue where anyone could submit their personal story. As someone who is very passionate about photographic archives, I immediately thought about how these new images (and artifacts found in them) could interact with the museum’s extensive existing collection. In addition, I think it’s interesting how most pieces in a collection (unless commissioned) were not created specifically for that purpose; they had a life of their own and then through incredible circumstances, they arrived in the hands of the museum. In this case, these images were created specifically for this Covid Passover collection. Since my artistic practice is rooted in the belief that the narrative of our story and memory should be a collective and community-based process, I was extremely motivated by a proposal to contribute to constructing a different type of collection.

Who’s in the photo? Who took it and where?

The photo was taken by all three of us (Daniel, Jasmine, and Hanna Cora) in our home in Berlin. It was our first family self-portrait during our first Passover with our daughter. We are on a video call with our family around the world. For my photographic work, I always use an analogue camera but since this was a more playful experiment, I opted for a digital one to also help with the lack of light and quick baby movements.

How did you experience Passover 2020? What was different in 2021?

In 2020 we held various video calls with our families around the world. In 2021, we had the same calls and also took the same family self-portrait. On the second night of Passover we had two dear friends join us, which was our first social gathering indoors in over a year. We also enjoyed teaching Hanna Cora about Passover with books my sister sent from Toronto, including a wonderful Haggadah for children.

Is celebrating in front of a screen a new experience for you?

We have lived away from our families for our entire lives, in true diaspora manner. I can recall when three-way calling was the newest technological advancement available and we would all be together on the telephone fighting over when to have the seder because of the different time zones on all the continents. “Dayenu” was the only song whose unintentional echo worked as a musical canon. The possibility of seeing our families on a screen, especially as our baby was changing rapidly between each chag, has really made the distance and longing a bit easier to cope with.

How has Corona impacted your life?

At first, life with a young baby is quite like being in quarantine, so our daily routine was not impacted as much as that of others. Later into the lockdown, like many parents, we were faced with the day care closure while working fulltime. In terms of Jewish aspects of our lives, during the pandemic we have not been able to travel to spend the chagim with our families or visit synagogues and community events here in Berlin.

The interview was conducted by Tamar Lewinsky, October 2021

Citation recommendation:

Tamar Lewinsky (2021), First Family Self-Portrait during Passover. Hanna’s first seder during Covid-19, Submission to the “Passover in Times of Corona” call for collection items, 2020.

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