Passover is a major event on the Jewish calendar, celebrating the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt.
The story behind this holiday is well known to anyone who’s seen The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston.
The evil pharaoh enslaves the Jews, declaring that every son born to them must be killed. But Moses avoids this fate when he’s adopted by the pharaoh’s daughter.
God later instructs Moses to tell the pharaoh to free the Jews—but the ruler dismisses this. So God delivers 10 plagues on the land, including a final disaster when all Egyptian first-born sons are killed. However, God passes over the Jewish homes because they are his chosen people.
This year, Passover begins on Saturday (March 27) evening and ends on the evening of Sunday (April 4).
In commemorating these events in their ritual service and Seder meal, Jews will shake drops of wine out of their cup for each of those plagues. It’s to remind them to remain aware of suffering and injustice.
Normally, several generations of the family get together, but many are choosing to do this virtually during the pandemic.
One of those is Simon Zaidel, who co-owns the Olive+Wild home and gift store on Main Street with his wife, Bella.
“We’re going to be doing the Passover with the family via Zoom,” Zaidel told the Straight by phone. “The restrictions are still in place and we want to make sure everybody stays safe. We’ll do it with our kids.”
One of the children is in Vancouver, whereas the other is in England, which creates a challenge with the different time zones.
In the meantime, Zaidel and his wife are exceptionally busy. That’s because, according to him, Olive+Wild has the largest collection of Judaica and Jewish products in Western Canada.
It includes etched glass Seder plates as well as other elaborately designed plates created from marble, pewter and glass, and mosaics. And they’re selling like crazy right now.
“I think our offering in breadth and products exceeds what’s available in Toronto,” Zaidel said by phone as he was returning to the store with another shipment.
Walk-in customers are coming all the way from Abbotsford and Tsawwassen, and online orders are being placed from around the world.
It’s not just Seder plates that are selling. Olive+Wild also offers matzah trays and other Seder-related products. They have to import this merchandise, mostly from Israel, because they’re not being made locally.
The Zaidels opened Olive+Wild four and a half years ago.
“My wife used to work at Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware and she always wanted to have her own store,” he said. “She came with the design background and I was in the jewellery industry. It’s just a perfect fit for me.”
Zaidel said he appreciates being in the Little Mountain area, where local residents have a history of supporting small businesses. But he also noted that the Seder-related products were a “great stepping stone” in helping him and his wife continue operating last year when COVID-19 forced them to keep their store closed for several weeks.
“A lot of customers would research for Judaic products online,” he said.
The pandemic is our modern version of the plague. Yet thanks to their willingness to promote their faith through the Internet, the Zaidels have managed to make it through this difficult period with their business intact.