Including Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired in Passover Traditions

Graphic Happy Passover with various food and wine

Remember when we discussed including your child with vision loss in Hanukkah traditions? It was well-received and hopefully helpful. I would like to begin offering suggestions for the inclusion of your child in a variety of holidays and religious celebrations. Be on the lookout this year and next for blogs regarding Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Easter. If you have additional holiday or religious celebration suggestions, please let me know.

Today, however, we again focus on a Jewish celebration. Once more, I enlisted the help of my friend, the rabbi. He explained the holiday of Passover along with its traditions and celebrations.

He explained that the holiday of Passover commemorates the freedom of the Israelites from their 400-year enslavement in Egypt, as narrated in the Biblical book of Exodus. Under the authority of G-d, Moses warned Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, of terrible plagues that would befall if he would not liberate the enslaved Israelites.

Nine plagues ensued and Pharaoh would not yield. The tenth and worst plague was imminent; death of firstborn males. However, in G-d’s mercy, if an Israelite family would spread the blood of a lamb across their doorpost, the devastating plague would Passover, or be spared from, the home.

After the plague reached Pharaoh’s home, he admitted defeat and released the Israelites. They were free and fled in haste, crossing a miraculously dry Red Sea. Thus began their 40-year journey to the Promised Land.

So, how is Passover observed today and how can we make the traditions meaningful to a child with a visual impairment?

A very important component of weeklong Passover is the preparation. As a reminder of the Israelites fleeing in haste, before their bread had time to rise, Jewish families will rid their homes of all leavening agents before Passover.

To include a child who is blind into this tradition:

  • Browse your cabinets and refrigerator, discussing which items utilize a leavening agent; have your child help you discard them. My rabbi-friend suggests turning this activity into a game. You can use tactile markers to indicate which food has leavening and have all the children wear blind-folds, searching for the items one “contestant” at a time. The fastest “leavening finder” wins!
  • As there could be leavening agents in crumbs on the floor and on countertops, ask your child to help you sweep, vacuum, mop, and dust surfaces.

The most beloved component of the holiday are Seders, or Jewish ritual meals, typically partaken on the first and second days of the seven day Passover celebration.

To include a child who is blind into this tradition:

  • As there are traditional foods that symbolize the story of the first Passover, invite your child to meal plan with you, shop for the Kosher- For-Passover food by your side, and cook together. Utilize AFB’s safe cooking techniques to learn how people who are blind or visually impaired cook without sight.
  • As the Seder meal transpires, an adult will retell the account of the original Passover events. Unfamiliar concepts within the account should be pre-taught. Two suggestions are 1) visiting a petting zoo to encounter a lamb and 2) reenacting the Passover account before the Seder; set up a tent, walk through a creek, wear Biblical costumes, etc. Have fun and bring the account to life!
  • Each guest will be given a Haggadah, or booklet, to follow along as the accounts are read and described. Older children with visual impairments can be given braille or large-print booklets, while younger children can be given a story bag or box. Consider items such as bandages when discussing the plague of boils; an empty milk bottle for diseased livestock; sunglasses or blindfolds for the dark; a live, caged frog; a live, caged grasshopper; a cup of water; an ice cube for hail; etc.
  • Most of the symbolisms within a Seder are food items, therefore already accessible. However, you may consider allowing the child with a visual impairment or all children to meaningfully interact with the symbols. For example, the children can use the Herosit (chopped nuts and apples, cinnamon, and grape juice or wine, symbolizing the mortar Israelites used to build pyramids) to form pyramids.
  • Prayers read within the Seder can be memorized or read from braille or large print material.
  • Toward the end of the Seder meal, a door is opened to welcome Elijah. The child with a visual impairment can open the door.
  • The Seder is concluded with a hidden, wrapped broken cracker in the room, symbolizing the brokenness of the Israelites. A child with a visual impairment can be given verbal directions to locate the cracker or the child can have the responsibility of hiding the cracker.

This list is not exhaustive. I have only mentioned aspects of Passover which I think can be made more meaningful to a child with vision loss. If you have additional suggestions for including a child who is visually impaired into Passover traditions, please add them to the comments section below.