For the first time in over 15 years, the annual chometz burning hosted by the Woodmere Fire Department will not be taking place.
The department explained in a March 30 news release that the event is cancelled so that community members are able to social distance to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“In addition to our members, we are also concerned for the well-being of the community as a whole,” it said. “We cannot host an event that may inadvertently expose someone to COVID-19.” Woodmere currently has over 200 cases of the coronavirus.
Chometz, a non-kosher food is annually burnt at the firehouse just before the beginning of Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation from slavery of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt. The fire department has held the annual burning since 2003. This year, Passover will be held from April 8 to 16.
Based on the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus, the Hebrews left at such a rapid pace that there was no time for the bread to be baked so unleavened bread — matzo — was made.
Woodmere fire officials urged leaders of houses of worship and congregants in the Five Towns to not conduct bread burnings this year.
“We respectfully request that you, the prominent leaders of this community, prohibit your congregants and other members of the community from conducting the ritual bread burning,” they said. “As we are all trying to fight the spread of COVID-19, we do not want to add to the potential loss of life by community members lighting their own fires.”