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6 backgrounds to use for your Zoom Seder — and more!

Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers? Only a simple child would ask such a question, but one answer is that so many of us far from home will be connecting with family via Zoom. But, while social distancing Seders may be a sad symptom of the times, they do come with at least one advantage: You now have the rare opportunity to superimpose your nearest and dearest onto some nifty backdrops courtesy of Zoom’s background feature.

Adding a background is pretty straightforward. First, download the image you want. Next, open Zoom on a web browser, click on “Settings” and make sure you’ve enabled the virtual backgrounds feature. Then, once your in your Seder room, find the “^” arrow to the right of the button that looks like a camera. You should see the “Choose Virtual Background” option at the bottom of window. Then, just click it, go to the settings window find the little “+” sign, click the box that says “add image” and open your saved image.

Once you’ve figured that out, here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Hang with Moses and the burning bush

'Landscape with Moses and the Burning Bush' by Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri), ca. 1610–16.

‘Landscape with Moses and the Burning Bush’ by
Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri), ca. 1610–16.
Image by Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In this painting from the early 17th century — available courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art — Domenichino (aka Domenico Zampieri) renders a lush landscape where the lawgiver first encounters the burning bush. Surprise! Moses is alarmed by it! Still, pretty picture and a good way to feel like you’re out in nature while staying as far away from public parks as possible.

2. Find some good public domain images of the desert

If you ever wanted to live in the Mojave OS default desktop, now’s your chance. So many great options are available on the Flickr Commons. We have desert vegetation. We have camels and sphinxes.We have the barren expanses of the American west courtesy of institutions like the National Archive and New York Public Library and Library of Congress. Get the feel of our ancestors’ arid air wandering without drying out your sinuses.

3. Get highbrow with some Chagall

Why not zazz up your virtual ritual meal by backgrounding scenes from Marc Chagall’s haggadah? Check out these guys getting a visit from Elijah. Cool, right? Also — like many Chagalls — creepy.

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you his more terrifying, if interesting Pesach painting, 1931’s “The Israelites are eating the Passover Lamb,” which is both the most horrifying rendering of the Angel of Death ever devised and a surefire way to upset your vegan cousin.

4. Remember the best Passover special ever

“A Rugrats Passover” is, of course, the greatest single piece of Passover content ever produced. If you are a Millennial, this is your time to shine. Your parents might not know how to work Zoom’s background feature. Make them look at Tommy Pickles as Moses during the Ma Nishtana.

5. “I’ll give you my tablets when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” Image by Getty Images

Now’s your chance to co-star with famously frightening gun nut Charlton Heston in his immortal turn as Moses. Whatever your take on this man’s complicated legacy, at least he’s not Val Kilmer. Speaking of animated Moseses….

6. Be the matzo

The time has come. In the days ahead, you will be consuming an unhealthy amount of unleavened bread. Whether you fry it up with some cinnamon or eat it dry with peanut butter like Mike Bloomberg, there’s a lot of it headed your way. You are what you eat — and you and your family are become matzo. Embrace it with this free stock photo.

Chag sameach, y’all.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected].


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