Gloves, Masks, Curbsides: Passover Shopping During a Pandemic

Passover shopping is hectic enough in normal times.
April 6, 2020
Empty shelves in a supermarket on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Passover shopping is hectic enough in normal times. Stores are crowded, prices are higher and shoppers have to go to a few different places to get everything they need for the seders and the rest of the holiday. This year, however, coronavirus concerns and restrictions have added another layer of stress.

Nili Isenberg lives with her mother and her special needs son, who suffers from seizures if he has a fever, so she’s been going to the store as infrequently as possible and wearing gloves. For Passover, she stocked up on groceries at Pico Glatt Mart in Pico-Robertson.

“Every time I go, it is pretty terrifying to leave the house, and then [I] have to touch so many things that others have passed by,” she said. “Shopping for food used to be a fun activity if I could go out without the kids and listen to music and dance in the aisles and take my time, but now it is something that I try to get done as quickly as possible.”

Tiki Segura, who also shopped at Pico Glatt Mart for Passover, went in with a list of groceries for her family, her in-laws and her parents. She said the store was well stocked, employees were wearing face masks and there were markers on the floor to indicate 6 feet of distance between shoppers waiting in line.

Nonetheless, she said she believes the stores should be doing more “They can be giving out masks to customers and be limiting the amount of customers allowed in the stores at a time,” she said. “Additionally, they should be sanitizing the shopping carts and, if possible, keeping them inside the store to prevent people on the street from touching the carts. I also think providing curbside pickup with no purchase minimum is a good idea.”

As COVID-19 restrictions have increased, some kosher supermarkets have stepped up their guidelines. Western Kosher in Mid-City is only letting one person per family shop in the store and is asking people to wear gloves, a mask, keep a distance of 6 feet, come with a prepared shopping list and not socialize in the store. It also offers to help seniors and shoppers with compromised immune systems to find local volunteers who could shop for them, and only seniors are allowed in the store from 7 to 8 a.m.

Blue tape marked outside of a Kosher supermarket so locals can safely shop for Passover. Photo courtesy of Kylie Ora Lobell

Livonia Glatt in Pico-Robertson sent out an email saying it is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines by sanitizing shopping carts and checkout stations, only allowing small groups of people in the store at a time, monitoring shoppers’ product quantities, and offering easy and quick checkouts.

Rachel Barnes Yammer, who mostly has been using Amazon Prime Now and Postmates to get items delivered to her home, only went to the store because she had to get a few last-minute items she forgot to order or that were out of stock online. While she enjoyed shopping at Livonia Glatt, she said she wishes the kosher stores took advantage of technology more by using Postmates or taking text orders. “They seem to still have a lot of workers who could easily package orders and create some sort of pickup, even if they don’t do delivery,” she said.

“The kosher markets tend to have more narrow aisles, so that makes it harder to always stay 6 feet away from every other shopper, but I try very hard to do that.” — Naomi Selick

Instead of going into Pico Glatt to shop for Passover, Ally Tsitsuashvili sent the store an email with a list of her products and quantities, and the store had her order ready for curbside pickup the next morning. “It was a very long list and it would have taken a long time for me or my husband to collect everything, so we did the curbside pickup in order to avoid exposure at the market for that long,” she said. “My husband went to the market and everything was bagged and paid for and in a cart ready for him to pick up. When he brought it home, we wiped everything down with disinfecting wipes before putting it away.”

Photo courtesy of Kylie Ora Lobell

Like Yammer, Tsitsuashvili has been relying on online shopping services like Amazon and Instacart. However, she said, “With keeping kosher and especially with Pesach approaching, we inevitably need to go shopping at some markets to pick out products ourselves.”

Yulia Medovoy Edelshtain said she and her husband venture out to the kosher supermarkets on Wednesdays, when she feels the stores aren’t as busy. “It does not feel crowded and people are making an effort to stay away from each other,” she said.

Rebecca Agi only goes to the store at the least busy time of day, which is in the first hour after the store opens or one hour before it closes. “I wear gloves, a mask and maintain social distance with everyone in the store. When I get home, I disinfect everything, change my clothes and wash my hands.”

For Naomi Selick, going to the kosher market to shop for her family and in-laws has been a mixed experience. While she said the stores are very well stocked — she even found paper towels — the size of the stores is an issue.

“The kosher markets tend to have more narrow aisles, so that makes it harder to always stay 6 feet away from every other shopper, but I try very hard to do that,” she said.

No matter what precautions people are taking, Isenberg said her thoughts are with those on the front lines, providing for all of the Passover shoppers. “I am so grateful to the people who are working and just wish them to be healthy and safe,” she said.

Tsitsuashvili echoed a similar sentiment. “I just hope we’ve been doing our hishtadlut [best effort] to be safe and healthy, and that HaShem will keep us well and bless us with a kosher and simcha-filled holiday.”

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