Volunteers work in the kitchen at the annual Easter Day Community Dinner on at St. Peter's Church in Rockland in 2015. This year, the synagogue is doing takeout. Credit: Abigail Curtis

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ROCKLAND, Maine — For about 30 years, volunteers from Adas Yoshuron Synagogue have hosted a free Easter dinner at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, open to everyone in the community.

Like nearly everything these days, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to upend that tradition. But organizer Linda Garson-Smith didn’t want to give up on the people they serve every year. So the dinner will go on Sunday, but this time in a take-out form.

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“It just seemed to me that the people who are hardest hit by this kind of a situation are the people that we serve, the homeless, the hungry. To give up was just not an option in my mind,” Garson-Smith said. “It seemed totally antithetical to the mission of service.”

On Sunday at 1 p.m., boxed-up meals of ham and roasted vegetables will be handed out at the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockland. Instead of filling the church with conversation and song, as is typically done every Easter, the meals will be given to people who are standing six feet apart from each other in a line outside of the church.

Garson-Smith said volunteers who are handing out the meals will be wearing gloves and facemasks and other volunteers will be monitoring the line to make sure social distancing guidelines are being followed.

Traditionally, volunteers from the synagogue would prepare the meals. But when trying to figure out how to do so safely during a pandemic, it was suggested to reach out to a local restaurant to see if they could prepare the food in one place.

James Beard Award winner Melissa Kelly, who owns the restaurant Primo in Rockland, agreed to lend a hand. Her staff is preparing all of the food in Primo’s kitchen and packing the meals in to-go containers.

Adas Yoshuron Synagogue typically serves between 125 to 150 people on Easter Sunday, but Garson-Smith said she expects that number will be lower this year as some people might not want to leave their home.

At a time when the world is facing a public health crisis, Garson-Smith said everyone needs to have a bit of hope and community — both of which have been the cornerstone of the 30-year long friendship between the synagogue and the church that ultimately spurred this Easter tradition.

“I just think this is just a way of showing love,” Garson-Smith said.

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