During the All School Passover Celebration on Sunday at Temple Emanu-El, children turned through copies of the Haggadah, reading and learning about the steps of the ritual feast at the same time they enjoyed the traditional foods.
Rabbi Michael Shefrin said the meal itself, whose rituals represent the narrative of the Israelites' liberation, was a chance for children to learn about the identity of the Jewish people.
“The Passover Seder, in my opinion, is the greatest educational model ever created,” he said. “It has not changed much in hundreds of hundreds of years, and still has an incredible effect.”
Community, he said, is one area where children's education takes place, but he said community experiences are also important for the congregation of Temple Emanu-El and the larger Jewish community, especially because many Jews in Sarasota have family members who live far away.
The temple’s main Passover celebration is an upcoming Passover Seder at Michael’s on East on April 5, a public event for which tickets have sold out this year.
“Two-hundred-seventy-five people coming together as a single family, to celebrate together, it’s glorious. To hear that many people say ‘amen’ is powerful,” he said.
A public event on April 8, the Young Family Seder, Shefrin said would offer a more casual experience for young families to come together, have fun, see rabbis in costume, and “learn and engage in the traditions in a more youth-centric, vibrant way.”
“It's central to our people, especially in today's world with so much anti-Semitism, and so much hatred and division, to come together across lines and be together — Jews, and non-Jews who join us. It's necessary, and it brings hope and appreciation.”
During the All School Passover Celebration, costumes, songs, and a fun and casual presentation contributed to the learning. The meal included a retelling of the Passover story in poetic verse, with Shefrin and temple member Libbie Lurie donning, respectively, Moses and Pharaoh costumes.
Director of Education for Temple Emanu-El Religious School Snait Ben-Herut said the event was the culmination of two weeks of preparation, which also saw children playing educational games and creating pillows to relax and recline on to represent the idea of the Israelite’s freedom.
The children in attendance enjoyed many rituals of the meal.
“I really liked the hunt for the afikoman,” said 9-year-old Alexandra Marcus.
Part of the meal includes breaking off and hiding the afikoman, a piece of matzo bread.
“I had a lot of pieces of matzo, because I really like it,” said 9-year-old Sasha Leopold.
Adrienne Cohen, a volunteer at the event, said she was grateful to the temple for allowing her to connect with Judaism, despite not being raised in the religion.
“I’m learning because of this temple, and you will never know how much this temple has already taught me,” she said. “Any way that I can help the children, I love to do that.”