At Hebrew Day Institute in Rockville, Students Celebrate Passover With Seder

Kindergartner Elon Fass of Bowie eyes his food at a seder Friday at Hebrew Day Institute. Students learned about Passover during the traditional feast.
Kindergartner Elon Fass of Bowie eyes his food at a seder Friday at Hebrew Day Institute. Students learned about Passover during the traditional feast. (By Naomi Brookner -- The Gazette)
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By Melissa J. Brachfeld
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Just as their ancestors have done for thousands of years, Hebrew Day Institute students celebrated Passover with the food and song of a seder Friday morning.

The traditional meal, full of symbolism and prayer, is presented each year to teach students about the holiday and its traditions, said Madeline Rothbard, head of the Rockville school.

"The importance of doing a seder is to retell the story of Passover over and over again and pass it down from generation to generation," she said.

About 40 students sat around three long tables and raised their cups of grape juice, to symbolize wine, as they joined in the festivities.

Passover began last night and lasts for eight days. The Passover story arose out of the Israelites' enslavement by the Egyptians thousands of years ago under the rule of a wicked pharaoh. According to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, Moses, a Jewish shepherd, was instructed by God to demand the freedom of his people.

After many trials and tribulations, Moses succeeded, and the Israelites fled quickly, fearing that the pharaoh would change his mind. Because they did not have enough time to bake their breads, they packed the raw dough and baked it in the hot desert sun into hard crackers called matzohs. Jews today eat matzoh in place of bread during Passover.

Dina Korman, a Judaics/Hebrew teacher and program coordinator for the school, led the students through the seder by discussing the symbolism of every item on the plate. The plate typically consists of parsley or celery, an egg, horseradish, a lamb shank bone and charoset, which is a mixture of chopped walnuts, cinnamon, apples, and wine or grape juice.

The charoset, for example, represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to assemble the pharaoh's bricks.

The seder was also filled with songs. The students' favorite was "Dayenu," to which they clapped along and stomped their feet.

"The title of the song translates to 'it would have been sufficient' or it 'would have been enough for us,' " Rothbard said. "Whatever God gives us, it's sufficient, but he gives us more."

Rebecca Blumenfeld, a Bowie resident, watched as her 5-year-old son, Elon Fass, participated in the seder. She was particularly pleased to watch the kindergarten student sing during the service. Elon is the only one of her three children who can hear.

"To watch him sing today was incredible," said Blumenfeld, who is hard of hearing but can speak and read lips. "It has always been my dream for him to learn Hebrew."


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