What do omelets, pancakes and Disney’s “Ratatouille” all have to do with Passover?
Well, it’s how you throw a fun yet productive pre-Pesach party for young children who are more than willing to rid the Bayit of leavened products like pancakes using nothing more than their bellies while watching a rat vie to become France’s next great chef.
It was the best way to keep the kids occupied at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale on March 25, freeing up their parents to stay home and clean house — both at a spiritual and physical level as Passover arrives Friday.
“Throwing out bread is symbolic of cleaning,” said David Fain, HIR’s youth director who organized the kids event. “It can also mean a spiritual cleaning of what it means to start anew and let go.”
Passover is a time for Jews to celebrate one of the key events in the Torah that finally convinced the Egyptian pharaoh to free Hebrew slaves.
“Pesach” refers to the final — and most deadly — of 10 plagues God unleashed on Egypt in the Book of Exodus, where the first-born son of each household was killed.
The only sons spared were those tucked inside homes protected by lamb’s blood on the doorframes, according to the story. This allowed the “angel of death” to pass over those homes, hence Passover.
However, to many, it’s more than a story — it’s also a metaphor of freedom and change of self.
“To think about it in our world, it makes us think about what it means to be a free person and our responsibility and what that entails to other people that don’t have the freedom we have, and how we can give that to others,” Fain said.
The ancient Hebrews escaped from the bondages of Egypt with hopes of starting a new life of freedom in the Promised Land, and the same concept can be paralleled with people’s lives today.
Passover also can be a time of self-reflection, Fain said, and when people decide which parts of themselves they want to leave behind, and which parts they wish to change and bring on their journey into becoming a better person.
As a child himself during the Passover, Fain enjoyed matzo, which is an unleavened flatbread that is part of Jewish culture and the Passover festival. Fain used to add cheese to his matzo, which was his favorite part.
Today, as youth leader, Fain prepares kids for Passover by teaching them songs and about the holiday itself, which, “each year can mean something a little different, depending on where I am in my life,” he said.
That Sunday, the Hebrew Institute children contributed much more than their stomachs to the pre-Pesach party. They also participated in some creative community service by making Eliyahu cups out of arts and crafts to give to the older members of the community.
An Eliyahu cup is integral to a Passover table.
It represents the Jewish people’s forthcoming salvation and liberty after many years in exile.
The cup, in short, embodies unwavering hope.
But it wasn’t just arts and crafts at the Bayit, but also about giving back.
“We try to make every program about doing something for someone else as well,” Fain added.
Passover kicks off Friday night with the traditional Seder — the ceremonial dinner that involves storytelling, singing and eating certain foods that represent what it was like to be a slave in Egypt.
However the Seder is not entirely about all this. It’s also connecting to the experience itself.
In the days leading up to Passover, Fain strives to do something different each year.
Part of the goal is to give parents a chance to prep for the holiday. But still, he wants the annual youth outings to be fun and educational for the kids, and above all, a service to others.
“I love being youth leader here at the Bayit,” Fain said. “And I love getting to teach as well as learn from these children.”