Children in the JCC’s Early Learning Center got a unique Passover Experience on April 2, one they’re not likely to forget!
ELC Director Norma Cahen adapted the event from one that she learned at a conference several years ago.
“Children learn through play, and they’ll go home and tell their parents all about it,” Cahen said.
Four rooms were staffed with parent volunteers, who really got into their parts. In the first room, the children built buildings with blocks while parent volunteer Pharoah (Will Rueff) knocked down their work. When Rueff kicked over the buildings, the children screamed and laughed, then hurriedly began building again.
One child in the Pomegranates (pre-kindergarten) class was looking angry. A little girl asked him what was wrong, and he told her that he was upset that his building got knocked down. She wisely responded, “Well, you know that’s what Pharoah really did!”
From there, the group went to visit the Frog Keeper (Nic Noles), who talked about the plague of frogs. He chased them with toy frogs, taught them to play Leap Frog and held frog-hop races. They each got their own little plastic finger-puppet frogs to take home.
From there, they went to see Miriam (Robin Rueff), who sang songs accompanied by guitarist John Gage. The children danced and sang like the Israelites did when they escaped Egypt.
Next, they went to the Royal Chefs (Judith Danovitch and Kim Roberts), who fed the children matzo crackers with cream cheese or butter. When Danovitch asked if the Pharoah had been really mean, most of the children answered yes, but Lucy Rueff responded, “No! He’s my daddy!”
Danovitch, whose son David Noles is in the class, said her son wore a red and black striped shirt that day because it represents (his words) “the blood and darkness.”
In the hallway, the group saw Rueff, who was leaving. Their teacher told them to say good-bye to Pharoah. The children (without prompt from their teacher) began yelling at him, “Let my people go!”
From there, the children went to see the Queens of Darkness (Kate Stratman and Aude Johnson). They all got sunglasses to simulate the plague of darkness, while they sang songs and played games with a parachute.
Cahen said the event was a great success and an excellent learning experience for the children.
“The purpose of our Passover experience was to enable the holiday of Passover to be as meaningful as possible to our students,” Cahen said. “The goal was not just to do and activity just to do one, but to make sure that the activity is as age and developmentally appropriate as possible, as well as fun and meaningful. Adults can tell children stories about Passover and about why we eat unleavened bread and celebrate the customs and traditions, but it isn’t until they experience these activities during their play that they derive any real meaning.”