Breaking Free from Tradition: New Ideas for Passover Learning

Watch The Prince of Egypt. Throw the toy frogs. Have a chocolate seder. Create artistic interpretations of the Ten Plagues. These are old stand-bys in the Jewish education world that aim to get our students “excited” and “engaged” in the holiday and tradition of Passover. Now, don’t get me wrong, kids and families genuinely enjoy these classic activities, but when we lean heavily on the same lessons we have used for years, our students are often left with a taste like stale matzah in their mouths. Furthermore, when we teach to the “least common denominator”—the lowest age or most basic skill level—in an effort to engage families or do multi-age programs, our students miss the opportunity to discover something new about themselves, their peers, and the legacy they have inherited as American Jews.

During the seder we sing the song Dayenu, meaning “it would have been enough.” The thing is, as educators, what we do isn’t really ever enough (I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear). It’s not enough to retell the story of our ancestors who were slaves in Egypt. It isn’t enough to question our traditions or to challenge ourselves to expand the meaning of freedom in our home communities and in the Jewish community as a whole. Though we may feel satisfied at the end of the meal when the matzah balls and macaroons and wine make us sleepily recline, we cannot become complacent with our responsibility to help our students develop strong, meaningful connections to themselves and to their Jewish heritage.


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