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VALLEY FOCUS | Westlake Village

Rabbi Rolls Out Matzo, Tradition

March 31, 1998|ALLISON COHEN

Boy, did they knead it. And knead it and knead it.

Some rolled it fast. Some rolled it slow. And everybody loved poking holes in it to keep it from rising.

The center for the Chabad of the Conejo was transformed into a bustling matzo bakery Monday. Hundreds of West Valley children donned baker's hats and used rolling pins as they learned to make the traditional unleavened bread for Passover. The observation of the Jews' exodus from Egypt 3,000 years ago begins this year on April 10.

"There were no Ralphs or 7-Elevens in the desert," Rabbi Yisroel Levine told a group of 50 preschoolers. "So, the mommies had to make something in a hurry for their families to take on their journey."

The children listened with rapt attention to how the Jews left Egypt in such haste that the dough didn't have time to rise and was instead sunbaked in the desert--becoming matzo--a thin, crisp, cracker-like bread.

"I was curious," tag-along dad Steve Goldin said. "I've been eating it all my life, and I've never known how it was made. It really brings it to life for them. Buying it in the supermarket is just not the same."

For Rabbi Levine, children learn best when they learn with their hands. "It's more meaningful for them to learn this way," he said while proficiently flipping matzo out of an oven like pizza. "We want the children to be proud of being Jewish so we can preserve Jewish identity for another generation."

More than 2,000 children between 4 and 10 are expected to join in on the free fun thanks in part to funding from the Council on Jewish Life of the Valley Alliance of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

That's double the number of participants from last year. And with a 700-degree oven churning out matzo by the minute, you can't get much hotter than that.

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