Why aren't more Jewish families celebrating Passover in their homes and communities throughout the region?
That may not be one of the "four questions" that take center stage at this time in the Jewish calendar, but for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, it's an important one.
Because professionals and volunteers at Federation's Center for Jewish Life and Learning know that less than 40 percent of the region's young parents belong to synagogues or other Jewish organizations, they realize that many children and their families might be missing out on opportunities to learn about and celebrate one of Judaism's most sacred observances. Some parents may not feel that they have had enough of a Jewish education to lead a Passover seder in their home, cook the holiday foods they remember from their childhood or even know where to purchase Passover foods.
That's why the center is bringing programming to where people are – in public locations that are familiar and comfortable, such as bookstores, libraries, supermarkets and movie theaters.
"These are the ways you really affect people's lives," says Roberta Matz, who serves as the center's community outreach coordinator. "So many people who said they could never find the Passover items they needed left participating supermarkets with new recipes, new ideas and an enhanced feeling of community."
Since the beginning of April, Passover-related events have been held at bookstores or libraries in Willow Grove, Doylestown, Ambler, Oxford Valley and Phoenixville and at supermarkets in Yardley, Downingtown, Blue Bell, Spring House and Chadds Ford. "Old Tales, New Sparks," an interactive story-telling performance by Theatre Ariel, was held last Sunday at Booktenders Secret Garden in Doylestown. Several of the events have been co-sponsored by the Jewish Outreach Partnership of Greater Philadelphia to bring the community together.
From preschoolers marveling at a Passover story hour's vivid description of the 10 plagues to adults getting a taste of savory matzah ball soup, the families attending these public-space events have enjoyed learning opportunities and have discovered new ways to make Passover more meaningful.
"These programs also help us reach our goal of educating families by giving them home craft projects and Web sites with Passover recipes and stories," adds Matz. "At these events, our staff can develop relationships with people and invite them to other programs to help give them a greater sense of community."
The celebration will continue throughout the eight-day holiday. On Sunday, families can make Passover crafts at the Regal Barn Plaza in Doylestown and see the animated movie, "The Prince of Egypt." And on Monday at 10 a.m., the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Langhorne will spin Passover-related stories and offer paper doll-making for children.
More info? Call Rabbi Bonnie Goldberg at 215-832-0665.