Pesah Panic Time

by Laurie Bellet

We have now entered into the time frame that I call “Pesah Panic” time. Pesah Panic Time is characterized by the number of calls and e-mails I get with the message, “I want to make Seder plates; How can I do it… in the next week?”

The clearest lesson here is that quality programming takes planning. Look ahead; map out your lessons; acquire materials; allow enough teaching time for the lesson, the project and the follow-up. That said, following are some cures for Pesah Panic time.

Haroset bowls are simple and fabulous at any age. You need 3” terra cotta pots; tiles or other mosaic pieces; tacky glue; silver Sharpie; 3” plastic tumbler cups for the inset piece; a large brick or cinder block. Introduce the subject of slavery. Identify the key points of slave existence beyond hard work – no compensation, ragged clothing, no health care, no bathroom breaks, meager food, no free choice.

Explain the symbolism of the haroset and how it is prepared. Students will ‘build’ walls on the terra cotta pot ‘buildings.’ Instruct students to work with the pots upside down (this minimizes tile slippage while glue is wet). Students use tacky glue to affix the mosaics to the pots. Emphasize that Pharoah would not tolerate a partially built structure and that they should cover the entire pot, excluding the rim. As students are working, ask them, one by one, to lift and move the brick or cinder block (depending on age/size) to reinforce slave tasks. Finish the pot by using the silver Sharpie to write Haroset (Hebrew or English) along the rim. Place the plastic tumbler inside the pot.

Prepare to clean house! At your local dollar store, purchase packages of wooden or plastic mixing spoons. Students can paint the spoon with small brushes (we are not painting a house here!) and acrylic paint. At the craft store, purchase a package of quills or tiny straw brooms. You can embellish the straw brooms with ribbons and a gem. Give each student a piece of white construction paper (9”X12”) stapled in half to create a packet for the spoon and broom. Students decorate the packet with drawings of their home. If you have a calendar with pictures by the artist Malcah Zeldis, this is a perfect time to exemplify Jewish folk art. If you have no Zeldis but do have Chagall, instruct students to include ‘dreamy’ elements such as flying people or horses in the closets. Remember to include a candle in the packet.

Matzah plates take less advance planning than do Seder plates. You can purchase inexpensive, hardy glass plates at major linen and ‘super store’ retailers. If you prefer to use heavy-duty plastic, stores such as Smart and Final are your destination. With a black marker, write Matzah (Hebrew or English) in a heavy print style (or print it on your computer). Turn the paper over and, using the black marker, follow the shadow of your writing to create a mirror image. Tape this mirror image, face down, on the front of the plate. Turn the plate over. The work will be done on the back. Use a Sharpie or gold leafing marker to follow the reversed letters to write ‘matzah.’ Let some minutes pass to allow the ink to fully dry. This is your time to review what, exactly, matzah is. You can do a clear demonstration with compressed sponges. You can buy a package of these at the craft store. The compressed sponge is dry and flat like matzah. However, when you drip water on it, it puffs up like a piece of leavened bread! After the ink on your plate is dry, use sea sponges or crumpled plastic wrap to sponge acrylic paint onto the back of the plate. You can use multiple colors. Metallic colors are great but not glitter paint. Cover the entire plate including the word ‘matzah.’ The writing will show through when the plate is turned right side up. If you need to speed dry the plates, you can put them in a warm (250 degree) oven for about 20 minutes. Have someone watch the plates closely, emphasizing the custom of “sh’mira.”

Got your Pesah plans well in hand? Shavuot will soon be here! Consider the plates for your blintzes or the terra cotta pots for flowers!