For Harford's small Jewish community, the Passover season is an important time to pass on the rituals of their faith to children.
LastSunday, Rabbi Kenneth Block of the Harford Jewish Center and teachers from the center's Sunday School performed a mock Seder for about 60children, ranging in age from preschoolers to 16-year-olds.
The event included singing and reciting prayers.
During the mock Seder, the children and teachers discussed the purpose of Passover, which began Friday.
The Seder's purpose was to instruct the children in religion and prepare them for two Seders conducted Friday andSaturday nights in their homes.
For some of the youngsters, Sunday's event will be the only Seder they'll have this year.
"I like the Seder," said Jeff Finkel, 11, of Aberdeen. "We don't have one at home because we're sort of Reform. I'd like to have one, though."
The Seder is a celebration of freedom, commemorating the biblical account of the Hebrews' release from slavery in Egypt. It lasts seven to 10 days.
Said Block, "This holiday celebrates freedom and commemorates the bitterness of slavery. It's to identify with people who are not free. (The Hebrews' enslavement) isn't just a one time thing in history."
Block and some of the older students explained that the Seder and the special food eaten during the ceremony -- unleavened bread such as matzo, bitter herbs and haroseth (a mixture of apples, cinnamon and nuts) -- is meant to remind modern Jews of the flight theirancestors made from Egypt.
The Hebrews' enslavement under the Egyptians lasted 400 years.
Led by Moses, the Hebrews left Egypt and traveled through the desert, eventually migrating to present-day Israel, the students were told.
Block said ancient Hebrews were in such a rush that they didn't have time to bake bread, which is why Jews are not supposed to eat leavened bread during the celebration.
Some students said they remove all bread from their homes before Passover.
By the end of the holiday, they can't wait to eat baked bread again.
Diana Fridberg, 8, of Havre de Grace, said she likes matzo.
Her favorite Passover food, she said, is pizza matzo -- tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese melted on top of matzo.
Josh Gogan, 16, of Havre de Grace, who helped lead the service Sunday, said the Seder at his home is elaborate.
During Sunday's mock Seder, the religious service was pared down to give the youngsters an idea of the meaning of the symbols and rituals.
"At my house," said Gogan, "It's much more elaborate, and we have a full meal."
He said the Seder is also fun. For instance, a piece of matzo is hidden, and the youngest child in the family searches for it. When the matzo is found, the child is rewarded with a prize.
Also during the Seder, a door is supposed to be left open and a glass of wine left out for the prophet Elijah, Block said.
Elijah is supposed to announce the coming of the Messiah.
"He can come at any time," Block said. "But it's become a custom to be prepared for him on Passover."
"We're the only synagogue between Wilmington and Baltimore, so we try to be all things to all people," he said.
Block estimated that there are 400 to 500 families in the county who practice different forms of Judaism, from Orthodox to Reform.
The Harford Jewish Center, which serves about 180families, is Reform, but welcomes everyone, Block said.