Celebration centers on family

Jewish Museum's Passover activities include puppets, arts and crafts


Food, puppets and a tour of the nation's third-oldest synagogue - that's how the Lubin family celebrated their Jewish heritage yesterday.

The family from Reisterstown had a picnic lunch of gefilte fish and matzo at the Inner Harbor, attended a Passover puppet show at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, saw an exhibit on Jewish camping there and then went on a tour of Lloyd Street Synagogue.

"It's a family day," said Brian Lubin, with his wife, Melanie, and son, Russell. "He's keeping Passover pretty good for a 4-year-old. ... It's important for us to bring him up Jewish."

Jews of all ages gathered at the Jewish Museum yesterday for the fifth annual family-centered Passover celebration. Outside, young children painted flower pots in the courtyard, sunlit but shaded by trees with lush, pink blossoms. Inside, the families had a chance to re-explore the rituals involved in last week's Seder meals, carrying them through the rest of the Passover holiday, which ends Thursday.

The interactive puppet show stressed audience participation. Becky Gordon and her Yofi Tofi Puppets sang about slavery in Egypt, Moses, the 10 plagues and why Jews give up chometz - leavened bread and food derived from other grains - during Passover.

Gordon, who teaches Judaic music to children, founded the puppet show 15 years ago. "The shows entertain but also educate, reinforcing what they are learning in school and from their families about the holidays," Gordon said.

One of Gordon's bunny-like puppets, Scarlet, wore pajamas as her Pesach (Passover) outfit. "The pajamas are a sign of being a free person," Scarlet told the children, referring to the tradition of reclining at the Seder table.

Yesterday's event gave Marcia Bitman a chance to finally see the Jewish Museum and the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue, built in 1845. She was there with Chana Bitman, her 4-year-old granddaughter.

"She loves puppets," Marcia Bitman said. "I just knew it was the perfect activity for us."

After the puppet show, several families explored an exhibit on Maryland's Jewish summer camps, where some said they first developed a strong connection to Judaism.

Among those featured was the all-girls Camp Cejwin. There, Bracha Goetz learned how to observe the Sabbath, which eventually encouraged her to become Orthodox, changing her name from Vicki.

"I got my first taste of Shabbat there," Goetz said. "When I saw it at camp, I didn't know how to do it on my own. Then, I discovered a whole community."

Goetz and her sister, husband, six children and grandchildren also toured the Lloyd Street Synagogue, one of the two sanctuaries that flank the museum.

Standing watch outside was James H. McVay, the museum's security officer for the past four years.

"I've learned a lot about Jewish culture here," said McVay, who is black. "We understand each other's plight."


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