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Hillel Academy Students Celebrate Model Passover

“Tell old pharaoh
to let my people go!”

A group of students from the Hillel Academy School in Tampa sang that plea as they marched to the start of the ceremonial feast of Seder on Wednesday.

Seder marks the beginning of Passover, an eight-day commemoration of the liberation of the Israelites’ departure from bondage in Egypt.

“Passover is a bittersweet holiday,” said Head of School Allison Oakes. “It's bitter in that we are reminding ourselves that we were once slaves in Egypt. It’s sweet because we remind ourselves that we are free today and the Seder plate represents that.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Passover actually begins Friday evening, but during the "model" commemoration Wednesday, Hillel students visited different stations around the school to learn more about it.

“This is our opportunity to study the ins and outs of Passover, the story that's in the Torah,” said Oakes. “Here at school, they are having the entire experience of Passover and the Seder together, learning together.”

That experience included teachings about traditions, tastings of the food normally associated with Passover, and singing.

“At Jewish schools, we normally do a model Seder so the kids can get an idea of what is happening. We went through the fun parts of the Seder and there are 15 steps that we do, ” said Carrie Hearshen, a teacher of Judaic studies. “The longest part is the storytelling of the Jewish leaving of Egypt through getting to Israel.”

As the students entered the synagogue for the feast, teachers were dressed in various colored wraps, shaking tambourines as they twirled around the tables singing.

As soon as the teachers stopped dancing, older children at the front of the synagogue put on a play for the younger students.

“I really like how today we did something different,” said Hearshen. “We normally have sat down and done the entire Seder from start to finish in this room, but a part of the Seder is not about reading the Haggadah straight to finish. It's about us experiencing and feeling as if we left Egypt,” said Hearshen.

Passover officially begins Friday evening and ends April 27.

Rachel Smith is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2019.