Sunday, April 17, 2011

'They're hungry for this,' Rabbis traveled from Brooklyn to teach kids to bake matzah 

It only took a few phone calls for Rabbis Levi Mentz and Hirshi Sputz to fill Thursday’s baking class with children.

The student rabbis from Brooklyn came to the “remote area” of Destin to hold a traditional Passover for the local Jewish community.

View a slideshow from the cooking class.

“They’re hungry for this,” said Barry Katz, a Destin resident who attended the class with his wife and child.

And he wasn’t just talking about the matzah the children munched as they left.

Orthodox Jews have gathered in a storefront at a strip mall on Main Street in Destin for about three years. They have continued 5,000-year-old traditions without the help of a rabbi, and relished Mentz’s and Sputz’s visit.

The rabbis will spend the next few days looking for Jewish families in what, compared to home, is a remote area for Jewish people, Mentz said, They are hand-delivering matzah (unleavened bread) made in the Holy Land for the families to eat at this year’s Passover Seder.

Seders are ceremonial dinners held on the first or first and second evenings of Passover to commemorate of the exodus from Egypt. The story goes that people left in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, Katz said.

Sputz said he and Mentz are two of 588 rabbis who have traveled around the world to bring a traditional Passover to Jewish families without a nearby Chabad House, or Jewish community center. He spent last year’s Passover in Azerbaijan. Mentz was in Queensland, Australia.

After the initial shock of seeing rabbis at the beach, Sputz said Destin residents have been very helpful and friendly.

“The feedback is very warm,” he said.

It was even warmer at Thursday’s “Model Matzah Bakery” inside the local storefront.

“Now that I know you can bake, you can help me in the kitchen,” Lilac Boskila told her sons, Noah and Elden.

Boskila said she appreciated having the rabbis in town. Until their visit, she was the only one responsible for teaching her children about Judaism.

“I think this is good. Noah is very curious. He is always asking me something,” she said.

The rabbis are planning two Seders at the Wingate Hotel in Destin. They have invited Jewish residents in Northwest Florida to join them Monday night.

Sputz stressed that the event was open to all Jewish people, not just those who are orthodox or Hassidic, like they are.

“A Jew is a Jew is a Jew,” Sputz said. “The way the Rebbe (their mentor, leader and head of their Jewish center) said it is … the same thing that made Moses a Jew makes others a Jew. It’s the soul.”


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