Southern Californians can travel from Pharaoh's palace to Midwestern wheat fields to a rain forest -- all without leaving Westwood. The journey is furnished courtesy of West Coast Chabad Headquarters, which annually creates its Model Matzah Bakery for two weeks prior to Passover.
After witnessing several of the 10 plagues and gaining their release from Pharoah, participants proceed through each of the steps required to make matzah: They separate wheat kernels from stalks of wheat; see the wheat ground into flour; travel to an ersatz rain forest for water; watch as the water and flour are mixed to create dough; and roll their dough into matzahs which are placed in an oven to bake.
Program coordinator Yossi Burston notes that Chabad has created similar programs worldwide.
"We want to provide the holiday experience in an educational, fun and interactive way," he said. "This program brings everyone together -- Reform, Conservative and Orthodox; young and old; special-needs children and many others."
Public and day school students are among the more than 4,000 people who will experience the Los Angeles program during its two week run. Over the course of its 20-year tenure, the Model Matzah Bakery has drawn participants from as far as Palm Springs and Tijuana. Similar programs are also offered at Rosh Hashanah (a shofar-making workshop) and Chanukah (an olive oil workshop).
While it might not have been produced by Cecil B. DeMille, Chabad's presentation nevertheless exhibited its own special brand of production value, from the professionally produced back drops of pyramids to the "special effect" of turning the water blood red. And it was "leavened" with plenty of humor for children and adults alike. Burston insists it's a collaborative effort: "We didn't write the script. It comes from the Bible."
The Model Matzah Bakery is open to groups Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and to the public on Fridays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m, and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., through April 17. To make a reservations (required) call, (310) 208-7511, ext. 270.