Paramus—Rabbi Moshe Grossbaum knows a thing or two about passing along teachings from generation to generation. When he was a young boy in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. his father, Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum, created a Pesach enrichment program that was designed to involve participants actively in the teaching. His concept, a live matzah bakery, was the seed that grew into The Living Legacy, which brings experiential learning about Jewish holidays and traditions into Jewish day schools, area public schools, and Jewish community centers. The younger Grossbaum, now a father himself, delivers interactive workshops throughout the year that carry on his father’s legacy while creating a host of new memories for young participants. He brought The Living Legacy to Bergen County about 15 years ago.
Grossbaum, who is co-director of Chabad of Paramus, starts presenting the Matzah Factory right after Purim. This year, approximately 2500 students in Bergen County day schools, Hebrew schools and public schools learned how to make matzah from scratch.
“We ran two matzah bakeries simultaneously this year to keep up with demand. The program is very well received,” said Grossbaum. He added that the program’s popularity has grown far beyond Bergen County, with many Chabad organizations running them around the world.
The Matzah Factory program begins with a teaching about Pesach before shifting to matzah production with, according to Grossbaum, “as close to a shmurah matzah process as possible.” Workshop facilitators bring the wheat, a flour mill, and two booths—one for water and the other for the flour—to simulate a bakery environment. The wheat kernels are removed, flour is ground, and then everyone gets into hands-on fun. The children help mix, knead and roll out a batch of dough. Holes are made using a dough docker, which keeps the dough from bubbling up when it bakes. The rabbi puts the dough in a portable oven and everyone watches it bake—quickly.
“Our ovens are set at about 650 degrees and the matzah bakes in 30 to 45 seconds,” explained Grossbaum. “It’s very fast-paced and the kids really have fun.”
The Living Legacy serves anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 students a year in total—about half of all Jewish students throughout Bergen County—with all its experiential educational workshops. Each program includes a lesson and presentation about the holiday or ritual item, and a hands-on experience. They include:
- a shofar factory, with raw materials, horn-making instruments and lesson on blowing the shofar;
- a Sukkot “shuk” that incorporates a game show–style activity to teach children about the different species that make up a kosher lulav;
- an olive press to make olive oil for Chanukah;
- a Torah factory with kosher parchment, scribe’s quills and ink;
- a tallit workshop, with instruction on tying the knots;
- a mezuzah workshop;
- a Havdalah, in which students make beeswax candles;
- a tefillin workshop that goes in depth about how tefillin are made and explanations about the different boxes.
In addition to The Living Legacy and Chabad of Paramus, Grossbaum is fostering a legacy in the Jewish community of acceptance and inclusion as the executive director of Friendship Circle of Bergen County (http://www.bcfriendship.com). The organization offers services and programs to families of special needs children, and volunteer opportunities for area youth to work with their peers with special needs.
For information about The Living Legacy or to book a program for an organization, contact Rabbi Moshe Grossbaum at 201-262-7172 or [email protected]