Pesach again. My, but it comes round quickly. I’ve just done the Passover story at my little daughter’s school. She (aka “Princess O”) goes to a secular school and every year I try to find a different way of telling the pupils the tale of Moses, Pharaoh, the Ten Plagues and the Exodus from Egypt. Her class is made up of a healthy mix of Chinese, Nigerian, Israeli, New Zealand and “proper” English kids who are so impossibly blonde and willowy they look like they’ve stepped out of a Cath Kidston catalogue.
What is it about beauteous “English” kids? They’re tousled and effortless and called Rose, or Molly, or “a name below stairs” as my friend Charlie calls them. And they’re all angles and freckles and summers in Cornwall and Devon. Gorgeous.
Anyhow, this wonderful multicultural mix of six-year-olds love being given a piece of matzah to munch on; they also love my rendition of Moses and Pharaoh. I do all the voices, including the burning bush and I even re-enact the experience of Jewish slavery by building a mini version of the pyramids (don’t ask).
My stroke of genius last year was equating the power of Moses, striking his staff on the floor of the imperial palace to bring about the plagues, with the character of Nanny McPhee banging her magic stick on the floor every time she needs to evoke magic to discipline her charges.
How would Nanny McPhee have coped with the golden calf incident, which has to be the ultimate example of bad behaviour by the children. Talmudic discussion anyone? You drag them out of slavery, you perform signs and wonders, you split the Red Sea, provide manna from heaven and you even go so far as to offer them a contract from the Lord, a mission statement and the promise of a homeland of their own.
I do all the voices, even the burning bush
How do they repay you, as you schlep up the mountain to receive the heavy stone tablets, then have to schlep them down? What do your newly freed children do? They build a giant golden calf in the middle of the desert and start worshipping it.
Nanny McPhee would have sent them all to bed for a week with no supper and given them some nasty medicine to be taken on the hour, every hour. Moses was more lenient. He forgave them and led them to the land of Milk and Honey.
This Pesach week, I too felt that I was led to the land of milk and honey when given a sneaky peek of the new JW3 Cultural Centre that is being built on the Finchley Road in London. What a beautiful building! What vision this new cultural home will offer the capital’s Jews. World-class speakers, cutting-edge events, and good food. Plus yoga, a crèche, a screening room, and a dance studio. Young and old will hopefully flock there. It will single-handedly change the singles’ scene in London. This could be the very thing to keep disenfranchised youngsters affiliated.
If JW3 lives up to the dream, then, who knows, we could all be having a big communal Seder there in 2014. I’ll bring the pyramids.