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Congregation Beth Israel teaches culture to mark anniversary
Rabbi Levi Mentz
Rabbi Levi Mentz, of Congregation Beth Israel, teaches students in the Juda Hebrew school program the Jewish tradition of baking matzah and the story of Exodus. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Members of a local synagogue and Jewish community center taught youngsters an important Passover tradition over the weekend, just ahead of an anniversary for the faith.

On Sunday, officials with Congregation Beth Israel, the county’s only synagogue, hosted an event to teach students in the Juda Hebrew school program the Jewish tradition of baking matzah and the story of Exodus. Rabbi Levi Mentz said the event coincided with a special anniversary. 

“This year marks the 3,330th anniversary of the exodus from Egypt,” Mentz said. “It’s a special, monumental year, and we wanted to make this year’s Passover service one that is monumental and memorable for the children.”

The ingredients for making matzah, an unleavened bread traditionally eaten at Passover, are simply water and flour. The tricky part of the process, as the kids became aware, was the ingredients must be mixed, rolled out and baked within 18 minutes. 

“It’s the mitzvah. It’s the good deed to eat matzah at the night of the Seder,” Mentz said.  “Knowing how to make matzah in the same way that was done thousands of years ago, to have the authentic matzah is very important.”

The event also detailed the history of matzah and Passover, which was brought to life by Mentz and older students in the Juda Jr. High and Hebrew High programs.

“We brought the children back in time,” Mentz said. “We started with a scientist going in his time machine, meeting the ancient Jews with the Ancient Egyptians, seeing literally what slavery was like [and] what it meant, getting to meet pharaoh, getting to meet Moses and illustrating the 10 plagues in a very real way.”

Mentz said educating children on customs is crucial but needs to be done in a way that keeps them entertained and excited. 

“What’s key is the children are our next generation,” he said.  “Therefore, what is critical is we teach our children our faith and our religion, our morals, our values in a way that’s very exciting, that talks to them, that’s intriguing, that gets them excited and passionate about it, because that is the only way that it is going to really be an impactful message for our kids.”

Jeremy Lefkovits, a founder of Congregation Beth Israel whose son was among those making matzah, said he appreciated there being a place for children to learn Jewish traditions and gather with others in the faith.

“It’s exceptionally wonderful,” he said. “It’s giving the Jewish children in Forsyth County a chance to learn about their history, their heritage and celebrate all the wonderful holidays that we celebrate.” 

Fifty children attend Juda, Mentz said the turnout has been impressive for the group, which has only existed about 20 months. 

“It’s unbelievable. It’s nothing short of miraculous,” he said. “Historically, there has never been a lot of Jews [in the area.] In terms of the metro area, Forsyth County, our families are numbered, but the types of families that we’ve been blessed with, the love, the dedication, the leadership, the desire to be together and take a leadership role in making that Forsyth County can have a vibrant Jewish Life that is exceptional … we’ve seen this.”

Starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 30, a community Passover Seder will be held at Congregation Beth Israel at 795 Brannon Road. Mentz said space is limited and those interested should RSVP at 

He said Passover is a time to reflect on freedom and whether people have it in their lives. 

“Today, we live in a world where our happiness and our freedom is completely dependent on circumstance,” Mentz said. “Passover teaches us that we need to be happy and free intrinsically. We need to be happy. We need to be free.”