“We wanted the children of our community to experience a virtual Pesach and become one with the Passover story,” says Rabbi Chayim Friedman.
Friedman, the dean of the fledgling Chabad Yeshiva High School in Tucson, Arizona, now in its second year, is on an “Arizona high.” He has just concluded a two week-long, phenomenally successful program attended by more than 1000 children and adults who participated in “The Exodus Experience,” the Yeshiva’s new, state-of-the-art Passover production.
The mixed media presentation combines dramatic acting, costumes, music, elaborate scenery and computer generated imagery in which participants, clad in “Egyptian” attire, are transported through time into the Passover story and follow a complex maze that takes them from scenes of our slavery in Egypt, to the ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the founding of a nation at Mount Sinai. Additional hands-on features include a “Jeopardy”-like Passover quiz show and bakery in which little bakers get to bake their very own matzos.
Funding for The Exodus Experience, came from private donors in the Tucson area who liked the idea. Two of the sponsors are brothers Aryeh and Shalom Laytin, co-owners of Brake Masters shops located throughout the Southwest.
“We were excited about the project because it brought the entire community together,” said Shalom Laytin. “Not only traditional Jews, but the whole gamut of Tucson Jewry participated. We always strive to implement the vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to reach out to all Jews.”
Laytin is certain that they will sponsor the event again next year and involve even more people throughout the state. It is currently on exhibit in Phoenix and Scottsdale where some 3,000 people are expected to attend. “I am never satisfied,” says Laytin. “Next year we will enhance it to be even more entertaining and educational, so that the children can continue to learn and grow. Thanks to Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Yossi Shemtov, director of Chabad activities in Tucson, we are starting to get a real hold on yiddishkeit here.”
Rabbi Friedman had already produced a similar event during his rabbinical seminary days in Sydney, Australia, and when he introduced the idea to his students they were more than enthusiastic. The entire set was built by several of the rabbinical interns at the Yeshiva High School, under the direction of Levi Grossbaum.