IN PREPARATION for Passover, one of the buildings at the Lubavitch Center for Jewish Education has been turned into a Model Matzah Bakery.
Rabbi Hillel Baron estimates that up to 1,500 people came to the center during the past two weeks to make the unleavened bread that is a staple of the Jewish holiday.
Matzo is served during Seder, the traditional Passover meal eaten during the retelling of Jewish slaves' exodus from Egypt. Foods such as bitter herbs, roasted eggs and a dish made from apples, raisins, nuts and wine are sampled at various points during the telling of the story.
"Matzo made by hand has a different shape, texture and taste than what you buy" at the grocery, Baron said. "Like anything that's handmade, it has much more character."
Although the Ahavas Israel congregation that meets at the center is Orthodox, Baron said that people from all backgrounds were welcome. Matzo bakers ranged from preschool-age children to senior citizens.
"My hope would be that the history of the Passover holiday comes alive, and they can really feel what it was like to be leaving the land of Egypt and making the matzo by hand," he said.
Baron begins each session at the bakery by passing out paper hats that read "Model Matzah Bakery." Standing in front of two canvas booths -- marked "Flour" and "Water" -- he explained the process used in baking kosher Shmurah ("guarded") matzo.
Shmurah matzo is guarded by a rabbi from the time the wheat is harvested through baking of the traditional bread. Extra care is taken to ensure that the wheat stays dry and is not contaminated by water, which would cause the matzo to rise.
"Matzo must remain flat and thin to be kosher," Baron said.
Flour is measured in one booth and then passed through a window to Baron, who then calls for the water, which is passed in the same fashion. The ingredients are kept in separate rooms because even a splash of water could cause the flour to begin rising.
"We have 18 minutes to make the matzo before the dough begins to rise. That's the challenge," Baron said.
After the flour and water are kneaded into dough, bakers pinch off a small piece and roll it between their hands into a ball. A rolling pin is used to flatten the dough; then another roller with spikes is used to poke holes in the dough. The round matzo is then placed in an oven and baked at 700 degrees for about three minutes.
Passover begins at sundown today and runs for eight days.
Columbia Cooperative Ministry, an organization of 16 Christian congregations in the area, will hold an Easter sunrise service at 6: 30 a.m. Sunday at Lake Kittamaqundi.
The Rev. Betty Ure of Columbia United Christian Church will read from the Gospel of Mark. Guitarist Phil Esserwein and bell ringers from St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Community will provide music.
George Martin, president of Columbia Cooperative Ministry, said the group has sponsored a sunrise service in Columbia for the past 30 years.
"It's an opportunity to reach out and pray for one another," he said.
Martin said nearly 350 people attended the service last year.
Seven local educators will be honored at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce's Community Awards Night on April 26 at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center.
Nominations come from school administrators, students, parents and other teachers. One of the seven finalists will be named Educator of the Year.
"We go through a pretty exhaustive process to evaluate the educators," said John Crovo, director of communications for the chamber. "They're graded in six categories so anyone nominated for these awards is an outstanding educator."
The seven finalists are: Steven Buettner, Hammond Elementary School; Judy Fulmer, Hollifield Station Middle School; Stephen Gibson, Lime Kiln Middle School; Kathy Kreidler, Waterloo Elementary School; Sue Pope, Ellicott Mills Middle School; Randy Wallenhorst, Gorman Crossing Elementary School; and Marcia Leonard, Wilde Lake High School.
"It was a remarkable surprise and honor," Leonard said, to discover she had been named one of the finalists.
In addition to her duties as social studies teacher and instructional leader at Wilde Lake High School, Leonard works with the student government association, coaches girls' varsity soccer and is treasurer for the Maryland Leadership Workshop.
Residents can support winners by sponsoring tickets that will be given to nominees' families so they might attend the event at no cost.