ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — The group of first graders had no time to waste — they had matzo to make.

The students from Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital had just 18 minutes to prep and cook the cracker-like, unleavened Passover staple if they wanted to keep it kosher for the holiday. It could not be allowed to rise.

Starting in the evening of April 22 this year, the major Jewish holiday commemorates the exodus of ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as recounted in the Torah. Observant Jews avoid leavened grains for Passover as a reminder of the unleavened bread the Israelites ate when they quickly fled Egypt with no time for dough to rise. Most breads, pastas, cakes and cookies are off-limits, but matzo — or matzah as some translate the Hebrew word — is OK.

But the first graders, in their paper hats and blue school T-shirts, didn’t have to face the time crunch on their own. Wearing a chef’s hat on top of a matzo-themed kippah, Rabbi Levi Raskin led them through all the steps on Thursday during their “Model Matzah Factory” field trip. The children, whose school is in Washington, D.C., learned all about the history of how the festival is celebrated and the story of the exodus.

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“As soon as they mix the flour with water, an 18-minute clock begins,” said Raskin, who is director of the JCrafts Center for Jewish Life and Tradition in Rockville, Maryland.

The center is a collaboration with Chabad and has outreach with public schools as well. The demonstration includes a mini flour mill to grind wheat kernels, an example of a water well, and a piping hot oven. While their dough takes about 2 minutes to cook, in a real matzo factory the oven is 2000 degrees and is done in seconds, Raskin said.

First grade teacher, Dafna Kiverstein, was also on hand to help the Washington area students roll out dough during their field trip on Thursday at the JCrafts Center.

The dough spread as Charlotte Gleicher, 7, guided the rolling pin over it, her hands flanked by her teacher’s. Wearing a necklace with her name in Hebrew, Charlotte then used a tool to prickle the dough with small holes, picked up the flattened disc and placed it by the others waiting to be baked into matzo and eventually eaten. Though she was disappointed that she was unable to find her personal piece after they were baked, Charlotte liked the handmade matzo a lot.

Passover generally lasts seven days in Israel and eight days elsewhere.

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