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Guides and Sites Not to Be Passed Over

For more than 2,000 years, Jews around the world have celebrated the holiday of Passover (which starts Wednesday) by reading from the haggada as they sit for a Seder--an evening of prayers, song and, of course, food.

Now, inevitably, there’s a multimedia guide to this venerable ritual. “The Interactive Haggadah” ($50, for Mac or Windows) from JeMM Productions ([800] 871-0694) brings Passover to life electronically with music, games, stories, puzzles and recipes. Not only is it multimedia, it’s also multilingual. You can interact with the software in English, Hebrew or Russian.

Of course, few families would use this as a substitute for a printed haggada at the table. But it’s more than just another computer solution looking for a problem. For one thing, it could be a fun diversion for the children if they’re bored during the service--though not for many Orthodox Jews, who are forbidden to operate machines during religious holidays.

Even more interesting, though, is its value as a teaching tool for children or adults. It would certainly be an appropriate tool for any Jewish school, and I also recommend this program to public schools or schools of other religions that wish to teach the story of Passover in a way that is fun and interactive.

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The program, which features delightful images of animated clay characters, opens at the Seder table, where the family is sitting for its meal and service. The table is laden with all the traditional trappings--candlesticks, wine, matzo (unleavened bread) and the Seder plate itself, which holds other ceremonial foods.

Click on any item on the table and you learn why it is significant and how it is used in the ceremony. You can also click on any of the people at the table to hear a story or a song or play a game. Click on the father and you have to answer a multiple-choice question such as, “What was the name of the area in Egypt where the Hebrews lived?” If you’re silly enough to choose Brooklyn, you hear a bong. The correct answer is Goshen.

The disc includes the complete English, Russian and Hebrew text of the haggada, which you can read on screen and print out. Prayers and songs are played aloud.

I wasn’t able to find any similar programs dedicated to the Easter holiday, but there are a number of multimedia Bibles on the market that include information on the resurrection. These bibles also, of course, include information on Passover, which Jesus was observing at the Last Supper.

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“The Complete Multimedia Bible” from SoftKey ($39.95, [800] 227-5609) includes the complete text of the King James version along with music, maps, photos and video clips, as well as readings featuring the melodious voice of actor James Earl Jones. Expert Software’s Bible Explorer ($15, [800] 759-2562) provides the complete King James Bible along with 40 minutes of video, narratives from the scriptures and biblical artwork. Both programs have search features that allow you to quickly search the entire Bible for any word or phrase.

There is also a fair amount of information about Passover and Easter on the World Wide Web.

One fun Easter site (https://www.highridge.com/village/holiday/easter/) makes use of some great animation (it’s best viewed with Netscape 2.0) and has links to everything you ever wanted to know about eggs and rabbits. There’s a whole page on how to decorate Easter eggs, as well the lyrics and audio track of Peter Cottontail and a page linking to information on “other famous bunnies,” including Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny and, sigh, the Energizer Bunny.

Another site, Easter in Cyberspace, a Christian Perspective (https://members.aol.com/REMinistry/devotionals/easter.html) has a “No Bunnies at This Site” policy. The person who runs the site has nothing against bunnies but wants to emphasize the serious religious nature of the holiday. You’ll find lots of links to other religious sites that explore the meaning of Easter.

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The World Wide Web offers several Passover-related sites, including a General Index on Pesach (https://www.jajz-ed.org.il/pes96idx.html), which has an extensive curriculum for studying and teaching about the holiday for both children and adults. Chabad’s Judaism on the Internet site (https://www.chabad.org/) includes a holiday guide to Passover with a complete English translation of Chabad’s haggada. There are also plenty of online recipes, including an extensive collection of kosher Passover treats that you can find at https://www.marketnet.com/mktnet/kosher/recipes.html.

An electronic version of this column, with links to all sites mentioned, is available on Magid’s Web site (https://www.larrysworld.com). He can be reached via e-mail at magid@latimes.com


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