Passover 2019: Chicago synagogue opens escape room for unique celebration

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Edgewater's Emanuel Congregation is offering a new way to celebrate Passover this year: an escape room.

"Escape from Egypt," like other escape rooms, demands quick thinking and team work to solve a series of puzzles--literally unlocking layer after layer of clues before a 45-minute timer runs out.

But this special escape room stands out because the Passover story inspires its sleuthing fodder. Passover, or Pesach, commemorates the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt; this is known as the exodus.

"There were some pretty easy ones and... some really hard ones that threw you off," said 10-year-old Mia Cohen of the clues.

She and her family successfully solved the entire puzzle; Mia returned to the escape room Thursday to help me take on the challenge.

One of the clues we looked at involved elaborate notes and a map--all of which proved to be a "red herring," as an event organizer put it.

This intricacy can be explained by the escape room's origin. The synagogue said this was "professionally designed" and "licensed exclusively to Emanuel Congregation."

Even Emanuel's rabbi, Craig Marantz, found parts of the escape room tricky.

"I think building the Lego wall was hard," he recalled.

If you're successful in reaching the finish line, you get to part a makeshift Red Sea, celebrating Moses's legendary miracle.

Rabbi Marantz said that while there's fun to be had in the escape room, the game's illusion of imprisonment reinforces Passover's serious message.

"We celebrate Passover as though we are slaves in the land of Egypt...Even if we, in our everyday lives, enjoy freedom, not everybody's free. And so if not everybody's free, than we're not ultimately free," he said.

Mia's dad, Michael Cohen, added that the escape room was a good way to remind him about the seder plate elements' purposes. He encouraged anyone, Jewish or not, to experience the escape room.

Emanuel Congregation welcomes everyone to take on "Escape from Egypt" April 15-18 and April 22-25 from 5 pm to 9 pm each evening. Experience team-building, cultural learning, and family fun on a night that is "different from all other nights."

Click here for ticket information and availability.
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