New Haggadot bring fresh takes to the table
Jews sit around the seder table every Passover and use a book called the haggadah for guidance through the story of the Exodus. While some purists may prefer a traditional text, Jews are increasingly adding haggadot to their tables that reflect the Passover story through different lenses — from contemporary social justice activism and feminism to pop culture and humor.
Here are some of this year’s new haggadot and supplements.
“For This We Left Egypt? A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them” by Dave Barry, Alan Zweibel and Adam Mansbach.
Anyone familiar with the pedigree of the authors likely would expect this small volume to include more irreverence and humor than education, and they would be correct. Barry has written humorous newspaper columns for more than 30 years; Zweibel wrote for “Saturday Night Live,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”; and Mansbach wrote the book “Go the F— to Sleep” and the screenplay for “Barry.” They draw on their collective and diverse humor experience to retell the Passover story. The narrative, thematically based on the order of the seder, includes a surprising number of “Godfather” references, including the burning issue of which of the Four Questions was asked — and why — by each and of Vito Corleone’s four children, Sonny, Fredo, Michael and Connie.
“The (Unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah” by Moshe Rosenberg.
The rabbi, educator and author of “Morality for Muggles: Ethics in the Bible and the World of Harry Potter” takes the Passover story out for a wizardly whirl, comparing the Boy Who Lived to the original iconoclast, Abraham. This haggadah also points out contrasts between what it means to be Voldemort’s “most faithful servant” and what it means to be a servant of God in Jewish texts, and parallels between the Exodus narrative and Harry’s emergence from the Muggle world (where he was forced to live in a room under the stairs) into a world of wizardry and freedom.
“From Ancient Egypt to Modern Israel: The 3,000-Year Journey of the Jewish People” by StandWithUs (over3000years.org).
This haggadah “not only teaches about the suffering during slavery and miraculous exodus from Egypt, it also celebrates the 3,000-year-old connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel,” StandWithUs co-founder Jerry Rothstein told the Journal, pointing to “original artwork, traditional text in Hebrew and English, and stirring quotes, all meant to inspire people of all ages about the Jewish connection to our ancestral homeland, Israel.” The center pages are full-color depictions of Israel as a place for Jews who “barely survived, but never lost hope.” It charts the journey from modern Israel’s emergence after the Holocaust and the 1948 War of Independence through the intifadas, culminating in Israel’s modern identity as “Startup Nation.” It also includes readings from a variety of sources, including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Shimon Peres and Mark Twain.
“AJWS Global Justice Haggadah: Next Year in a Just World” by the American Jewish World Service (ajws.org/haggadah).
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) this year focuses its haggadah on connecting the traditional story of Passover, with its narrative arc of slavery, to freedom and the social activism responsibility of contemporary American Jews. For example, the four cups of wine are meant to symbolize a four-part framework for social justice activism: awakening, solidarity, action and freedom. The collection of sources contains original readings, discussion questions and quotes from leading Jewish public figures, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and actor Mandy Patinkin.
“The Four People” by Repair the World and the Jewish Multiracial Network (werepair.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-Four-People.pdf).
This Passover supplement is meant to spur challenging and meaningful conversations on racial justice. In presenting four people, all on their own racial justice journeys, questions reflect multiple perspectives, various backgrounds, different races and different ages. Through the lens of “What would a questioner/newcomer/Jew of color/avoider say?” the supplement tackles some of today’s activism challenges, examining how people can move toward equality if the tactics and strategies used by racial justice movements make them uncomfortable, how newcomers engage with marginalized communities, and how to overcome fear and start conversations about race.
HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Haggadah supplement (hias.org/sites/default/files/hias_2017_haggadah_supplement.pdf)
In light of the debate over President Donald Trump’s executive orders banning refugees, the HIAS supplement focuses on the international refugee experience, relating it to the story of Jews fleeing slavery and searching for safety. Through readings, activities and a guide to aid people in refugee advocacy, it incorporates stories from some of the thousands of refugees HIAS has helped resettle across the United States, and encourages seder participants to identify their own opinions and to work toward creating a group narrative.
Do It Yourself: Haggadot.com
Those who prefer their own mix of readings and activities on various themes can cull custom content for personalized haggadot on Haggadot.com. Site founder Eileen Levinson said that this year marks a considerable rise in feminist, activist and political content on the site, where users can create, upload and share their content with others. Some recently uploaded examples of this year’s content include the Beyonceder, a mashup of Beyoncé lyrics and Passover images; updates to the “Women’s Seder Haggadah,” including text and images about and from the Women’s Marches in January; and the creation of the Baltimore Social Justice Seder, focusing on criminal justice reforms and racial bias in incarceration.