300 ways to make it a multi-cultural seder



In this silent video excerpt from the book/dvd/cd combo ‘300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions’ Marla Berkowitz explains new signs for Matzoh and Passover and then asks the Four Questions in American Sign Language (ASL).

Fu san ede a neti disi de difrenti fu tra neti?


That means, “Why is this night different from all other nights,” in Sranan.

But what’s Sranan, you ask? Sranan is the primary language spoken in South America’s Suriname, which has one of the oldest Jewish populations on the American continent. Is is also spoken in Aruba, Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles — with a total of 426,400 speakers today.

Who knows if anyone there is really saying the Mah Nishtana there or in those countries, but that’s what’s so delightful about Murray Spiegel and Rickey Stein’s new book, “300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions: From Zulu to Abkhaz (Spiegel & Stein). Subtitled, “An Extraordinary Survey of the World’s Languages Through the Prism of the Haggaddah” each page lists the Four questions in its original language — sometimes which must be transliterated to the English alphabet, a note about the translator, and a note about the language — how many speakers, its ranking in the world, a pronunciation key and a picture of the place. The song can be heard on the accompanying CD as well.

“From my earliest childhood memories, I know I’ve always loved Passover. It was a joyous tiem when the entire extended family came together, from guests whose names I never embered from farway towns, to my favorite cousins,” Spiegel writes in the introduction. When he later began making his own seders in graduate school, he started adding recordings of people doing odd version fo the Four questions, like Ladino, Spanish and a Hebrew Donald Duck.”

Stein was fascinated with languages too, inspired by his Russian grandfather who had known a number of languages and dialects, having worked for the Singer Sewing Machine Company across Europe before he’d emigrated to the United States. In 1972 he attended a seder where people said the Four Questions in Foreign languages. “What a great idea,” I thought. “Everyone enjoyed doing or hearing the questions done this way.”

Who wouldn’t enjoy hearing the Four Questions said in a completely foreign language – not Yiddish, Hebrew, Spanish and French, which are foreign but not as strange as Mapudungun, a language spoken by 300,000 primarily in Chile, and also Argentina; or in Yorbuba, which is also called Yooba and Yariba, one of the four official languages of Nigeria. There’s also nonsensical languages such as our very own Valley Girl and Pig Latin.

Why is this night different from all other (seder) nights? Because we’re hearing a different version of the Four Questions.


For more information, visit http://www.whyisthisnight.com/

The classic Szyk haggadah becomes a modern masterpiece of the digital age


There’s a 1,000-year-old haggadah, there’s an Internet haggadah, and now there is a new $15,000 Arthur Szyk Haggadah.

Szyk (pronounced Shick) was a Jew, a Pole, an American, and always an artist, whose brilliant paintings and cartoons could give new life to ancient traditions or eviscerate a Hitler and Mussolini.

Now, almost 57 years after Szyk’s death, antiquarian bookseller Irvin Ungar has come up with a new edition of the artist’s 1940 Haggadah, which, Ungar believes, gives new meaning to the term state-of-the-art, particularly in digital technology.

To create the new haggadah, Ungar said he assembled an international team of top-flight craftsmen, including a digital photographer, writers, designer, bookbinder, printer, boxmaker and film director. To provide the perfect paper for the haggadah, Ungar tracked down a mill in Germany, which had been in business since 1584.

Szyk was born in Lodz in 1894 and started drawing portraits of guests in his parents’ home at age 4. After studying painting in Paris and visiting Palestine in 1914, he was drafted into the czar’s army in World War I but deserted. Later, he fought against the Soviets under the legendary Polish Marshall Josef Pilsudski.

With the rise of Nazism in neighboring Germany, Szyk became one of the first anti-Hitler cartoonists, explaining that “the painter of books wants to reply to the wall painter.” The Fuehrer allegedly put a price on the head of his nemesis.

At the same time, Szyk worked for two years on his haggadah, and, in 1937, took his 48 paintings to London, hoping to find a publisher who would do the work justice.

However, Szyk had injected his anti-fascism into his art, such as putting a swastika armband on the Egyptian overseer beating a Hebrew slave and a Hitlerian moustache on the Wicked Son. In the pre-war British appeasement days, every publisher turned him down until Szyk reluctantly deleted the Nazi symbols.



When the haggadah came out in 1940 in an original edition of 250 copies printed on calfskin vellum, it was one of the costliest publishing projects of the 20th century. Subsequent photo reproductions could not match the brilliance of the original.

The same year, Szyk immigrated to the United States, and, as a self-described “soldier in art,” his ferocious depictions of the Axis leaders soon graced the covers of Time, Colliers and newspapers across the country. Amazingly, his use of medieval techniques of manuscript illumination proved to be the right style for biting, contemporary satire.

After the war, he applied his talents to supporting Israel’s struggle for independence, in the process creating a new image of the muscular Jewish worker and soldier.

Szyk, whose cartoons had attacked McCarthyism and racist prejudice against blacks, ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee in early 1951, and within a few months he died at the age of 57.

In the subsequent decades, Szyk and his art were largely forgotten, until a renaissance during the past decade — including a spate of documentaries, biographies and one-man exhibits — brought him to the attention of a new generation.

One of the early rediscoverers was Ungar, a Reform congregational rabbi in Forest Hills, N.Y. and then Burlingame, who had left the pulpit in 1987 to found Historicana, an antiquarian bookseller firm in the northern California city.

Once introduced to Szyk’s work, Ungar was smitten and, as president of the Arthur Szyk Society, is now devoting his life to the master’s legacy, he said.

“No Jewish artist has been more devoted to liberty and social justice than Szyk,” Ungar declared. “No artist has done more to translate Jewish values into art. His haggadah is the great book of freedom.”

The new Szyk Haggadah is being printed in a one-time edition of 300 copies, divided into 215 copies of the deluxe edition at $8,500 per copy, and 85 copies of the premier edition at $15,000 each.

Each copy, resting in a clamshell box, is accompanied by 248-page companion volume on Szyk’s art and life, with essays by such scholars as former museum director Tom Freudenheim (a frequent contributor to The Jewish Journal) and Israeli historian Shalom Sabar. Also included is a DVD of the documentary “The Remaking of the Szyk Haggadah.”

For more information, call (650) 343-9578.


The Four Questions


Images reproduced with the cooperation of Historicana, publisher of the new edition of The Szyk Haggadah

Life, liberty and the pursuit of beautiful language


For most of his 92 years, artist Sam Fink has been obsessed with the pursuit of freedom and the beauty of language. Even though he is a painter, he calls language “the highest form of art, higher even than painting and music.”

But even Fink could not have predicted that these passions would culminate in the creation of his exquisite versions of “The Book of Exodus” and “The Gettysburg Address,” both recently published by Welcome Books.

Although it has the appearance and dimensions of a coffee-table book, his “Exodus” is a complete and genuine illustrated version of the second book of the Torah, every word, both in Hebrew and English, was hand-lettered by Fink (a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that he doesn’t know Hebrew). The words of each of the 40 chapters of Exodus are incorporated in 40 different watercolor paintings of the sky.

His other work, “The Gettysburg Address,” contain Lincoln’s 270 words inscribed and illustrated by Fink, as well as a chronology of events leading up to the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

A commercial art director throughout most of his professional life, Fink’s recently published work is a far more personal approach afforded to him through retirement. Ruminating on his American and Jewish experience — as a child of immigrants and as a soldier during World War II — both books serve as an opportunity for the artist to delve deeper into the meaning of the word “freedom.”

Fink was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1916 and grew up in a typical middle-class Jewish family, conscious of their heritage, but with minimal religious observance. Reflecting on his childhood, he recalled “Even when I was a little boy, I would look at the clouds and see all kinds of magic. I had the gift of imagination.”

He was a good student and was admitted to the then-academically demanding City College of New York. Being creative and a free spirit, he says he “rebelled” against the restrictions and requirements of a formal education and announced to his parents that he wanted to quit school in order to hitchhike to California and back.

It was the depth of the Depression and, he recalls, he had all of $50. Nonetheless, with his parents’ rather reluctant blessings, he set off. As he traveled from coast to coast, he fell in love with America and its people and “absorbed the beauty of our country.” Once again, he cited “the expanse of the sky which reflects that there is freedom all around us.”

On his return home, Fink joined his father in the commercial art field. With time out for World War II when he served as a master sergeant with the 88th Infantry Division in Italy, he eventually joined Young and Rubicam (Y&R), then, as now, one of America’s foremost advertising agencies. There he became an art director and headed their art department in Chicago. After leaving Y&R in 1970, he continued to work as a freelance art director for 20 more years, most notably on the Land’s End catalog.

After he retired in Great Neck, N.Y., Fink began to reflect more deeply on the source of his good fortune.

“I remember both my sets of grandparents,” he said. “They were illiterate, and I spoke Yiddish with them. They had children, and we prospered in this land … it’s so amazing what freedom has meant to us!”

As is his custom, Fink “spoke” to himself saying, “Hey, Sam, you owe this country.”

By way of repayment, his first “installment” was to copy the Constitution of the United States on a single sheet of paper. “In copying word by word I realized how difficult it is to achieve freedom,” he said.

He then thought of copying the Bible but his late wife, Adelle, said: “Don’t just copy it, illustrate it!” That was the genesis of his “Exodus.” As he writes in his introduction to the book, “Exodus is a cry for freedom, and that’s what it is all about.”

The source of the Hebrew text in Fink’s “Exodus” is the Torah, and the English translation is the 1917 Jewish Publication Society version. Fink’s watercolors reflect the tenor of the chapter they illustrate.

While he does not claim to be influenced by any particular artist, some of his “skyscapes” are reminiscent of Rothko and others of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The bottom line, however, is that they are Fink originals. He hopes they “will entice people to read about the price of freedom.”

In “The Gettysburg Address,” Fink’s portrayal of Lincoln varies from page to page and is somewhat reminiscent of the style identified with the Jewish Italian artist Modigliani.

Fink had originally intended his work to be a gift to his children and grandchildren. However, on one of his many trips to Israel to visit his son, David, and his seven grandchildren, he stopped in an airport bookshop and picked up a book published by Welcome Books. Figuring that they might be interested in his books, he sent a proposal to Welcome founder and CEO Lena Tabori. Even though she rejected his proposal, she invited Sam to lunch. As a result she eventually agreed to publish, not one, but each of his works.

Looking back, Fink said, “I can’t believe I did it; something happened which made me bigger than I am.”

L.A. Times in turmoil: is it good for the Jews?


Thinking about the mess at the Los Angeles Times, I can’t help but raise the question we usually bring to matters great and small. How does it affect the Jews?

The paper is going through hard times. The owner, Tribune Co., unhappy with the paper’s substantial profits, ordered publisher Jeffery Johnson and editor Dean Baquet to make big cuts. When they refused, Johnson was forced out. Baquet is hanging on, trying to forestall the inevitable.

For this particular Jew, it’s a sad time. I worked there more than 30 years. I retired in 2001, and I still have friends at the paper. I talked a lot to two of them last week and shared their worries over their futures and those of their families. It’s also sad to read the paper, to see it shrink, to watch the editorial staff drop from 1,200 to 940 and, likely, eventually to Chicago’s goal of about 800.

Why is this bad for the Jews? It’s bad because as residents of the Southland, we have a long and great tradition of civic activism, going back to early in the 20th century and continuing today in homeowner groups, neighborhood councils, public school support organizations, political parties, sports leagues and all the other activities that permit this sprawling area to function.

Because of their intense activism, Jews have been among the paper’s most devoted readers and fiercest critics. A substantial part of the paper’s circulation base has long been in the broad Jewish belt extending from the Westside through the West Valley.

Granted, the base has dwindled. Each year, I see fewer copies of the Times in front yards in my Westside neighborhood early in the morning. Some of the losses come from exsubscribers who now get their news on line. Other former Times subscribers are single-issue Jews who abandoned the paper after parsing every story about Israel, looking for imagined bias or anti-Semitism.

But a large number of us remain. For us, and for everyone else, a strong Times is important because it is one of the few institutions that holds this vast region together.

When I went to work there in 1970, covering politics, I was overwhelmed by the geographic immensity of my beat. In those ancient days, before the Global Positioning System, I was given a thick book known as a Thomas Guide, and I used its maps to navigate through the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, through Watts and Reseda, from Malibu to Boyle Heights.

Everywhere I went, the Times was a big deal. It connected these diverse regions, saw things in a regional way and championed regional solutions to the problems of the Southland, whether they were smog, education, health care or transportation.

As I began at the Times, less than a decade had passed since Otis Chandler had raised the paper from its long years as a right-wing rag to a publication of national renown. Jews, who had been brought up to read the old Daily News and to scorn the Times, had become loyal Times subscribers, depending on the paper for news of the state Capitol, their city halls, their freeways and their schools.

Public affairs was just part of the package, not as interesting to many readers as the sports pages and Jim Murray. And not as vital to many as the stories produced by the foreign staff, the Washington bureau and correspondents around the country. And not as important to many as news of movies, food, music, books, galleries and other aspects of the arts.

The secret of the Times’ success was the package, putting it all together. No matter what their interests, we knew our readers had something in common — they were readers, and they found something in the paper to interest them.

Now the management of the Tribune Co. is tearing up the package or at least diminishing it.
You can see it in the paper. The sports section grows thinner. I can get more and better sports news from the Web. The front section is squeezed for space, as is the California section.

This means that reporters who dig up good stories have to fight for a place in a paper that can barely find enough room for daily news. And as the staff shrinks, the remaining reporters are spending their time catching up with fast-moving events, rather than digging below the surface.

This is the way to lose readers. And as space and staff dwindles, the Times will no longer be able to exercise its function as the one regional voice of the Southland. Our problems are regional. What happens in a school in Carson has an impact on one in the Valley. The closing of an emergency ward in Inglewood will have a direct affect on emergency care on the Westside. If the paper can’t cover this — extensively as the news breaks, as well as with in-depth investigative reporting, both of which take substantial resources — we all lose.

This is why the dismantling of the once great Los Angeles Times is bad for the Jews and everyone else.

Bill Boyarsky’s column on Jews and civic life appears each month. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Read All About It


The very thought of editors of Jewish publications gathering in an Oxford manor house cries out for a Rodney Dangerfield punch line.

Yarnton Manor was once a holding of the Spencer-Churchill family, as in Princess Diana and Sir Winston. Juxtapose its dark wood-paneled rooms and sweeping Jacobean gardens with a bunch of hunch-shouldered journalists whose profession is rarely accorded much respect inside their communities, much less among landed gentry — you get the picture. It was easy for me to sit in the manor’s 17th-century great room and imagine generations of Spencers and Churchills cartwheeling in their graves.

But a decade ago, the house was purchased by a Jewish family who turned it over to the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. The American Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) International Centre for Community Development chose it as a convenient midway point for a first-ever gathering of 13 editors and publishers of Jewish publications from North America, Europe and Israel.

The early September meeting was the brainchild of Alberto Senderey, the JDC’s director of international community development. Senderey is a model Jewish professional, and not just because he invited me as one of five Americans included for the four-day symposium in beautiful Oxford.

An energetic, optimistic burst of Argentine energy, he recognized that Jewish media have a unique and underappreciated perspective on Jewish communal life. In increasingly dispersed and diverse communities, Jewish newspapers and magazines can serve as virtual community centers, a place where all voices can be heard and where, in the best of circumstances, all a community’s important issues and problems examined.

Jews have a complicated relationship with the Jews who write about them. On the one hand, they want us to do the stuff of journalism — gather and present news accurately without fear or bias, hold leaders and institutions accountable and present a diversity of opinions, regardless of their popularity.

On the other hand, they want us to do all this without offending them, attacking them, upsetting their fundraising or giving press to points of view they despise. The relationship is often rocky and inherently uncomfortable. We are outsiders writing about outsiders — the Jews of the Jews.

But the JDC, which works with endangered and emergent Jewish communities from South America to Siberia, understands that for many Jews, the local Jewish press is their first or even main connection to Jewish life. In a time when traditional forms of Jewish expression — synagogues, JCCs, federations — have struggled to retain the loyalty of a new generation, Jewish papers and magazines continue to thrive.

Consider this nugget mined from the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey: For the majority of Jews in the vaunted 35-44 age range — the ones whose child-rearing will set a new generation on the path toward Jewish life — the No. 1 nonreligious Jewish activity in which they engage is reading a Jewish periodical.

In this age group, 47 percent of Jews belong to a synagogue, 45 percent contribute to nonfederation Jewish charities, 25 percent contribute to their local federation. But these numbers are easily surpassed by the 68 percent who read a Jewish newspaper or magazine.

To some degree, this statistic reflects the general promise of niche publications in an increasingly fractured media market. New Times’ multimillion dollar purchase this week of former rival LA Weekly’s parent company, Village Voice Media Inc., is but one example.

But another possible explanation for this astonishing statistic — how likely is it that 68 percent of Jews would agree on anything? — is that newspapers and periodicals offer a low barrier of entry to Jewish life. There’s no membership, no dress code, no judging. In some cases, as with this paper, there is zero cost, as well. That means people who want to affirm or explore their connection to Judaism can do so easily, every week, at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

The fact that young people aren’t joining Jewish organizations doesn’t mean they’re dropping out, said conference participant Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week in New York. “They’re looking for new ways to identify.”

For a new generation of Jews, the Holocaust and even the Six-Day War are ancient history. The touchstones of Jewishness have shifted, and media outlets, which can change content monthly, weekly or, on the Internet, hourly, are poised to adapt more quickly than synagogues or large organizations. That makes these long-undervalued participants in Jewish communal life more important than ever.

Not surprisingly, Joshua Newman, the editor of the controversial, youth-skewed Heeb, was one of the editors invited. His magazine has successfully explored the intersection of Jewish and secular culture, and has attracted a large audience of the even more elusive 18- to 35-year-old Jews. It has done so, in part, by tweaking or ignoring coverage that traditional Jewish magazines emphasize: Israel, the Holocaust, organized Jewish life.

One thing we editors agreed on was that the nature of our profession is, like much in the Jewish world, changing.

In the not-so-recent past, much of what we wrote about, even as exposes, was parochial compared to the general press: which Jewish organization did what to whom, the latest from Israel, the most notable Jew of the week (astronaut, movie star, baseball player — you name it).

But beginning with the front-page news of the Oslo accords, Jewish news became international news. Certainly after the election of George W. Bush and the terror attack of 9/11, the coverage of faith, ethnic identity and how they dovetail with the world at large took on a vital importance.

“The Jewish story became the national story,” said J.J. Goldberg, editor of The Forward. “Religion reporting became central to all reporting.”

The intifada and the subsequent vilification of Israel in much of the mainstream press only upped the ante for Jewish papers. “We became a source for more accurate reporting,” said Meir Waintroter, who edits L’Arche, a Parisian-based monthly.

In fact, the reality of anti-Semitism in our daily professional life was one glaring difference between the American editors at the conference and their European and Eastern European counterparts. We Americans rarely look over our shoulders to see which non-Jewish enemies will take issue with what we print. For some of our colleagues, such trepidation is a fact of life.

When it comes to such issues as Israel and anti-Semitism, Jewish papers are able to provide depth and context that mainstream papers sometimes overlook.

But here’s the balancing act. Just as we recognize our unique role in providing deeper coverage of issues Jews care about, including unsavory aspects of our own communities, there’s also an element of outreach to our mission. If we define “Jewish” too narrowly, we risk alienating large segments of our current and potential readership.

“If we narrow ourselves to issues that are only Jewish defined,” said one editor, “we fail to appeal to readers who feel that Jews have a universal message. We end up creating a Jewish community where most Jews don’t belong.”

And there are not just a few of those Jews. Originally the youth-oriented magazine Heeb sought to “speak to an alienated voice” of disassociated and disconnected young Jews, said Heeb editor Newman. In so doing, the magazine effectively created a new Jewish community.

That, ultimately, is the threefold power of the Jewish press: to strengthen Jewish community through the practice of journalism, to extend the opportunity of Jewish communal life to as many people as possible and, not incidentally, to provide a first draft of Jewish history itself.

Or, as my fellow Yarnton Manor pal Winston Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

 

Singles – Guilt Trip for Two


My parents have given me so much; it’s now time to start giving back to them. I’m referring to guilt in this case. Specifically, guilt about not living up to one’s potential, about not keeping up with the Joneses’ children, about not providing ammunition for bragging rights over Shabbat dinner with friends.

To be fair, my mother is pretty much innocent of the charges. And even my father, the guilty party, would never think of it as such. He merely believes there’s always room for improvement, and always time to mention it. This isn’t just about bringing home an A and being asked why it wasn’t an A+, although that happened often enough. From about junior high onward, there was always another kid who was doing just a little bit more, and a little bit better, that he could throw at me — for my own good, of course.

If poor, sweet Diane S. knew how many times her name was used (in vain) against me, she’d be surprised we were ever friends at all. Diane was taking more AP classes. She could sing her bat mitzvah haftorah portion like an angel. She went to Hebrew High School long after I opted out. She attended shul with her family regularly, without force or bribery.

Then the coup de grace: After college Diane married a nice Jewish lawyer, bought a house, brought forth three perfect children and they all have full dental.

I, meanwhile, moved clear across the country, got work in the film industry without benefits, dated outside the tribe and failed to propagate the species. In sum, I accomplished nothing that dad could talk about over herring at the men’s club on Sundays.

For the first five or 10 years of my L.A. Diaspora, he would send me clippings from The New York Times wedding section of every Jew in the tri-state area who was around my age and had married another Jew. When I asked him what he was doing, he would say oh so innocently that he thought maybe I knew the people in question, and would want to hear about their nachas.

After much pleading, those mailings finally stopped, but the occasional phone calls continued. Oh, not from him — from sons of friends of friends who had been given my number without my prior knowledge. At first I tried a couple of dates, to be polite to my father’s friends’ friends. They were so abysmal that I finally told my father that if he gave my digits out one more time, I would get an unlisted number and not give it to him.

My marital bliss has not been his sole preoccupation. He also suggested any number of professions to dissuade me from my creative pursuits. Not because they would make me happier, but because they were more secure. If I made a good point in an argument with him, he would encourage me to become a lawyer. If I was insightful about an emotional situation, he would recommend psychology (I recommended psychology to him, too, but he didn’t get my drift); something, anything, that would translate to an advanced degree. And if I also happened to meet some nice Jewish boys in my classes, so much the better.

At this point he’s given up, almost. In the last few years, working as a writer, I get to be the one to send clippings. He is wonderfully supportive, and tells me often how proud he is to see my name in print. He then goes on to ask why the publication in question won’t put me on staff already.

I know he’s not trying to be hurtful, but every time he asks why I don’t have a real job, or bemoans my husbandless state, I feel like a failure for not living up to his expectations. We love each other very much, but his idea of success just isn’t the same as mine.

But now, oh sweet vengeance, now it’s my turn, if I want to take it. Because you see, I have not one, but two friends whose fathers have written books. Eve Saltman’s dad wrote “The History and Politics of Voting Technology: In Quest of Integrity and Public Confidence,” which will be published by Palgrave McMillan in a few months. Jenny Frankfurt’s dad wrote “On Bull—-,” a New York Times best seller. He even got to go on “The Daily Show” and trade quips with Jon Stewart.

My dad, who knows a lot about both bull– — and integrity, has written bubkes, a couple of illegible notes at the top of those clippings he sent. Sure, he’s had an honorable career in the diplomatic corps, provided for a family and put four kids through college. He’s funny, affectionate and smart (he will correct the grammar in this piece without prompting). But has he made The New York Times best-seller list? I think not, and it’s my duty as his daughter to make note of it.

Of course, as an alternative, we could both try to appreciate each other just as we are.

On the other hand, what could make a papa more proud than knowing his child takes after him?

Lisa Rosen is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles who writes mostly about pop culture, including movies and television. Her work has also appeared in the magazines L.A. Architect and Better Homes and Gardens.

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Ha’am Hits Stands, Again


UCLA’s 32-year-old Jewish newsmagazine Ha’am has been struggling with growing pains over the past year. Last spring saw the release of their first print edition in five years, and the staff planned to make it a quarterly publication. That’s still the goal, but their follow-up issue just recently hit the stands in time for, again, spring.

“To put it together was kind of a whole new process for all of us,” said Debra Greene, Ha’am’s outgoing editor. “The paper and the staff was pretty much from scratch. We had a good staff in terms of writers and the business manager who did our advertising, but we did have some trouble with design.”

In order to finish designing the newsmagazine, Greene and incoming editor Shiva Ganjian taught themselves how to use the publishing software application QuarkXPress.

“There weren’t many people on staff who knew Quark,” Ganjian said.

Founded by UCLA students in 1972, Ha’am remained in print until about five years ago, when it went exclusively online. With the help of an anonymous $3,018 donation last year, the editorial staff decided to reestablish Ha’am as a print publication. They’ve raised funds since then through advertising, which they plan to increase.

Ha’am currently prints 5,000 copies of their publication, with 3,000 distributed around campus alongside the mainstream student newspaper The Daily Bruin. The remaining 2,000 are dropped at Jewish institutions around Los Angeles.

Ganjian said she will continue to keep the paper online for those who won’t have access to the print version.

After more than a year of restructuring and transitioning, Ganjian anticipates the production of three improved Ha’am issues for the fall, winter and spring quarters. She cites stronger emphasis on design and structure as the means to that end. She also plans to recruit new students every quarter to ensure that the staff remains committed and enthusiastic.

Greene, who will serve as vice president of the Jewish Student Union next year, is also optimistic. Of the Spring 2004 issue, she said, “We have many more articles, a lot more content, and it’s a lot more professional…. We have a strong staff that’s going to stay with us for next year, so we have continuity.”

To visit Ha’am online, go to

Artist Evokes Jewish Strength — Overtly


Five years ago, veteran comic book artist Joe Kubert visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He expected to be moved, but since he and his parents had escaped from Poland before the Nazi genocide began, he assumed his emotional reaction would be relatively contained. Then, he saw something that struck him profoundly: "Yzeran," the name of the shtetl where he had been born, etched on a wall filled with names of towns that had been completely obliterated in World War II.

This one word began a creative odyssey that found its completion this month, with the publication of "Yossel — April 19, 1943," Kubert’s graphic novel about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust — artistic, as well as physical — with the date in the subtitle referring to the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

While many will likely draw parallels to Art Speigelman’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, "Maus," "Yossel" actually mines what is nearly a century-old tradition. Will Eisner, who is popularly credited with the creation of the modern graphic novel, addressed the effects of the Holocaust on an immigrant Bronx family in his comic strip, "The Spirit," which was serialized in newspapers in the 1940s and 1950s; the villains in Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s "Superman" have been viewed as stand-ins for Nazis; and the Escapist, a character in Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Adventures of Kavalier & Klay," is a superhero dedicated to fighting Nazism. But whereas each of these mainstream superheroes carried a subtle message of Jewish strength in the face of oppression, Kubert chose to make this not just a theme but the very substance of his story.

"I feel that if I had lived under the circumstances of the Holocaust, I would have used any scrap of paper I could get my hands on to draw what I would have experienced," said the 77-year-old Kubert, who at age 11 started working in the comics industry as an inker and eventually moved on to edit and draw DC Comics heroes Tarzan, the Flash and Batman.

Indeed, everything about the book’s protagonist is synonymous with the writer — including his name, Yossel, a Yiddishized version of Joe. "Yossel" is a first-person account of the radicalization of a previously ordinary Jewish teenager, the same boy that Kubert believes he would have become had he stayed in Poland. Early in the story, readers are presented with Yossel as a child in Yzeran, the same village where Kubert was born two months before his parents immigrated to the United States in 1926. The drama begins shortly after his family is forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. At first, Yossel’s resistance is artistic, as he sets out to sketch his grim surroundings. But when his parents and sister are sent to Auschwitz, his resistance becomes physical, as he and fellow members of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising reclaim one last shred of humanity by fighting back against their oppressors, despite the revolt’s inherent futility.

The seeds of Yossel’s personal rebellion are first planted when Nazi soldiers stationed in the Warsaw Ghetto take notice of his drawings and mistake his loving depictions of muscled superheroes for sketches of Reich leaders. From then on, Yossel is asked to draw for his captors’ amusement, thrown a few extra scraps of food and subsequently spared the fate of his parents and sister — deportation to Auschwitz — because of his art. Orphaned and hopeless, he is soon infected by the revolutionary spirit of the now-famous resistance movement in Warsaw.

For his research, Kubert scoured dozens of books about the uprising, though he never actually visited the city. He recalled that during his research he was struck by images of Jews being pulled out of cellar windows and Nazis pulling the last remaining Jews out of the ghetto — images that are clearly recreated in the book.

"I wanted readers to feel as if they were actually there, watching the events unfold," Kubert said of his drawing style.

Unlike "Maus" — which, like most graphic novels, was drawn in ink with story boxes fit into uniform squares — Kubert’s images blend into one another. His trademark pencil drawings give the pages a raw, impressionistic style. Kubert also selected a heavy gray stock for the book’s pages, because he wanted the paper to feel like something someone could have used at that time, under those circumstances.

Kubert also had a large role in the design of the book’s cover, the image of an outstretched arm, sleeve rolled up to reveal tattooed numbers reaching out against a striped background.

"The cover drawing to me is indicative of the entire Holocaust," he said. "This graphic vision just hits me. There is something about the scrawny arm that says to me more about what happened during the Holocaust than a drawing of a gas chamber."

Despite his skill as a draftsman, Kubert said that he finds text more evocative than drawings.

"I don’t think anything is more powerful than the written word," he said. "However, graphic novels are what I do best. If I were to keep a diary, I would do it in sketch form."

Objecting to Guardian’s Anti-Israel Bias


As you might have heard, I’m leaving The Guardian next year for The Times, having finally been convinced that my evil populist philistinism has no place in a publication read by so many all-round, top-drawer plaster saints. (Well, that and the massive wad they’ve waved at me.)

Once there, I will compose as many love letters to the likes of Mr. Murdoch and President Bush as my black little heart desires, leaving those who have always objected to my presence on such a fine, liberal newspaper as this to read only writers they agree with, with no chance of spoiled digestion as the Muesli goes down the wrong way if I so much as murmur about bringing back hanging — public.

Not only do I admire The Guardian, I also find it fun to read, which in a way is more of a compliment. But if there is one issue that has made me feel less loyal to my newspaper over the past year, it has been what I, as a non-Jew, perceive to be a quite striking bias against the State of Israel. Which, for all its faults, is the only country in that barren region that you or I, or any feminist, atheist, homosexual or trade unionist could bear to live under.

I find this hard to accept, because crucially, I don’t swallow the modern liberal line that anti-Zionism is entirely different from anti-Semitism — the first good, the other bad. Judeophobia — as the brilliant collection of essays, “A New Anti-Semitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain” (axt.org.uk), published this year, points out — is a shape-shifting virus, as opposed to the straightforward stereotypical prejudice applied to other groups (Irish: stupid, Japanese: cruel, Germans: humorless, etc.).

Jews, historically, have been blamed for everything we might disapprove of: They can be rabid revolutionaries, responsible for the might of the late Soviet empire, and the greediest of fat cats, enslaving the planet to the demands of international high finance.

They are insular, cliquey and clannish, yet they worm their way into the highest positions of power in their adopted countries, changing their names and marrying non-Jewish women. They collectively possess a huge, slippery wealth that knows no boundaries –yet Israel is said to be an impoverished, lame-duck state, bleeding the West dry.

If you take into account the theory that Jews are responsible for everything nasty in the history of the world and also the recent E.U. survey that found 60 percent of Europeans believe Israel is the biggest threat to peace in the world today (hmm, I must have missed all those rabbis telling their flocks to go out with bombs strapped to their bodies and blow up the nearest mosque), it’s a short jump to reckoning that it was obviously a bloody good thing that the Nazis got rid of 6 million of the buggers.

Perhaps this is why sales of “Mein Kampf” are so buoyant from the Middle Eastern bazaars unto the Edgware Road, and why “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” could be found for sale at the recent anti-racism Congress in Durban, South Africa.

The fact that many non-Jews and Arabs are rabidly Judeophobic, while many others are as horrified by Judeophobia as by any other type of racism, makes me believe that anti-Semitism/Zionism is not a political position (otherwise the right and the left, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Ku Klux Klan would not be able to unite so uniquely in their hatred), but about how an individual feels about himself.

I can’t help noticing that, over the years, a disproportionate number of attractive, kind, clever people are drawn to Jews; those who express hostility to them, however, from Hitler to Hamza, are often as not repulsive freaks.

Think of famous anti-Zionist windbags — [Vanessa] Redgrave, [Patricia] Highsmith, [George] Galloway — and what dreary, dysfunctional, po-faced vanity confronts us. When we consider famous Jew-lovers, on the other hand –Marilyn, Ava, Liz, Felicity Kendal, me — what a sumptuous banquet of radiant humanity we look upon!

How fitting that it was Richard Ingrams –Victor Meldrew without the animal magnetism — who this summer proclaimed in The Observer that he refuses to read letters from Jews about the Middle East and that Jewish journalists should declare their racial origins when writing on this subject.

Replying in another newspaper, Johann Hari suggested sarcastically that their bylines might be marked with a yellow star, and asked why Ingrams didn’t want to know whether those writing on international conflicts were Muslim, Christian, Sikh or Hindu.

The answer is obvious to me: poor Ingrams is a miserable, bitter, hypocritical cuckold, whose much-younger girlfriend has written at length in the public arena of the boredom, misery and alcoholism to which living with him has led her, and whose trademark has long been a loathing for anyone who appears to get a kick out of life: the young, the prole, independent women. The Jews are in good company.

Judeophobia: Where the political is personal, and the personal pretends to be political, and those swarthy/pallid/philistine/aggressive/cowardly/comically bourgeois/filthy-rich/delete-as-mood-takes-you bastards always get the girl. I’ll return to this dirty little secret masquerading as a moral stance next week, and, rest assured, it’ll get much nastier.

As the darling Jews themselves would say (annoyingly, but then, nobody’s perfect), enjoy!

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited.


Julie Burchill is a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian.

The Protocols Come to L.A. — in Russian


The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" have come to Los Angeles. On its 100th anniversary, the vicious, primitive forgery has struck again, this time in a Russian-language tabloid circulated in the heavily Russian Jewish neighborhoods around West Hollywood.

First published on August 28, 1903, the "Protocols" have been translated and published all over the world — including the United States — in dozens of languages. They have been exposed again and again as forgeries by courts, by investigative reporters of respectable publications and by scholarly analyses conducted by reputable scholars. The original sources from which this abomination was copied are known. They have nothing to do with Jews but still they keep rising from the dead like vampires in Hollywood movies.

This time the "Protocols" were presented as historical fact in the most unlikely venue: Kontakt, a Russian-language Los Angeles weekly serving a predominantly Jewish readership. Kontakt is owned by Vladimir Parenago, who bought the publication a few years ago. Generally clad in black and sporting a large crucifix on a necklace, he bills himself as a "healer" and "mystic."

His wife, Lyubov Parenago, is the editor of Kontakt. It was her signed editorial that discussed the "Protocols" and listed the important lessons Kontakt’s readers could learn from studying them.

She presented the "Protocols" as historical fact and as a true exposé of "the special secret [Jewish] plan to control all the world’s finances." She explained that the plan was adopted at a meeting that took place at the home of Meier Rothschild in 1773, to where he had invited 12 of the world’s most influential bankers — including six members of the Rothschild family — to take part in the conspiracy. The result was "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Reaction to the publication among Russian Jews has been angry and intense, but has largely been kept within the community. For many immigrants, dissent and criticism are still frightening and uncomfortable, so the reaction of most of the Russian Jews has consisted of complaining to one another, contacting people who are seen as a bridge between "Americans" and "Russians," and writing letters, mostly unsigned, to Washington, Sacramento, the LAPD, City Hall and Russian-language radio, TV and newspapers.

In addition, the two largest immigrant groups — World War II Veterans and Holocaust Survivors — sent letters to Kontakt.

The letters were never published. But in the most recent issue of Kontakt, Lyubov Parenago admitted that she has received many letters, some of them complimentary, others viciously hostile.

"Obviously those who were offended suffer from a lack of a sense of humor," she wrote.

Reader e-mails obtained by The Journal ranged from "What on earth were they thinking of?" to "These anti-Semites should go back to Russia where they will feel right at home." The most extensive and literate e-mail was from a local immigrant, Viktor K., who sent a copy of a letter he wrote to Kontakt. Here are some excerpts translated from the Russian:

"You must be aware that this year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of the ‘Protocols’ — the major historical forgery of the 20th century that was the ideological justification for pre-revolutionary pogroms, as well as the anti-Jewish atrocities of the White forces and the suffering of thousands. This forgery was exposed more than 80 years ago but it is still being used today by Hitlerite nazis, Islamic fundamentalists and assorted anti-Semites. This is why your publication of an additional ‘Protocol’ that is connected with the Rothschild family and predates the other by 130 years is a very personal contribution on your part… Later you informed your readers that it was all a joke and bemoaned the absence of a sense of humor among your readers. Well, your sense of humor is impressive."

Reached by phone, Lyubov Parenago said she was genuinely puzzled at what she saw as a lack of appreciation by the Jewish community. "I print stories about Israel," she said. "I support Jewish causes, I publicize Russian Jewish artists touring the United States. This was a fantasy that shouldn’t have been taken seriously, it was just advice on how to become rich, the Rothschild plan was never seen or read by anyone, it was a service to the community."

Lyubov Parenago then went on to deny that the "Protocols" she published were the actual ones. "This story wasn’t about the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’" she said, "it was about a different ‘Protocol,’ a different plot, a different idea, a Rothschild idea. How could anyone think that I would publish those ‘Protocols?’

"I can express my opinion," she went on. "I can say what I think in this free country. Why this hostile reaction? I don’t understand."


Si Frumkin is chairman of the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews.

Censoring Mr. Spock


Naked women covered in … tallitot and tefillin? The black-and-white photographs in "Shekhina" (Umbrage Editions, $39.95) a new book by Leonard Nimoy — a.k.a. "Star Trek’s" Mr. Spock — have ignited a debate in the Jewish community over art and censorship.

The storm over "Shekhina" — a kabbalistic term for the feminine aspect of the divine spirit — erupted after Nimoy embarked on a 26-city promotional tour that included a lecture at the Skirball Cultural Center last September.

Nimoy backed out of an Oct. 23 Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle fundraising dinner after a dispute began over his desire to show slides and discuss his monograph.

Barry Goren, executive director of the Seattle federation, said the group was not trying to act as some kind of "Ayatollah Khomeini," but felt it wasn’t a good idea to have Nimoy show potentially controversial slides at the dinner.

Nimoy’s works exploring Judaism and kabbalah blend light and shadow, figures and abstraction. Most of the book’s 54 photos are of nude women, many wearing prayer shawls and tefillin.

Nimoy, for his part, is not entirely upset by his 15 minutes of infamy.

"Let’s face it: I did the book in order to shine a light on an idea," he said, and the Seattle’s Jewish federation "shined a light on my book." — Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Local Victory


The publication of the "Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary" points to a significant achievement for the Los Angeles Jewish community. The Chumash is the first Torah and Haftarah commentary published by the Conservative movement.

"The Conservative movement doesn’t begin and end in New York City," said Rabbi David Lieber, senior editor of "Etz Hayim" and president emeritus of the University of Judaism (UJ) in Los Angeles. "It is clear that we’re dealing with a worldwide movement," says Lieber, who served as UJ’s president for 29 years before he retired in 1993, and was the first West Coast president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the Conservative movement’s rabbinic arm, from 1996-1998. He was also instrumental in the 1996 founding of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies — the first place outside of New York to ordain Conservative rabbis.

"It is clear that in the last 20-odd years, Los Angeles has come of age in terms of Judaism generally and certainly in terms of the Conservative movement," Lieber says.

In taking the leadership of the "Etz Hayim" project, Lieber committed himself to assuring that the diversity of the movement be reflected in the 1,560-page volume, which is expected to replace the Hertz Chumash in Conservative congregations.

"My intention was that "Etz Hayim" really, truly be representative of the Conservative movement. That is why we cast our net very broadly. Among our writers we have women; we have people from Israel, from Europe, from all over the United States and Canada representing the right wing, the left wing and the center of the Conservative movement," Lieber says.

One of the first tasks Lieber faced when the Rabbinical Assembly conceived the project in 1987 was to bring together the different arms of the movement. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the umbrella organization for congregations, took charge of publicity and marketing. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS), which is not officially connected to the Conservative movement, provided the biblical text in Hebrew and English, as well as its five-volume Torah commentary, which was published in stages beginning in 1989. The Rabbinical Assembly was in charge of the rest.

The project cost $2 million, some of which was raised through dedication pages at the beginning of the book — at a cost of $250,000 per dedication. Bruce and Shelly Whizin, who founded the Whizin Center for the Jewish Future at UJ, dedicated the book in memory of their parents, Shirley and Arthur Whizin.

By 1991, Lieber had assembled a team of editors and contributors.

"I was very fortunate in being able to get two of my close friends to be major editors — Chaim Potok and Harold Kushner," Lieber says.

Potok, a Conservative rabbi and author of "The Chosen," was responsible for taking the JPS Torah commentary and whittling it down to one-tenth of its size for the p’shat portion of the commentary, which elucidates the simple meaning of the text. Kushner compiled the more esoteric d’rash section, using material from Midrash and Chassidic sources as well as contemporary authors. Professor Michael Fishbane of the University of Chicago wrote the Haftarah commentary, and Rabbi Jules Harlow, editor of the "Sim Shalom Siddur," came out of retirement to serve as literary editor.

Rabbi Susan Grossman, who leads a congregation in Maryland, and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and professor of philosophy at University of Judaism, collaborated to put together the Halakhah l’Ma-aseh section, which connects the text to Jewish law.

Among the 41 essays at the back of the book are several by Los Angeles rabbis, including: UJ president Robert Wexler on Ancient Near Easter Mythology; Rabbi Debra Orenstein of Makom Ohr Shalom on the matriarchs and patriarchs; and Temple Beth Am’s Rabbi Joel Rembaum on relations with gentiles. UJ’s Dorff contributed three essays on theories of revelation, justice and halacha; Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe writes on Midrash; UJ professor of rabbinic literature Rabbi Ben Zion Bergman, on civil and criminal law; Lieber, on covenant; and Rabbi Daniel Gordis and Hanan Alexander, both formerly of UJ and now living in Israel, on ecology and education.

"It was a labor of love, and the most wonderful thing about this was the cooperation of everybody who participated. It was really quite extraordinary," Lieber says.

Lieber believes the new volume will make a significant contribution to Jewish life.

"This is the first commentary officially published by the Conservative movement, and if you study the commentary you’ll get a direct picture of what Conservative Judaism is all about," Lieber says. "Aside from that, I think this is an important contribution to the study of Chumash generally. It will be of interest to some Reform congregations, and I’m sure a number of Orthodox rabbis will be reading it, because it is the most up-to-date commentary on the Chumash that is in existence."

Rabbi Harold Kushner will be the featured guest at a reception celebrating the publication of "Etz Hayim" Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7:15 p.m. at the Gindi Auditorium at UJ. $15. For more information call (310) 440-1246.

Haggadot 2000


A 1998 article about Chicago collector Stephen Durschslag’s haggadah collection set the number of different haggadot on his shelves at 4,500, increasing almost daily.

It’s probably impossible to know how many haggadot exist, but it’s obvious that for every Jew, there should be a haggadah that fits like a glove.

In Every Generation —

Escape and Survival

One of the few new haggadot this spring is a fascinating reminder of the parallels between our ancient and more recent past. A Survivor’s Haggadah (Jewish Publication Society, 2000) is a facsimile of a work written in 1945-46 by Lithuanian survivor/ teacher/ writer Yosef Dov Sheinson. Used during the first post-liberation Passover seder in Munich, in April 1946, the original booklet was found by editor Saul Touster of Brandeis among his father’s papers and serves as the source for this edition.

Professor Touster’s introduction and commentary are revealing and jarring, in keeping with the powerful words by Sheinson and the woodcuts by another survivor, Mikls Adler. To read of the DP camps and initial Allied political insensitivities is to be angered; to read Sheinson’s text indicting factionalism among the Jews within the camps (as among the Israelites in the desert) is to be bemused; to read of the roles played by Rabbi Abraham J. Klausner and other U.S. chaplains in “organizing” for the Saved Remnant is to be inspired; to trace through word and woodcut these dual stories of deliverance is to be moved beyond words.

Contemporary User-

Friendly Haggadot

A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah by Noam Zion and David Dishon (Shalom Hartman Institute, 1997) is especially designed to let you plan seder length to what your group can handle. Suggested thought questions, quotations from myriad sources, cartoons, and artwork from more formal sources are included, and the book is guaranteed to involve everyone.

Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, with rabbis Eugene Kohn and Ira Eisenstein, edited a breakthrough haggadah, The New Haggadah (Behrman House) for the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation in 1941. A 1999 Behrman House revision, prepared by an editorial committee of outstanding young rabbis and retitled The New American Haggadah, includes songs by Debbie Friedman and references to civil rights and other timely issues — and you’ll be able to read the typeface.

Among other fine and friendly table haggadot are the abridged Family Passover Haggadah by Elie M. Gindi (SPI Books), a real labor of love that incorporates illustrations from ancient illuminations to photographs to animation figures with ideas and questions scattered throughout.

Tents of Jacob and

Tongues of Exile

Haggadah from Four Corners of the Earth by Ben Cohen and Maya Keliner (1997) is recommended for families with multilingual guests, since it combines the Hebrew text with linear translations in English, Russian, Spanish and French. Nicely designed and certainly indicative of the diversity of Am Yisrael.

To obtain information on haggadot in Hebrew and other languages (e.g., Hebrew-Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish), go online to http://www.books international.com/hags.htm. Questions can be directed to info@booksinternational.com. This company is based in Israel, so don’t count on quick delivery. Check local sources first.

Haggadah


A 1998 article about Chicago collector Stephen Durschslag’s haggadah collection set the number of different haggadot on his shelves at 4,500, increasing almost daily.

It’s probably impossible to know how many haggadot exist, but it’s obvious that for every Jew, there should be a haggadah that fits like a glove. In Every Generation — Escape and Survival

One of the few new haggadot this spring is a fascinating reminder of the parallels between our ancient and more recent past. A Survivor’s Haggadah (Jewish Publication Society, 2000) is a facsimile of a work written in 1945-46 by Lithuanian survivor/ teacher/ writer Yosef Dov Sheinson. Used during the first post-liberation Passover seder in Munich, in April 1946, the original booklet was found by editor Saul Touster of Brandeis among his father’s papers and serves as the source for this edition.

Professor Touster’s introduction and commentary are revealing and jarring, in keeping with the powerful words by Sheinson and the woodcuts by another survivor, Mikls Adler. To read of the DP camps and initial Allied political insensitivities is to be angered; to read Sheinson’s text indicting factionalism among the Jews within the camps (as among the Israelites in the desert) is to be bemused; to read of the roles played by Rabbi Abraham J. Klausner and other U.S. chaplains in “organizing” for the Saved Remnant is to be inspired; to trace through word and woodcut these dual stories of deliverance is to be moved beyond words. Contemporary User-Friendly Haggadot

A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah by Noam Zion and David Dishon (Shalom Hartman Institute, 1997) is especially designed to let you plan seder length to what your group can handle. Suggested thought questions, quotations from myriad sources, cartoons, and artwork from more formal sources are included, and the book is guaranteed to involve everyone.

Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, with rabbis Eugene Kohn and Ira Eisenstein, edited a breakthrough haggadah, The New Haggadah (Behrman House) for the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation in 1941. A 1999 Behrman House revision, prepared by an editorial committee of outstanding young rabbis and retitled The New American Haggadah, includes songs by Debbie Friedman and references to civil rights and other timely issues — and you’ll be able to read the typeface.

Among other fine and friendly table haggadot are the abridged Family Passover Haggadah by Elie M. Gindi (SPI Books), a real labor of love that incorporates illustrations from ancient illuminations to photographs to animation figures with ideas and questions scattered throughout.

Tents of Jacob and Tongues of Exile

Haggadah from Four Corners of the Earth by Ben Cohen and Maya Keliner (1997) is recommended for families with multilingual guests, since it combines the Hebrew text with linear translations in English, Russian, Spanish and French. Nicely designed and certainly indicative of the diversity of Am Yisrael.

To obtain information on haggadot in Hebrew and other languages (e.g., Hebrew-Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish), go online to http://www.books international.com/hags.htm. Questions can be directed to info@booksinternational.com. This company is based in Israel, so don’t count on quick delivery. Check local sources first.