The Many Seders of Passover


The Family Participation Haggadah
By Noam Zion and David Dishon.
160 pages. Shalom Hartman Institute. $17.95.


The authors, affiliated with the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, begin with the Judaically and educationally correct premise that the seder is and ought to be a wonderful example of teaching and learning by doing. "You shall tell your child about the Exodus," the Torah commands, and this haggadah is designed to permit you to do just that. It retains the traditional text and adds rabbinic stories, ancient interpretations, bits of Zionist and Holocaust history--all in a child-friendly environment. It is beautifully and diversely illustrated with everything from Chagall and Ben Shahn pieces to medieval woodcuts to children's drawings. Various artistic renderings of the Four Sons are sprinkled throughout in an effort to elicit questioning and discussion. Two caveats: the child-oriented games can get a bit cloying, as in a proposed contest to name the "yukkiest plague." And the Hebrew typeface is a bit small in places.

Edited by Herbert Bronstein.
Illustrated by Leonard Baskin.
123 pages. Central Conference of American Rabbis. $20.

This Reform rabbinical organization omits a good deal of the Hebrew text and seems to presuppose a relatively short, streamlined seder. The haggadah is beautifully designed, with drawings by contemporary artist Leonard Baskin, and brings in very appropriate and well-chosen readings from a number of sources: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Erich Fromm, Hasidic tales, the Book of Psalms. The karpas--spring vegetable--portion of the ceremony is accompanied here by a passage from the Song of Songs. "For lo, the winter is past. Flowers appear on the earth." An excellent idea. Still, the balance seems somewhat off center: Why skip some traditional portions of the maggid--the narrative section--and devote two dozen out of just over one hundred pages to the musical notation of Passover Songs?

Edited by Rachel Anne Rabinowicz
120 pages. United Synagogue Book Service. $12.95.

This is the Conservative movement's version of the haggadah and it includes nearly all the traditional words of the text. An attractively produced book as well, it relies quite successfully on a series of bright-colored abstract shapes to create a warm, expansive mood. There are a few new insertions into the text and a commentary, neatly placed in the margins, illuminates the concepts behind the haggadah. In addition to the traditional four cups of wine, this version features a "fifth cup" ceremony based on the ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora to Israel.

A Passover Haggadah
Edited by Joy Levitt and Michael Strassfeld.
Illustrated by Jeffrey Schrier.
160 pages. Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. $18.

We were slaves in Egypt, but that will never really be past tense until messianic redemption. That is one of themes running through the commentary of A Night of Questions published under the auspices of the Reconstructionist movement. The poetry, story, art and prayer selected here deepens one's understanding of the seder. This is a thinking family's haggadah, particularly intriguing for the way it regards skepticism as a tenet of faith. Reconstructionist Jews do not necessarily except the Exodus as historical truth. What impresses them most about Passover is the way ritual and symbolism have endured and inspired Jews for thousands of years.

Three Haggadot
Compiled by the New Jewish Agenda.
103 pages. Lambda Publishers.

In his introduction, Rabbi Arthur Waskow explains that "the very word haggadah (literally, 'telling') teaches us to rewrite the haggadah." These seders, three haggadot within one book, offer several opportunities for social action. The book includes a "Rainbow Seder," originally written for Passover 1969, the first anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. There is a "Seder of the Children of Abraham," focusing on building bridges between Arabs and Jews; and a "haggadah of Liberation," which began as a collection of stories on women's liberation, and now reads as tales of resistance, that occurred mostly during the Holocaust.

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel.
KTAV Publishers. $10.

The traditional text is interspersed with blessings that are translated into Ladino--a mixture of medieval Spanish and Hebrew. In his introduction, Rabbi Angel states that "the purpose of this haggadah is to bring Sephardic insights and practices to the seder tables of our generation." The commentary of Sephardic sages enlivens the Exodus story as does presenting various customs such as placing the afikomen inside of a sack and having everyone at the seder placing it over his or her shoulder to experience the Israelites' burdens as they left Egypt.

Translated by Yehoshua Starret.
Compiled by Chaim Kramer.
Edited by Moshe Mykoff
256 pages. Breslov Research Institute. $16.

Coming from a traditional perspective, the commentaries in this haggadah are from the luminous teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Metaphors about connection and light abound in the text. Although, the language is patriarchal, this haggadah may be the perfect supplement to more basic story lines.

Seder Night with Reb Shlomo
Edited by Chaim Stefanksy.
182 pages. Urim Publications. $17.

The traditional haggadah is enriched with running commentary by the late Reb Shlomo Carlebach. During the Four Questions, Reb Shlomo interjects his own questions for God. "God in heaven, why is this night so long? Why is exile so long? Above all, I don't understand, how are we so free? We were celebrating Pesach in Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Yidden would get together late at night and they would sing Mah Nishtanah." The poignant commentaries are often long and detailed, fulfilling the commandment of prolonging the telling of the Exodus. There are no transliterations here and little diversion for children. Still, some of the stories can supplement other primary haggadot. Calebach's followers will be delighted to celebrate Passover with the words of their late Rebbe.

By Elie Wiesel.
Illustrated by Mark Podwal.
144 pages. Simon & Schuster. $30.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel graces the miraculous tale of the haggadah with his inspired, poetic interpretations, reminiscences, and instructive retellings of ancient legends that interweave past and present. The text is further enhanced by over forty of Mark Podwal's ingenious and inventive drawings, filled with fresh juxtapositions of understanding and revelation.

By Yosef Dov Sheinson.
Edited by Saul Touster.
158 pages. Jewish Publication Society. $50.

This haggadah is a stunning testament to miracles. Written in 1945 by Yosef Dov Sheinson, a survivor of Dachau, it was intended to supplement the original Exodus story. Today it stands as a living history, eerily intertwining the story of Passover with that of the Holocaust in prose that is as stark as the black and white woodcuts interspersed throughout the text.

Featuring the Medieval Illuminations from the Haggadah Collection of the British Library
Edited by Michael Shire.
64 pages. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. $17.

This haggadah features remarkable illustrations amplifying the themes of the Exodus from the medieval texts collected in the British library. As the subtitle implies, with its one hundred plus illustrations, this is also a tribute to the art of illumination. The notable illuminations include vines running down the margins of the page, elaborate renditions of Hebrew letters and iconic depictions of biblical scenes. This is a visual feast that celebrates the glory and the majesty of Passover.

Compiled by David Geffen.
Designed by Stuart E. Eizenstat.
120 pages. Gefen Books. $30.

This unique haggadah combines traditional Judaism with the kitsch of Americana. The Hebrew text and English translation (no transliterations here) are accompanied by fun facts from the history of the American Jewish Passover. Geffen reproduces ads for Passover products and haggadot offered by banks and other commercial concerns. (And you thought Maxwell House was the only one!) There are color photographs of American seder plates, a 1921 advertisement from State Bank offering a Passover savings plan that "frees you from financial bondage," and a copy of a dispensation issued in 1933 by Governor Eugene Talmadge of Georgia allowing for a Jewish prisoner to receive matzah.

By Karen Roekard.
80 pages.The Hineni Consciousness Press. $6.

The nonconformist artwork--the cover pictures a figure that looks like a cross between Moses and gnome making the victory sign with an expression of utter tranquility--presages the engaging and unabashedly "new-age" text. The haggadah is based on the concept of not only looking back to when we were slaves in Egypt, but to also connecting with other groups who are enslaved or endangered such as the homeless, those discriminated against because of their age, sex, sexual preferences. The text also points out how people compromise their freedom by not taking risks, repeating futile words and failing to ask questions.

Edited by M. Borisute.
114 pages. Rishon Publications. $9.

This user-friendly haggadah will appeal to those with little or no knowledge of Hebrew. All prayers and songs appear in Hebrew and English, with transliteration. The Passover story is presented straightforwardly, although references to God are mostly masculine. Other haggadot should be consulted for activities to entertain younger children or discussion ideas that stimulate further debate.

Edited by Roberta Kalechofsky.
Micah Publications. $15.

Compiled from two earlier versions, The Journey of the Liberated Lamb and The Haggadah for the Vegetarian Family, this haggadah offers a collection of readings and ideas related to developing and articulating a respect for all living beings. There is a lot of material to digest here; the telling becomes extremely long, and the many readings--most in poetic form and varying in quality and interest--are presented in Hebrew and English.


Womans Institute of Contemporary Jewish Education. $8.

Published in 1980, this is the grandmother of the feminist haggadah. The editors suggest that the seventh night of Passover is the time "when we could rest and recline as free women." The women who developed this seder have created specific rituals for their group: embroidering a pillow with that year's leader's name on it, reading entries from an annual writing contest, and giving away a tuition-free class as an afikomen prize. The Four Questions are directed at four foremothers: the judge and prophet Deborah ("Mother, why is this night different from all other nights?") to B'ruria, a scholar from talmudic times; to Hannah Senesh, a martyr to Zionism during the Holocaust; and to Gluckel of Hamlen, a medieval mother and businesswoman whose memoirs tell of her strength and character.

A Jewish Women's Celebration of Passover
Edited by Elaine Moise and Rebecca Schwartz.
36 pages. Rikudei Miriam.

The editors note that this haggadah is meant to supplement more traditional haggadot. They advise their readers to use "the framework of Passover and the liberation from Egypt as a metaphor through which to view the journeys and struggles of Jewish women." The voices of Sarah, Leah and Rachel mingle with those of Anne Frank, Emma Goldman and Queen Esther in the women-centered prayers and rituals that include preparing Miriam's Cup and placing an orange on the seder plate. This haggadah is filled with singing and dancing; it is a celebration of freedom as well as the hope that redemption is near.

The Ma'yan haggadah
Edited by Tamara R. Cohen.
128 pages. Ma'yan: The Jewish Women's Project. $12.

This haggadah was first developed for women's seders, and it is designed to be used for both alternative evening seders for women alone as well as a supplement to the family seder. It offers a full spectrum of possibilities--from choosing feminist readings to add to another seder, to using this as the sole haggadah for a family seder; the entire traditional seder is included in the Hebrew. To that end, on almost every page there is something added to the basic seder. For example, there might be a beautiful commentary explaining a Hebrew word, a section of the seder, or the editors' choices. "To answer why this night is different we begin the first telling of the story of slavery and redemption. Here the traditional text alternates with the imagined voices of Shifra and Puah, the Hebrew midwives whose heroism opens the Exodus story." Innovative rituals are also collected in this volume, presented with interesting photographs and artwork, and plenty of inspiring readings.

The Women's Haggadah
By E.M. Broner and Naomi Nimrod.
224 pages. Harper Collins.

This haggadah originated at a feminist seder and was popularized by Ms. magazine. "In small enclaves," the author writes, "women began meeting at holiday time [in the 1970s] and inserting themselves into text or composing new text." What emerged is this thin volume that contains a lot of good poetry (in modern Hebrew and English) and that celebrates women's roles in the Exodus from Egypt. But as a manual to conduct the seder, this does not serve as a haggadah. It follows neither the plan of the haggadah nor its text. It is perhaps best to use The Women's haggadah in conjunction with another more primary manual. However, bear in mind that its rich source of additional readings makes the seder an uplifting occasion for the women present.