According to some published reports, there are over 7,000 printed versions of the haggadah. And every year seems to bring a new group of haggadot that appeal to a different constituency. An issue that our family faces every year is what kind of Haggadah to use at our seder. The first night is geared just for our immediate family, but on the second night, we open it up to a larger group, many of whom are frum, but others who aren’t. We want everyone to feel comfortable but over the years it has proven a challenge to keep those with minimal backgrounds engaged.
That’s why when I saw the newly released The Jewish Journey Haggadah by Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz (Gefen Publishers) I felt that our problem had been solved. This is a user-friendly family Haggadah that is perfect for those of any background. It features the full traditional Hebrew text, together with an easy-to-read translation and transliteration. The photos by Shira-Hecht Koller are simply gorgeous.
It has color coding for different features such as questions to ask, a kid’s corner, as well as meaningful commentary, stories, fun holiday parody songs and jokes. There are multiple translations of Ma Nishtanah, not only into English but Ladino, Arabic, Spanish, French, Yiddish and Russian. There are even Seder recipes by chef Amy Rosen, including a Sephardic charoset, along with activities to delight both adults and children. I reached out to Rabbanit Berkowitz to explain what motivated her to write this.
She shared with me that “one of the most often asked questions at a seder is ‘when do we eat?’ While it is natural to be hungry given the late hour of the seder, I wanted to design a haggadah that would keep hosts and guests so engaged that they would forget to ask that question! I wanted to have a Haggadah that would help make the Passover story come alive and convey the vibrancy of our mesorah, our tradition in a way that everyone can find meaning. And most of all realize the power of Pesach and it’s message for today.”
In this Haggadah, you will find contrasting views as to how much you can eat at the first dipping, as well as the origin of the word ‘afikomen”. Within The Jewish Journey Haggadah, you can find references to seder customs not only of Ashkenazic Jews, but Sephardic and Yemenite Jews as well. You can read about the experiences of Russian Jews, Ethiopian Jews as well as Holocaust survivors.
One of the most moving stories concerned a Holocaust survivor who was a slave laborer in a salt mine, where the Nazis had the prisoners work on building rockets. Many years later the survivor was invited back by the then East German government as part of a program reaching out to Holocaust survivors. She returned to the mine where she had been enslaved and one of the engineers who was there broke off a large piece of salt and told her to take it home as a remembrance of her years as a prisoner. When she returned to the U.S., she realized what she would use it for: Every year before the Pesach seder, she would break off a piece of the salt and drop it in water, making the salt water for her seder from the very salt in the mine where she had been a prisoner !
Reading that story reminded me of the idea in “B’chol dor vador”— in every generation we must all concretize for ourselves, we must actually see and feel as if we left Egypt. I learned in this haggadah that it was Maimonides, Rambam who changed the text of the Hebrew word to ‘liharot- not just to see but rather to demonstrate.
In this Haggadah, there are various creative ways discussed how to bring the seder text to life by demonstrating, by “acting out“ different parts, and in so doing making the reader feel the backbreaking labor and the deprivations of Egypt and the joy of liberation. If you are looking for a Haggadah that is insightful, easy to use, and can appeal to people of various backgrounds, look no further. The Jewish Journey Haggadah should find a place on everybody’s table. And I think Rabbanit Berkowitz is right. You’ll forget to ask ‘When do we eat?!
(Available on Amazon and local Jewish bookstores.)
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