Haggadah Recommendations for Your Passover Seder – Museum at Eldridge Street Blog
“The more one talks about the Exodus, the more praise one deserves.”
You’ve cooked a delicious meal, invited family and other loved ones. But there is one more thing you can do to add flavor and lively discussion to your Passover Seder: choose a compelling Haggadah. Traditional, traditional with a twist, scholarly, feminist, kid-friendly – there are many directions you can take. On a quest for Haggadah suggestions, I turned to four sources: Alan Adler, owner of Streit’s Matzo and the great-grandson of founder Aron Streit; Rabbi David Kalb; author Letty Cottin Pogrebin; and Museum at Eldridge Street scholar in residence Dr. Regina Stein.
Which specific Haggadot did our sources recommend? I’ve organized them in categories (of my own invention, not theirs) and am sharing their thoughtful recommendations here:
A word about the word traditional. I use it with some hesitation realizing that what is traditional for some is unconventional for others. These Haggadahs are beloved by many and reflect the spectrum of Jewish practice.
The ArtScroll Family Haggadah – By Rabbi Joseph Elias
First published in 1976, the ArtScroll Haggadah is a fixture at many a Passover Seder. According to Rabbi David Kalb: “An overall very good translation. The Hebrew text is put together beautifully. The notes explaining what is done at each point at the Seder are excellent.”
The Feast of Freedom Haggadah – By Rachel Anne Rabbinowicz
Alan Adler: “We have a large collection of Haggadot but I like the Feast of Freedom the best. It has interesting and thought-provoking liner notes along with the usual Haggadah text, prayers and songs.”
A Night of Questions – By Rabbi Joy Levitt and Rabbi Michael Strassfeld
Letty Cottin Pogrebin: “We use this Haggadah for the traditional Seder prayers.” (I second the use of this Haggadah which is both accessible and yet rooted in tradition. It includes ways to incorporate children and encourage their natural sense of investigation during the Seder.)
Maxwell House Haggadah
The Maxwell House Haggadah first saw light of day in 1932. Since then more than 50 million copies have been published. According to Rabbi David Kalb: “People joke about this Haggadah but it is actually pretty good. The translation is fairly accurate. The Hebrew text is in a readable type. A number of the Hebrew sections are transliterated to make it viable for the Non-Hebrew readers to participate. There are also notes that explain what to do for each ritual at the Seder. You cannot beat the price. They are free at the supermarket when you buy some Maxwell House coffee. All in all the Maxwell House Haggadah is good to the last drop.” Read this Forward.com article if you want to know more about its history.
TRADITIONAL WITH A TWIST
A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah – By Noam Zion and David Dishon
This was the only Haggadah recommended by two of the advisors, both Rabbi David Kalb and Dr. Regina Stein, so I am definitely going to check it out for my Seder this year. Dr. Stein liked its drawings and suggestions on how to make the Seder interesting for kids. Check out the “Four Children” section with 20 representations going back as far as 1526. Rabbi Kalb also liked its pictures, and noted the “nicely laid out Hebrew text with a good translation and fascinating commentary. It also gives various alternative options for certain sections of the Haggadah.”
The Telling: Including the Women’s Haggadah – By E.M. Broner
Letty Cottin Pogrebin: “For our annual feminist Seder — this year we will have our 40th! on the third night of Pesach — our basic text is E.M. Broner’s “Women’s Haggadah,” which can be found in her book, The Telling. This text is embellished each year by its participants who always offer midrashim (commentaries) from the perspective of women who for millennia of Jewish history have been relegated to the kitchen and the sidelines. For forty years, at the Feminist Seder, we have brought women out of the desert and into conversation at the table. In addition to the conventional Seder rituals, we put an orange on the Seder plate and add such feminist ceremonies as the blessing over Miriam’s Cup, a woman’s version of “Dayenu,” the Ten Plagues of Women, and the Four Questions of Women. I never leave that Seder without feeling uplifted and inspired.”
Visit the Jewish Women’s Archive here for an article about E.M. Broner’s The Telling and the start of the women’s Seder.
A suggestion I loved came from both Rabbi David Kalb and Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Every year Pogrebin’s family uses a Haggadah that was compiled by her daughter Abigail. According to Pogrebin: “For our family Seders, we use the Haggadah that Abigail created herself which contains wonderful supplementary material, quizzes, new perspectives, and humorous or theatrical educational activities that have engaged everyone at the table, from the youngest child to the oldest of the traditionalists.”
While the idea of creating your own Haggadah may seem daunting, Rabbi David Kalb had a wonderful tip: Go to The Open Source Haggadah Web Site and create your own personalized Haggadah.
The Rose Haggadah – By Barbara Wolff
On view through May 3 at the Morgan Library and Museum
The tradition of illustrated Haggadahs goes back to the Middle Ages. There are many beautiful Haggadahs that you can use or at least peruse – if they are in the collection of a Museum or an individual collector. Go see this beautiful example that is currently on display at the Morgan. It was created by contemporary artist Barbara Wolff for the Rose family using paints on vellum (animal skin) and highlights with silver, gold, and platinum foils.
My Haggadah: The Book of Freedom – By David Moss
Regina Stein: “This is a very special Haggadah, the original is entirely hand-written and hand-illuminated. David Moss is an American-born artist who has lived in Israel for many years.” You can learn about the Moss Haggadah here.
A Passover Haggadah: Drawings by Leonard Baskin
A Passover Haggadah: As Commented Upon by Elie Wiesel and Illustrated by Mark Podwal
Our Facebook friend Roni Gross recommended A Passover Haggadah with drawings by Leonard Baskin, the 20th century sculptor, illustrator, and printmaker. I am also a fan of the Haggadah created by author Elie Wiesel and illustrator Mark Podwal. Both these Haggadahs have beautiful illustrations.
GOOD FOR PRE-SEDER STUDY
The Passover Haggadah – By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Rabbi David Kalb: “This Haggadah uses a different type of format. Rather than a line-by-line commentary there are some very well written brilliant essays on each section of the Haggadah.”
Israel Passover Haggadah – By Rabbi Menachem M. Kasher
Rabbi David Kalb: “This is an older Haggadah. It does not have a fancy design but it has a very creative way of dealing with the tragic and miraculous moments of twentieth century Jewish history in the context of telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It also uses ancient history and archeology to make the narrative come alive. There are some excellent articles at the end of the Haggadah. There are also some great photographs and illustrations. Lastly, it gives you the option to have five instead of the more typical four cups of wine at the Seder.”
Passover is all about the passing down of Jewish traditions from one generation to the next. For that reason, it can be comforting to use the same Haggadah year after year. That said, introducing a new Haggadah is a way of keeping your Seder fresh and introducing new ideas about the holiday story and rituals. I did it last year, and It keeps you on your toes! Rabbi Kalb made an interesting point about distinguishing between the Haggadah you use to prepare for the Passover Seder and the one you use during the actual Seder. “For preparation there are many different Haggadot with some excellent commentaries. However, for the actual Seder I think what people most need is a Haggadah with a Hebrew text and solid translation, clear notes about what to do for each section of the Seder, and transliterated portions of the sections that are typically sung out loud. Everyone should be on the same page at the Seder, both figuratively and literally.”
Happy Passover! Share with us: What Haggadah would you recommend?
by Amy Stein-Milford, Deputy Director, Museum at Eldridge Street