JBuzz Features April 14, 2014: Who wrote the Passover Haggadah?




Who wrote the Passover Haggadah?

Source: Haaretz, 4-14-14

Contemporary Jews read the Haggadah every Passover, during the Seder feast. But the book they ritualistically read now would be unrecognizable to ancient Jews….READ MORE


JBuzz Features April 13, 2014: Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2014




Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2014

Source: The Jewish Press, 4-13-14

Passover – the role model of faith, education, morality, responsibility and governance driven liberty – interacts with Shavou’ot/Pentecost – the role model of morality…READ MORE

JBuzz News April 10, 2014: National Library of Israel acquires rare Montefiore Haggadah




National Library of Israel acquires rare Montefiore Haggadah

Source: Baltimore Jewish Times, 4-10-14

The National Library of Israel has acquired a rare Passover Haggadah that once belonged to well-known philanthropist Moses Montefiore, Israel Hayom reported…READ MORE

JBuzz Features April 9, 2014: 7 Coolest Haggadahs for Your Passover Seder




7 Coolest Haggadahs for Your Passover Seder

Source: Jewish Daily Forward, 4-9-14

This 14th century Haggadah is the earliest known Ashkenazi attempt to artistically depict the story of Passover. It’s a pretty creative retelling of the story, mainly because the people depicted in the story have the heads of animals….READ MORE



JBuzz Features April 4, 2014: All The 2014 Haggadah Info You’ll Ever Need




All The 2014 Haggadah Info You’ll Ever Need

Source: Jewish Daily Forward, 4-4-14

Likewise, the “Ultimate Digital Haggadah,” released too late for our Haggadah roundup last year, is an exquisite visual presentation (with accompanying narration)…READ MORE

JBuzz Musings November 24, 2013: Rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah sold at auction




Rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah sold at auction

By Bonnie K. Goodman

A rare illustrated manuscript, a Passover Haggadah dated from 1726, named the Manchester Haggadah, because of the location where it was found, was sold on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 at Adam Partridge Auction House in Macclesfield in their Cheshire Saleroom…READ MORE

JBuzz News March 28, 2013: Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni in the Spotlight over Relations with New Pope Francis




Rome’s Chief Rabbi In The Spotlight

In one week, Riccardo Di Segni prepares for Passover and a new pope.

Jewish-Catholic relations are “very complicated,” says Rabbi Di Segni, above. “But this pope shows a good disposition.”
Jewish-Catholic relations are “very complicated,” says Rabbi Di Segni, above. “But this pope shows a good disposition.”
Ground zero for Catholic-Jewish relations is Rome, and the man at the center of it all is the city’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni.

On the week before Passover, Rabbi Di Segni was busier than ever. A new pope had been elected and members of the news media flocked to the historic Great Synagogue to interview the 63-year-old religious leader.

With the clock ticking on the arrival of Passover, the rabbi attended the installation and shared some words with the new pope. “I blessed him for success and told him that we are interested to meet, the Jewish community and him, in a way that would be useful.”…READ MORE

JBuzz News March 28, 2013: Huge Crowds at Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel




Huge Crowds at Birkat Kohanim

Tens of thousands participated in the traditional Birkat Kohanim mass priestly blessing that took place Thursday morning at the Kotel

Filmed by Akiva Novik

The traditional Birkat Kohanim mass priestly blessing took place Thursday morning at the Kotel. The event beganwith the shachrit morning service at 8:15 AM, with the first blessing taking place at approximately 9:00, and the second one, for the musaf service, at approximately 10:00….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 26, 2013: President Barack Obama hosts White House Seder dinner on first night of Passover




President Obama hosts White House Seder dinner on first night of Passover

The first family planned to use a Seder plate given to First Lady Michelle Obama from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

Source: AP, 3-26-13

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Monday for family, staff and friends.

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Monday for family, staff and friends.

President Barack Obama marked Monday night’s start of Passover with a private Seder at the White House.

Obama started the tradition as a presidential candidate in 2008 when he joined Jewish staffers celebrating on the campaign trail. He’s continued it every year since with a small group of aides and friends. He told Israelis during a visit last week he wanted the tradition at the White House so his daughters could experience it.


Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama began hosting an annual Seder dinner for his Jewish staff when he was on the campaign trail in 2008….READ MORE

Full Text JBuzz News March 25, 2013: US President Barack Obama’s Passover Message




Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 3-25-13


As we prepare for our fifth Seder in the White House, Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Passover here in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world.

Tonight, Jewish families will gather with family and friends to celebrate with songs, wine, and food. They will read from the Haggadah, and retell the story that makes this holiday so powerful.

Last week, I visited the state of Israel for the third time, my first as President. I reaffirmed our countries’ unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region, and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from Hatikvah, lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu, “To be a free people in our land.”

Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins. As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continuing the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, March 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Full Text JBuzz News March 25, 2013: Pope Francis: Passover Message to Jewish Community




Pope Francis: Passover telegram to Jewish Community (full text)

Source: Radio Vaticana, 3-25-13

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Rome’s Jewish community, to mark the feast of Passover, which this year begins at sundown, Monday, March 25th. Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of the full text of the message, addressed to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, with whom the Holy Father met on March 20th during the course of his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions.


A few days on from our meeting, and with renewed gratitude for your having desired to honour the celebration of the beginning of my ministry with your presence and that of other distinguished members of the Jewish community, I take great pleasure in extending my warmest best wishes to you and Rome’s entire Jewish community on the occasion of the Great Feast of Pesach. May the Almighty, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land continue to deliver you from all evil and to accompany you with His blessing. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you, confident that we can deepen [our] ties of mutual esteem and friendship. – FRANCIS

Gli auguri di Papa Francesco alla Comunità Ebraica

Source: Romaebraica, 3-25-13


Questa mattina gli uffici della segreteria di Stato del Vaticano hanno fatto recapitare una lettera firmata da Papa Francesco al Capo Rabbino della Comunità Ebraica di Roma. Bergoglio porge gli auguri di buon Pesach a tutta la Comunità romana e, in un passaggio della sua lettera, scrive: “L’Onnipotente, che ha liberato il suo popolo dalla schiavitù dell’Egitto per guidarlo alla Terra Promessa, continui a liberarvi da ogni male e ad accompagnarvi con la sua benedizione. Vi chiedo di pregare per me, mentre io assicuro la mia preghiera per voi, confidando di poter approfondire i legami di stima e di amicizia reciproca“.

Il Capo Rabbino, Riccardo Di Segni, ha accolto con piacere gli auguri del Pontefice e lo ringrazierà nelle prossime ore, porgendo a Papa Francesco i migliori auguri per la Pasqua Cristiana.

JBuzz News March 23, 2013: 101 Years of the Maxwell House Haggadah




101 Years of the Maxwell House Haggadah

Source: Forward, 3-23-13

If you’ve been to a Seder in the United States some time in the last 80 years, you’ve probably come across the Maxwell House Haggadah.

The iconic blue cover and dual-column Hebrew and English translations have arguably become almost as emblematic of the holiday as the Seder plate and Elijah’s cup among Jews of the Diaspora. It has appeared in the suitcases of Soviet immigrants bound for Israel, been carried onto every battlefield the US military has fought on since 1933, and been the guest of honor at the Obamas’ White House Seder….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds March 23, 2013: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: 13 things you need to know for Passover 2013




13 things you need to know for Passover 2013

1. When does Passover 2013 begin and how long does it last?

2. What is Passover all about, and is it the same as Pesach?

3. Why is Passover the Most Celebrated Jewish holiday in America?

4. What’s a “Passover Seder”?

5. Why is Wine So Prominently Featured at the Seder Meal?

6. What is Matza?

7. Why Eat Bitter Herbs in the Midst of Celebrating Freedom?

8. Is Passover Only for Jews?

9. Was the Last Supper a Seder?

10. How are Passover and Easter related?

11. Passover and Our Founding Fathers

12. Moses Was A Hero to the Pilgrims

13. What the Word Egypt Really Means and Why It Matters for All of Us….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 23, 2013: Passover and the tradition of sharing a Seder meal and a Haggadah story




Passover and the tradition of sharing a Seder meal and a Haggadah story

Source: Toledo Blade, 3-23-13

Detail from  "The Four Questions" as depicted in Arthur Szyk's "The Szyk Haggadah".  Leonard Baskin's "A Passover Haggadah", Ben Shahn's "A Haggadah for Passover", and Arthur Szyk's "The Szyk Haggadah"  all owned by the Toledo Museum of Art. Detail from “The Four Questions” as depicted in Arthur Szyk’s “The Szyk Haggadah”. Leonard Baskin’s “A Passover Haggadah”, Ben Shahn’s “A Haggadah for Passover”, and Arthur Szyk’s “The Szyk Haggadah” all owned by the Toledo Museum of Art. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Many Jews and other religious people mark Passover with the tradition of sharing a Seder meal and a Haggadah story, which tells about the Hebrew people during the scriptural time of their captivity in Egypt and their exodus to freedom. It is a time for family, including children, and friends.

Seder meals are often served the first two nights of Passover; Hasidic and other Orthodox Jews might have a third meal on the last day, for the messiah who has not yet come. Passover, or Pesach, begins at sundown Monday and the holiday lasts eight days, ending when daylight is over April 2….READ MORE 

JBuzz News April 14, 2012: Tougaloo College: Freedom Seder combines traditions Overlap of Jewish, black histories is remembered




Seder combines traditions Overlap of Jewish, black histories is remembered.

Source: The Columbia Daily Tribune, AP, 4-14-12

Jewish Professor Ernst Borinski fled Nazi Germany in 1938, when discriminatory laws foreshadowed darker times to come. Borinski came to the American South of the Jim Crow era to work at historically black Tougaloo College in 1947, at a time when few universities would offer Jewish refugees employment. Soon, the school became his home and civil rights his cause.

On Thursday, Tougaloo College held a Passover Seder inspired by Borinski’s efforts to build bridges between Mississippi’s black and Jewish communities. Borinski is prominently featured in the exhibit “From Swastika to Jim Crow,” which is currently on display at the college. The film is based on a PBS documentary of the same title that profiled Jewish refugees who taught at black colleges during the Holocaust.

The seder traditionally celebrates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt. Tougaloo’s “freedom seder” emphasized common themes in the histories of both communities and featured Southern black cuisine prepared according to kosher rules.

The first freedom seder was held in 1969 in the basement of a black church on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our focus was intertwining the stories of liberation from pharaoh and liberation from racism in America,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who wrote the Haggadah, a text that guides Passover rituals, for the first freedom seder and directs the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Pa….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-ed April 6, 2012: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: 8 things you need to know about Passover 2012




8 things you need to know about Passover 2012

Source: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, Fox News, 4-6-12

Passover is the holiday which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the next stage in the unfolding biblical story of the Children of Israel. In 2012 it begins on Friday night, April 6.

Here are eight things you may want to know about it:

1.What is Passover and is it the same as Pesach?

Passover and Pesach are the same thing. One is simply English and the other is Hebrew. In either case, it is the holiday which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the next stage in the unfolding biblical story of the Children of Israel.

After centuries of slavery, Passover celebrates the passage into freedom for an entire people. The specific “passing over” for which the holiday is named refers to the way in which God passed over, or protected, the homes of the Israelites during the night they prepared to leave Egypt, as the last of the Ten Plagues was being visited upon the Egyptians.

2.When does Passover begin and how long does it last?

Passover 2012 begins at sundown on Friday, April 6. That is the date according to the Gregorian calendar. According to the Jewish calendar, Passover always begins on the 15th of Nissan, which is, according to the Hebrew Bible, the first month in the ancient Israelite calendar.

The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel and 8 days everywhere else, reflecting a long-held custom honoring the fact that maintaining an accurate liturgical calendar far from Israel, where Jewish religious authority was centered in ancient times, was not so simple before people had modern communication technology.

3.What’s the deal with Matzah?

Matzah is the flat, cracker-like, unleavened bread which has become the central symbol of Passover, especially since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the end of the Paschal sacrifice.

The Bible specifically commands eating Matzah on the first night of Passover, and prohibits all leavened products the entire week of the holiday.

Like most great and durable symbols, Matzah invites multiple, and even contradictory interpretations. Sometimes referred to as “bread of poverty”, Matzah recalls the food that the Israelites ate when they were slaves. It also recalls the rapid liberation of the Israelites, which happened so fast that they did not even have time to allow the bread for the journey to rise before setting out from Egypt.

4.What does the word Egypt mean and how can knowing that help you?

Egypt, is not “Egypt” in the Bible. In the original Hebrew, it is called “Mitzrayim”, which means tight places, or in narrow straights. To be in Mitzrayim/Egypt is not simply to be a slave in a story from long ago.

It is the paradigmatic experience of being stuck between a rock and a hard place – an experience which virtually all people have at some point in their lives. Passover reminds all people that while getting jammed up can, and likely will, happen to each of us, there is always the possibility of redemption and release.

Whoever you are, and whatever faith you follow, Passover invites us to take stock of where we are stuck, and seek the help we need to get un-stuck.

5.Why is Passover the most widely celebrated ritual among American Jews?

American Jews, not to mention increasing numbers of others, celebrate Passover because it just works.

To put it simply, Passover is about freedom, family, and food. At least that is how it works for most people, and what more could one ask for in a holiday?

But it’s more than that.

Nowhere, and at no time, in 3,000 years of Jewish history have Jews known the kind of centuries-long freedom and security which are the American Jewish experience. The Passover story of freedom — of the journey from oppression to opportunity — is also the American story at its best, not just for Jews but for all people, and it rings deeply true when it is told at Seder tables across this nation. It makes perfect sense that this holiday has “won,” at least for now.

6.How is Passover celebrated, or, What’s a Seder?

Seder is the Hebrew word for ‘order’ and it refers to the carefully ordered Passover dinner party/symposium, typically held at home, which brings people together to experience the move from slavery to freedom in story, song, and conversation – especially the raising of questions about what it means to go free and to be free.

The evening is anchored by rituals including drinking, over the course of the evening, four cups of wine recalling the four times when the Israelites are described as being redeemed, eating the Matzah, and also bitter herbs, meant to evoke the bitterness of slavery. Those bitter herbs are dipped in a bit of sweet apple or date relish, reminding those gathered of the sweetness that can be found at even the most difficult of times, and of the promise of even greater sweetness to come.

7.Was the Last Supper a Seder?

The Last Supper is often explained, based on readings of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, as having been a Passover Seder. Certainly the time of year at which Jesus came to Jerusalem fits, and the communal meal at which he gathered his disciples is suggestive of something like a Seder, with ritualized eating, drinking and teaching through conversation. Of course, those are also regular features of any classically Jewish meal of religious import. Also, according to the Book of John, the Last Supper was the day before Passover. Scholars can continue to fight this out, but one thing is clear: both the Last Supper and the Seder point to power of celebrating ones most deeply held values in the presence of those about whom we care, in the context of a freely offered table.

8.How are Passover and Easter related?

While the tradition of calculating the date of Easter based on the date of Passover ended many centuries ago, the holidays share some very deep truths of which all people can avail themselves. Who doesn’t need to be reminded that however dark and cold the winter has been, the promise of spring — of rebirth and renewal is always there? Whether discovered in the story of a nation that goes from freedom to slavery and back to freedom again, or in the story of one who lives, dies and is born again, we must all locate how to celebrate that life holds more possibility and potential than we first imagine — that there is reason for hope, and that in celebrating triumphs of hope from the past, we can unleash new stories of hope in the present and in the future.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is the author of “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism,” and president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

JBuzz April 5, 2012: Passover Guide 2012: Holiday Preparations, Laws, Haggadahs, Seder Rules, Recipes & The Exodus Story




AISH Passover Resource Guide

Source: Aish.com




Crash Course on the Ten Plagues

A fascinating overview of the significance of the plagues.


Games and Tips for the Seder

Spice up your Passover Seder!


Passover Foods Around the World

Fresh, intensely flavorful Passover recipes from different Jewish communities.


Passover Cleaning Made Easy

By knowing what and how to clean, Passover cleaning needn’t be a chore.

Aish.com’s Passover Primer

An inspiring and thought-provoking compendium of articles that will transform your Seder experience.

Want to deepen your understanding of Passover, make them more exciting, meaningful and inspiring?

Aish.com’s Passover Primer is just for you. An inspiring, thougth-provoking compendium of articles that will transform your Seder experience.

Download it now, share it with your family and friends and take it with you to your Seder.

Click here to download.(It may take a minute to complete the download.)http://media.aish.com/documents/Aishcom-Passover-Primer.pdf

(To save the file to your computer: Right click on the file link, then select “Save target as”. )

Crash Course on Passover

Source: Aish

A fascinating overview capturing the meaning and joy of the holiday.

The 5 Most Important Things to Know About Passover

Our greatest contributions to the world summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Source: Aish

Scholars have long wondered why Jews who number less than one quarter of one percent of the world – as Milton Himmelfarb memorably put it, “The total population of the Jewish people is less than a statistical error in the annual birth rate of the Chinese people” – have had such a profound influence on almost every field of human endeavor.

What accounts for the remarkable fact that in the 20th century, Jews, more than any other minority, have been recipients of the Nobel Prize, with almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates being Jewish?

Perhaps it all goes back to the very beginning of the birth of our people and the Passover holiday that we will shortly be celebrating.

Passover conveys five major concepts that became our mantras for how to lead successful and productive lives. They are the five most important things to know about Passover, and to incorporate into every day of the rest of the year. Because we’ve absorbed them into our national psyche for the thousands of years since the Exodus, we’ve been privileged to fulfill in great measure our prophetically mandated role to become a light unto the nations.

They are our greatest contributions to the world and can be summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.

The Importance of Memory

The Irish Catholic writer Thomas Cahill was so overwhelmed by how the Jewish people literally transformed the world that he authored what proved to become an international bestseller, The Gifts of the Jews. One of the major gifts he credits to Jewish genius is the invention of the idea of history.

“Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.” Remember is a biblical mandate that had never seemed important to anyone else before the Jewish people came on the scene. It was the Passover story that initiated a commitment to memory.

Henry Ford was famous for his belief that “history is bunk.” The Ford motor company is also famous for producing the Edsel. And both were probably equally stupid blunders. History is the only way we can learn from the past. History allows us to grow by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make a mistake once, and you’re human. Never learn from what happened before, and you’re brainless. That’s why it’s so important to heed the famous words of George Santayana that “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Memory links our past to our future. It turns history into destiny.

We know how horrible it can be to live without a personal memory of events that preceded. For an individual we have a name for it that fills us with terror: Alzheimer’s. It is a disease we fear perhaps even more than death because it leaves us living corpses. Strangely enough, we don’t have a similar word for the condition that describes ignorance of our collective past. Knowing what came before is almost as important in an historic sense as it is in a personal one. Only by being aware of our past as a people can our lives become filled with purpose and meaning.

Memory links our past to our future. It turns history into destiny. Learning to treasure it was the first step in our climb up the ladder of greatness.

The Importance of Optimism

To study the Passover story in depth is to recognize that the most difficult task Moses had to perform was not to get the Jews out of Egypt, but to get Egypt out of the Jews. They had become so habituated to their status as slaves, they lost all hope that they could ever improve their lot.

Without hope they would have been lost.

The true miracle of Passover and its relevance for the ages is the message that with God’s help, no difficulty is insurmountable. A tyrant like Pharaoh could be overthrown. A nation as powerful as Egypt could be defeated. Slaves could become freemen. The oppressed could break the shackles of their captivity. Anything is possible, if only we dare to dream the impossible dream.

In the story of America’s Great Seal, a particularly relevant chapter is the imagery suggested by Benjamin Franklin in August 1776. He chose the dramatic scene described in Exodus, where people confronted a tyrant in order to gain their freedom.

“Pharaoh sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his head and a Sword in his hand, passing through the divided Waters of the Red Sea in Pursuit of the Israelites: Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the Divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses who stands on the shore and extending his hand over the Sea causes it to overwhelm Pharaoh.”

The motto he suggested, words based on the Passover story, inspired George Washington and the founding fathers of the American colonies to rebel against their British oppressors: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

It was the biblical record of the Exodus that enabled the spirit of optimism to prevail for the followers of Martin Luther King in their quest for equal rights, because they were stirred by the vision of Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. It was the hope engendered by recalling how God redeemed our ancestors that allowed even Jews incarcerated in Auschwitz to furtively celebrate the Festival of Freedom and believe in the possibility of their own liberation.

That optimistic spirit, based on our own miraculous history, is the second great gift we have given to mankind and defines our identity.

The Importance of Faith

A pessimist, it’s been said, is someone who has no invisible means of support.

Jewish optimism is rooted in a contrary notion, a firmly held belief that we are blessed with support from above by a caring God. And that faith in a personal God gives us faith in ourselves, in our future and in our ability to help change the world

The God of Sinai didn’t say “I am the Lord your God who created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, he announced, “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” The God of creation could theoretically have forsaken the world once he completed his task. The God of the Exodus made clear He is constantly involved in our history and has a commitment to our survival.

The Passover story conveys that history is not happenstance. It follows a Divine master plan.

Thomas Cahill credits the Jews not only for monotheism but for this additional groundbreaking idea of a Divine being with Whom we share a personal relationship. This, he points out, is key to Western civilization’s concept of personal accountability, conscience and culpability for ourselves and the rest of the world.

The Passover story conveys that history is not happenstance. It follows a Divine master plan. It has a predestined order. “Order” in Hebrew is “Seder” – and that is why the major ritual of Passover is identified by that name. Coincidence is not a Jewish concept. Coincidence is just God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.

Faith gives us the certainty that whatever our present-day problems, history moves in the direction of the final messianic redemption. That is what has always motivated us to believe in progress and to participate in tikkun olam, efforts to improve the world.

The Importance of Family

Passover taught us yet another major truth: the way to perfect the world is to begin with our own families.

God built his nation by commanding not a collective gathering of hundreds of thousands in a public square but by asking Jews to turn their homes into places of family worship at a Seder devoted primarily to answering the questions of children.

It seems all too obvious. Children are our future. They are the ones who most require our attention. The home is where we first form our identities and discover our values.

More even than the synagogue, it is in our homes that we sow the seeds of the future and ensure our continuity. No wonder then that commentators point out the very first letter of the Torah is a bet, the letter whose meaning is house. All of the Torah follows only after we understand the primacy of family.

The world may mock Jewish parents for their over-protectiveness and their child-centered way of life, but they are the ones chiefly responsible for the extraordinary achievements of their progeny.

At the Seder table, the children are encouraged to be the stars and their questions are treated with respect. And that is the first step to developing Jewish genius.

The Importance of Responsibility to Others

One serious question begs to be asked as we celebrate our Divine deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. We thank God for getting us out, but why did God allow us to become victims of such terrible mistreatment in the first place?

A remarkable answer becomes evident in numerous Torah texts. We were slaves in Egypt – and so we have to have empathy for the downtrodden in every generation. We were slaves in Egypt –  and so we have to be concerned with the rights of the strangers, the homeless and the impoverished. We experienced oppression –  and so we must understand more than anyone else the pain of the oppressed.

The tragedy of our encounter with injustice was in no small measure meant to prepare us to serve throughout all future generations as spokesman for those with whose pain we can personally identify.

The purpose of our suffering was to turn us into a people committed to righting the wrongs of the world, to become partners with God in making the world worthy of final redemption.

We begin the Seder by inviting the hungry and the homeless to join with us. We conclude the Seder by opening the door for Elijah. It is our acceptance of responsibility to others that is the key to hastening the arrival of Messiah.

From earliest childhood every Jew identifies with these five powerful ideas that are at the heart of Passover and its message. And precisely because memory, optimism, faith, family and responsibility have become such vital characteristics of our people, we have been able to achieve far beyond what anyone might have considered possible.

Chabad Passover Resources

Source: Chabad

Pesach (Passover): April 6–14, 2012

Seder Guide   |   Passover Calendar

Haggadah | Passover Seder | Matzah | Passover Recipes | Maror | Passover Calendar


Passover Greeting Cards

Behrman House Passover Resource

Source: Behrman House

Passover Menu

Online Passover Haggadahs – Download and Print Haggadot for Pesach

Source: Judaism About.com

Haggadahs (Haggadot) contain the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and are read each year at the Passover Seder meal. Download and print an online Passover Haggadah.

  • Chabad.org: Complete English Haggadah Chabad.org offers this free, complete Haggadah in English, published by Kehot Publication Society. It contains the whole service, from Kadesh to Nirtzah, with text and instructions.
  • Chabad.org: Complete Hebrew Haggadah Chabad.org offers this free, complete Haggadah in Hebrew. As a 23-page PDF file, it is ready to print and use at your Seder table.
  • Charles Finn: Modern English Haggadah This Haggadah aims to be a clear, practical Haggadah that everyone at a big family Seder can follow together. It is 16 pages of text with interesting illustrations. It is best to use this Haggadah as a companion along side a more complete Haggadah.
  • JewishFreeware.org: Free Downloadable Family Haggadah for Passover The Foundation for Family Education offers a variety of online Haggadot written by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner: Very Brief Haggadah, Family Haggadah for Almost Novices, Family Haggadah for Novice. In addition, the site offers a Seder Supplement, Passover Guide, and even a Haroset Workshop.
  • Rabbi Blank’s Internet Haggadah Rabbi Bill Blank offers a downloadable Haggadah for $18. Reviews say Blank’s Internet Haggadah contains clear instructions and understandable translations. They also say it is designed well so that it is pleasant to use and read.
  • The Sephardi Connection: Passover Haggadah This Sephardic Haggadah reveals some interesting Sephardic Seder customs, such as putting charoset near the entrance to the house at the end of the Seder for good luck.
  • Uncle Eli’s Most Fun Ever Haggadah for Kids This Haggadah is not traditional, but it is very fun. Uncle Eli’s Special-for-Kids Most Fun Ever Under-the-Table Passover Haggadah is written in Dr. Seuss style. Enjoy!
  • Virtual Cantor: Vocalized Haggadah Listen to the entire Passover Seder service. Virtual Cantor has vocalized the entire Haggadah in an effort to help those who are far removed from synagogues or ill. This vocalization is also helpful to those who want to become comfortable and independent with the liturgy.

JBuzz Features April 5, 2012: Passover Seders: 18 Haggadahs To Retell The Exodus Story




Passover Seders: 18 Haggadahs To Retell The Exodus Story

Source: Huff Post, 4-5-12

Haggadah Passover

Why is this book different from all other books?

The Haggadah — a Jewish ritual book used on the holiday of Passover to tell the story of the biblical Exodus from Egypt — has some 7,000 iterations, reprinted and retranslated perhaps more than any other Jewish book.

This year, Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander published their “New American Haggadah” (as editor and translator, respectively) hoping to set the new standard for “intellectually and aesthetically satisfying” Haggadahs. The art, commentaries and new translation are remarkable, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the New American Haggadah is the timeline that runs across the top of each page, telling the history of the Jewish affair with this text.

The timeline — just like the Exodus from slavery — doesn’t end. Someday, there will be a New New American Haggadah. For now, though, there are thousands of versions to choose from. Here is a round up of some of the most interesting.

Birds’ Head Haggadah (1200s)

The earliest known illustrated Ashkenazi Haggadah, the Birds’ Head Haggadah gets its name from the fascinating depictions of humans with birds heads, thought to be a result of strict compliance to the Jewish prohibition against graven images.
The earliest known illustrated Ashkenazi Haggadah, the Birds’ Head Haggadah gets its name from the fascinating depictions of humans with birds heads, thought to be a result of strict compliance to the Jewish prohibition against graven images.

JBuzz Reviews April 5, 2012: Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander’s ‘New American Haggadah’




Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander on their ‘New American Haggadah’

Source: The Takeaway, 4-5-12

The Haggadah, the Jewish religious text read at Passover, is 3,000 years old. It has been translated more than any Jewish book, from ancient times, to 14th-century Sarajevo, to the just-published “New American Haggadah.” The new version, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and translated by Nathan Englander, began as a personal project for Jonathan. He started to realize how little he truly understood about his own belief system, and that many American Jews feel like immigrants to their own religion. “I went to Hebrew school, I was bar mitzvah’d, I’ve been to Israel a number of times, but as I started to work on this book, I realized that I really had to confront my ignorance, my lack of Jewish literacy.”

Nine years after the project began, Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander have constructed a new Haggadah, religious, yet modern, for the American Jews of their generation.

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


Why a Haggadah?

Oded Ezer, from “The New American Haggadah” (Little, Brown and Company, 2012)

Source: NYT, 4-1-12

I SPENT much of the last several years working on a new Haggadah — the guidebook for the prayers, rituals and songs of the Seder — and am often asked why I would want to take time away from my own writing to invest myself in such a project.

All my life, my parents have hosted the Seder on the first night of Passover. As our family expanded, and as our definition of family expanded, we moved the ritual dinner from our dining room to our more spacious, mildewed basement. One table became many table-like surfaces pushed awkwardly together. I always knew Passover was approaching when my father would ask me to take the net off the ping-pong table. All were covered in once matching, stained tablecloths.

At each setting was a Haggadah that my parents had assembled by photocopying favorite passages from other Haggadot and, when the Foers finally got Internet access, by printing online sources. Why is this night different from all others? Because on this night copyright doesn’t apply.

In the absence of a stable homeland, Jews have made their home in books, and the Haggadah — whose core is the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt — has been translated more widely, and revised more often, than any other Jewish book. Everywhere Jews have wandered, there have been Haggadot — from the 14th-century Sarajevo Haggadah (which is said to have survived World War II under the floorboards of a mosque, and the siege of Sarajevo in a bank vault), to those made by Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses.

But of the 7,000 known versions, not to mention the countless homemade editions, there is one that is used more than all others combined. Since 1932, the Maxwell House Haggadah — as in the coffee company — has dominated American Jewish ritual….READ MORE

Jonathan Safran Foer is a novelist and editor of “New American Haggadah.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 1, 2012, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Why a Haggadah?.

Two Novelists Take on the Haggadah

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Nathan Englander, left, translated the liturgical text for the “New American Haggadah,” which Jonathan Safran Foer edited. Four writers contributed commentary.

Source: NYT, 3-9-12

AFTER a lengthy interview with President Obama in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the Atlantic, had one more question, and it had nothing to do with Iran.


Jake Guevara/The New York Times

The new version of the text for the Seder liturgy.

The latest version courtesy of Maxwell House.

“I know this is cheesy …” Mr. Goldberg started, but before he could finish, the president interrupted him. “What, you have a book?” Mr. Obama asked. Turns out, Mr. Goldberg did, but “it’s not just any book,” he replied.

Mr. Goldberg reached into his briefcase and handed the president an advance copy of the “New American Haggadah,” a new translation of the Passover liturgy that was edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and contains commentary by Mr. Goldberg and other contemporary writers.

After thumbing through the sleek hardcover book, Mr. Obama looked up and asked wryly, “Does this mean that we can’t use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?”

Mr. Goldberg was impressed. “Way to deploy the inside-Jewish joke,” he later said. Since the 1930s, Maxwell House has printed more than 50 millions copies of its pamphlet-style version of the Haggadah. It has been the go-to choice at the Obamas’ White House Seders, though Mr. Goldberg hoped the president would consider using their version this time around.

In the end, the White House decided to stick with the Maxwell House next month. But the book’s advance buzz is an unlikely triumph for a version of a ritualistic text that was spearheaded by two lauded experimental novelists from Brooklyn, Mr. Foer and Nathan Englander.

“The Haggadah is the user’s manual for the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, Passover, ” Mr. Foer said on “The Colbert Report” last Tuesday. “It’s one of the oldest continually told stories, and one of the most well-known across cultures.”…

One might assume that Mr. Foer’s version would end up being almost unrecognizably postmodern. A critical darling since his mid-20s, Mr. Foer, 35, has been celebrated and excoriated for his use of avant-garde literary devices in novels like “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” which ends with a 14-page flip book.

And starting out, that was the direction in which its creators were leaning. As Mr. Englander, who grew up in an Orthodox house on Long Island, put it, “I originally thought we’d be making some sort of hipster Haggadah.”

Indeed. The book’s minimalist design, by Oded Ezer, looks like a catalog for a MoMA typography exhibition, and the text is rendered both vertically (for the Exodus story) and horizontally (for commentary and a timeline). In place of storybook illustrations of Moses are abstract watercolor illustrations based on Hebrew typography.

The idea was to draw readers into the story and invite them to linger, since “the Haggadah must be the most skimmed book of all,” Mr. Foer said. After a pause, he added, “maybe Stephen Hawking’s ‘Brief History of Time’ beats it.”…READ MORE

A version of this article appeared in print on March 11, 2012, on page ST10 of the New York edition with the headline: Two Novelists Take On the Haggadah.

JBuzz Features April 4, 2012: Haggadah Guide: From the classic to the newfangled: haggadahs for Seders of every shape, size, and stripe




On the Bookshelf

From the classic to the newfangled: haggadahs for Seders of every shape, size, and stripe

Source: Tablet Mag, 4-11-11

With thousands of haggadahs having been produced throughout history, and hundreds currently in print, how do you possibly choose? On the Bookshelf offers the following non-exhaustive primer.

Most refreshingly upfront about its goals: Robert Kopman’s 30 Minute Seder: The Haggadah That Blends Brevity With Tradition (30 Minute Seder, 2011). Who needs all that blah blah blah about Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and Rabbi Tarfon? This haggadah isn’t appropriate, though, if your guests are the types to say, “What? It’s time to eat already? Can’t we please spend more time discussing whether there were 50, 200, or 250 plagues at the Red Sea?”

Least appropriate for a Seder in Lilongwe, Malawi: Yehuda Berg’s The Kabbalah Haggadah: Pesach Decoded (Kabbalah Publishing, 2009) would, it seems, be something of a faux pas over there this year.

Perfect if you find yourself in a Brewster’s Millions situation: For $18,000, the Premier Edition of The Szyk Haggadah gives you Arthur Szyk’s signature embossed in gilt on the cover, plus “22 carat gold tooling” throughout. Guaranteed to match your gold-plated karpas! For the non-insane, there are reasonably priced editions of Szyk’s 1930s anti-fascist allegorical masterpiece, such as The Szyk Haggadah: Freedom Illuminated (Abrams, 2011).

If your guests don’t like all these newfangled Seder elements: Take them back to the 15th century with The Washington Haggadah (Harvard, 2011), which offers a full-color reproduction of a manuscript illuminated in 1478 by a scribe named Joel ben Simeon (and which is named for its contemporary home, at the Library of Congress in D.C.).

The haggadah we’re still waiting for: When, when will Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander deliver that hipster haggadah they’ve promised? It tarries, but according to Amazon.com, it will finally arrive in October 2011: just in time for Thanksgiving! Next year in Park Slope, then?

Likely to disappoint the Shakespearean actors at the table: The intrepid Sue Fishkoff reports that the new edition of the Maxwell House Haggadah—the haggadah of choice of the Obama White House—includes, for the first time since 1934, an updated translation that has removed all those fusty faux-Renaissance linguistic touches we’ve all gotten used to, like “thee” and “thou.” Alas, alack! How art we supposed to worshippeth our Lord in just plain American English?

If you believe that the Holocaust should be invoked at every Jewish public event: A Passover Haggadah (Simon & Schuster, 1993) features Mark Podwal’s drawings and Elie Wiesel’s commentary and poems, which link the ritual to recent historical trauma: “A camp./ An inmate. … It is night,/ The first night of Passover. … The parable of Had Gadya is misleading:/ God will not come/ To slay the slaughterer.”

For big families who don’t understand the idea of economy of scale: If all you want is the traditional, Orthodox text, Artscroll’s Family Haggadah (Artscroll, 1981) is a bargain: only $3.59 a copy, bound in sumptuous-sounding leatherette (or $2.24 with a laminated paper cover). But it seems that somebody’s tam son must be responsible for the price on the slipcovered, leatherette set of eight, which costs $33.29 (that is, $4.16 per copy), as if to punish those who buy in bulk.

Good for fans of chanting: Eliahu Klein’s A Mystical Haggadah: Passover Meditations, Teachings, and Tales (North Atlantic Books, 2008) includes “a mystical meditation” before most of the rituals, drawn from the Zohar or from such gurus as the Rashash. These, along with anecdotes about the Hassidic masters and a dash of playful gematria, help Seder-goers in “achieving cosmic consciousness.”

For those who actually do want to tell the story of the Exodus, over and over, until the break of dawn: A Passover Haggadah: Go Forth and Learn (JPS, 2011) comes equipped with the extensive commentaries of Rabbi David Silber. The founder of the Drisha Institute in New York, Silber knows a thing or two about Jewish textual study and offers enough textual readings to keep you talking until the sun comes up.

Looks sharpest in your NPR tote bag: Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families (HarperCollins, March) allows you to greet Elijah alongside Cokie and Steven Roberts. The book comes to you straight from the D.C. intelligentsia, and brims with optimistic religious pluralism: as its authors told Vox Tablet a couple weeks back, Passover is by far the most Jesus-friendly of the Jewish holidays (blood libels notwithstanding).

For the tikkun olam crowd: Last year’s In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah (Devora Publishing, 2010) features a forward by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin praising the Joint Distribution Committee for its outreach to threatened Jews all over the world, plus commentaries by Ari Goldman—but it’s the photographs of Seders across the globe, from Yemen to Lithuania, that make an impression.

If you have a favorite Orthodox superstar rabbi: Then he has a haggadah for you, whether it’s Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Haggadah (Contiuum, 2007), or Norman Lamm’s The Royal Table (Orthodox Union, 2010), or The Carlebach Haggadah: Seder Night With Reb Shlomo (Urim, 2001), or Seder Night: An Exalted Evening (Orthodox Union, 2009), which includes “commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.”

Closest you’ll get to a Family Circus or Marmaduke haggadah: Richard Codor’s Joyous Haggadah (Loose Line Productions, 2008) features an energetic comic strip retelling of the Exodus—nothing cries out for the Sunday Funnies treatment like the Death of the Firstborn, right?—plus, charmingly, the Four Sons as performed by the Marx Brothers.

Most appropriate for a Seder fueled by psychotropic drugs: Newly available for shipping to the United States, Asher Kalderon’s Haggadah (Urim, 2011) features the artist’s lush, gradient-shaded images, which have all the trippy verve of 1960s rock posters.

Josh Lambert, a Tablet Magazine contributing editor and comedy columnist, is the academic director of the National Yiddish Book Center and Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

JBuzz March 23, 2012: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi: Haggadah and History — Historical Passover Haggadahs




Long before the Maxwell House Haggadah, thousands of other versions retold Passover story

Source: JointMedia News Service, 3-23-12

<br /> A page reprinted from a Cairo volume Agudat Perahim (1922) which also includes the Passover haggadah. This illustration depicts an Arabic translation of the festive song &ldquo;Dayenu.&rdquo;<br /> Photo reprinted from “Haggadah and History” by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, JewishPublication Society of America, 1975.

A page reprinted from a Cairo volume Agudat Perahim (1922) which also includes the Passover haggadah. This illustration depicts an Arabic translation of the festive song “Dayenu.” Photo reprinted from “Haggadah and History” by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1975. For the past three years, President Obama and his family have hosted a Passover Seder in the White House for a select group of invited guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish. A Maxwell House haggadah — probably the most widely used Passover Seder text among American Jews — was placed at each table.

The haggadah (the Hebrew word means “telling”) has a venerable and remarkably varied history, which long precedes the often wine-splotched classic published by the coffee maker. Scholars have identified more than 3500 extant editions and there is hardly a Jewish community in the world that has not produced its own haggadah. Although the earliest manuscripts have been lost, the oldest complete text was found in a prayer book compiled by the philosopher and rabbinic scholar Saadia Gaon during the 10th century.

The haggadah reportedly emerged as an independent volume during the 15th century. Some scholars speculated about the origins of an edition that was published in Guadalajara, Spain, in 1482, but the publication location has never been confirmed nor has it been definitively established as the first separately-published haggadah.

In 1486, the Soncinos, a noted Italian Jewish family of printers, published a siddur to which a haggadah was bound. Although it is not known whether such binding was common during this time, some historians consider this Soncino volume a separate and independent work.

The history of haggadahs and the Soncino edition is recounted in an erudite and elegant 1975 volume entitled Haggadah and History.

Written by the late Harvard professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, this work traces the evolution of this classic Passover text, which reflects the variegated and tumultuous history of the Jewish people.

Most of this nearly 500-page work contains reprinted haggadah pages from around the world. The range of publishing locations and languages employed is remarkable: a Poona, India, text was published in the Indian language Marathi; the Istanbul, Turkey, edition is bilingual, written in Ladino and Hebrew; a Tel Aviv haggadah in Hebrew was produced in pre-state Palestine.

Also depicted is an unusual item: a parody of the haggadah. Published in Odessa, Russia, in 1885, this text used the Four Questions to highlight the poor pay and treatment of east European elementary school teachers, comparing their plight to that of Israelite slaves in Egypt!

Yerushalmi notes that only 25 haggadahs were published during the 16th century, but the production increased to 234 in the 18th century and more than 1200 during the 19th.

Although this Passover text has been published for more than 600 years, the majority of individual editions were issued in the last century. Early haggadahs featured handdrawn illustrations and in more recent times, pictures were inserted to stimulate the “curiosity of the children…[and served] as a lively medium of visual instruction, much like today’s picture books,” Yerushalmi writes.

The Sarajevo haggadah is the most famous such work, a beautifully illustrated text originating in Barcelona in the 14th century, smuggled out of Spain during the Inquisition, transported to Italy and eventually ending up in the former Yugoslavia. Unlike many Jews, the Sarajevo haggadah somehow survived the Nazi onslaught. The remarkable story of its survival has been evocatively told in the novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, and in a network television documentary.

The Birds’ Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript, was produced in Germany during the 14th century. This strikingly beautiful volume derives its name from the birdlike human figures depicted in the margins. Scholars claim that this animal motif is related to the Second Commandment that prohibits the creation of graven images. In lieu of drawing a human figure, the volume depicts distorted heads of birds, often wearing a headpiece and other garments.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is permanently displayed in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina while the Birds’ Head Haggadah is found in the Israel Museum. Unlike the ever present and dependable Maxwell House haggadah found at many Seders, these precious volumes are securely spared from matzoh crumbs, spilled wine and drippings of horseradish.

Robert Abzug: The growth of Jewish studies in academia has brought new meaning to Passover for many

Ceremonial knowledge: The growth of Jewish studies in academia has brought new meaning to Passover for many

Source: Houston Chronicle, 4-18-11


The holiday marking the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt begins at sundown today.

The Seder: A tradition-filled feast, observed on the first two nights of the holiday.

The Haggadah: The script for recounting the story of the Exodus.

Four questions: Asked by the youngest person at the Seder, to prompt the telling.

The foods: A special plate is prepared with six items, arranged in a special order: a shank bone, a hard-boiled egg, bitter herbs, a paste of apples, nuts and wine, a non-bitter root vegetable and lettuce.

Passover, which begins at sundown today, is the perfect opportunity.

Passover is among the Jewish holidays that most often introduces outsiders to the faith, particularly because of the Seder — a ceremonial feast held on the first two nights to commemorate the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

“It is one of those holidays where you can be a religious Jew or a secular Jew or a non-Jew, and the ceremonies are imbued with all sorts of Jewish meanings and more universal meanings,” said Robert Abzug, director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at UT, which is expanding through private funding even as state budget cuts force other university programs to retrench. “It’s not conversion, it’s just participation in what is a historically and morally weighty ritual, but also a good time.”

Jewish studies as an academic discipline is relatively new, springing up in the decades since World War II and especially over the past 30 years. Like other ethnic or gender studies programs, it is interdisciplinary, drawing students from a range of backgrounds to study everything from language, history and literature to the Talmud.

“Some students come because they have friends or family who are Jewish,” said Laura Levitt, a religion professor at Temple University and former director of the Jewish studies program there. “Others come because they are devout Christians or Muslims, who want to learn more and see connections between the Abrahamic faiths.”

But Jewish studies isn’t just about religion, she said.

Abzug said the Schusterman Center at UT is “a big-tent Jewish studies program. We’re interested in Jewish religion, in the state of Israel, in Jewish literature and art. … We take the definition of what it means to be Jewish and contribute to the world in a Jewish way quite broadly.”….READ MORE

Diane Cole: Is Passover the New Christmas?

Americans of all religions now embrace the holiday celebrating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

Source: WSJ, 4-15-11

Of all Jewish holiday traditions, the most popular remains the Passover seder—the festive ritual meal, celebrated next week, at which family and friends gather to recount the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and deliverance from bondage to freedom. It’s so popular, in fact, that these days more and more of those seated at seder tables are non-Jews. Not only that: An increasing number of churches now offer their own versions of the Passover seder.

The Passover seder’s embrace by Christians seems an unlikely phenomenon. The Passover haggadah—the book that guides the seder service as prescribed by Jewish tradition—is designed to fulfill the Torah’s commandment that Jews remember and retell the journey from slavery to freedom every year. The haggadah’s reminder is explicit: “If the most holy, blessed be He, had not brought forth our ancestors from Egypt, we, and our children, and children’s children, had still continued in bondage to the Pharaohs in Egypt.” Jews are taught to celebrate each Passover as if they themselves were embarking on that journey from Egypt.

What makes Christians’ embrace of Passover all the more unusual is that for centuries—even into the 20th—the holiday’s proximity to Good Friday and Easter routinely sparked violent anti-Jewish riots and pogroms, especially in Europe.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, however, churches world-wide began to reconsider their relationship to Judaism. In the U.S., another major factor was the cooperation of blacks and Jews in the struggle for civil rights. The Passover seder’s core theme of liberation began to inspire interfaith “Freedom seders.” Those, in turn, opened the door to other liberation-themed seders and haggadahs, thus further broadening the appeal of the holiday.

The changing demographics of American Jewry have played a role, too. Before 1970, only 13% of married American Jews were married to non-Jews. By the turn of the 21st century, that figure was 47%, according to the National Jewish Population Survey. As a result, interfaith couples and families have had a growing presence at Passover seder tables, both as guests and as hosts.

Getty Images

People of various faiths and nationalities attend an interfaith Passover celebration in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

For some of these families, the seder—which has a recognizable theme and generally takes place at someone’s home, rather than at a synagogue—provides a comfortable introduction to Jewish ritual. That’s one message of the recently published book by journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts, “Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families.” Themselves an intermarried couple (he’s Jewish, she’s Catholic), the Robertses have for decades hosted a Passover seder, mostly for other interfaith families.

While such Passover seders are often multicultural, the observance remains grounded in Jewish religious ritual, tradition and meaning. That has been the case with the seders held by President Obama in the White House. But that is not necessarily the case with seders aimed at Christian audiences….READ MORE