Haggadot are the essential guides for the Seder. With so many options for haggadot—and thus, so many flavors of seders—how do you choose the best guide for you? Even with the glut of options currently on the market, some people can’t find the perfect haggadah for them. So, they’re going a new route. Many people are picking and choosing the best bits from many haggadot and many additional sources, creating a unique Haggadah that helps guide them through the best individualized seder just for them.
For Sarah Morrow, Baltimore, the decision to create her own Haggadah came from years of using the same family Haggadah. “Besides that fact that we all know [the Haggadah] back to front, there are bits of it that we just ask, ‘What is this? Why is this here?’”
Feeling dissatisfied with some of the readings in this older Haggadah, Morrow decided to create a new Haggadah with the old family Haggadah as a starting point. For Morrow, the next step was lots of research. She started by reading through as many other haggadot she could get her hands on.
It’s important, Morrow notes, to read haggadot from other religious viewpoints. “I did read through them first to get an idea of what they were saying,” Morrow said of more conservative and orthodox haggadot, since her family is reform. Soon, Morrow was searching academic sites on Chinese food in Jewish culture and Jewish folklore and ethnography.
Your own Haggadah research needn’t be as thorough as Morrow’s. In fact, it can be an in depth or as simple as you desire.
Don’t know where to start? “The Haggadah has the basic format and the basic prayers that have been passed down through generations,” said Erica Allen, a middle school Judaics teacher at Krieger Schechter Day School and longtime writer of personalized haggadot. Allen said she looks for readings and other add-ons “with the idea of getting people to discuss and not just read, to experience.”
Allen also suggests incorporating more than just readings.
“We did a matzah exploration one year,” Allen said. “We took a step back and tasted and felt and listened to the crackling of matzah and thought about how these different aspects of matzah build into its symbolism.”
She recommends “A Night to Remember” by Mishael Zion and Noam Zion, the haggadah and other materials from the Jewish Publication Society (JPS), and the various haggadot created by Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) for their social justice seders and labor seders, which can be accessed for free online.
“Think about the issues that you really care about, because Passover is such a great opportunity to talk about those issues,” Allen said.