Canadian Haggadah Canadienne
Five years ago, an American rabbi and a Quebec separatist sat together in Ottawa and related their convoluted, multi-lingual Seder experiences.
Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, to have a single haggadah that could serve all of their needs?
From that moment, Rabbi Adam Scheier, senior rabbi of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, and Richard Marceau, a former member of the House of Commons and present adviser to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Ottawa, dedicated their spare time to crafting the “Canadian Haggadah Canadienne.”
What makes a haggadah distinctly Canadian? For starters, it is the only known one that is written in French and English, with traditional blessings in Hebrew, and inside its pages is a prayer for Canada. It also contains essays from rabbis who span the Canadian provinces and across Jewish denominations.
“[We] had this vision that the haggadah would reflect the diversity of Canadian Jewish life,” said Scheier. “We reached out to 20 rabbis and received 100-percent support and participation. … Everyone we approached participated willingly and wholeheartedly.”
Most notable are the historical photographs that adorn nearly every page. From the earliest Jewish settlers who embarked to Saskatchewan to Yiddish military recruitment posters to images of Canadian Jews protesting on behalf of Soviet and Syrian Jews to the unveiling of the first French language Jewish school to images of visiting Israeli dignitaries and, of course, hockey photos, the haggadah depicts the diverse and large — the fourth largest in the world — Canadian Jewish community.
The images, said Scheier, show a Canadian Jewish community that is both deeply Zionist and deeply Canadian.
The haggadah has gotten a huge response from our neighbors to the North. The first printing of 2,000 sold out quickly, necessitating a second printing.
As Scheier and Marceau have toured the provinces, they have been bombarded by grateful individuals and those who are excited to see themselves or their friends’ photos in print.
“In Quebec last week, a gentleman said to me, ‘You see the word Pesach [on the cover]? That’s me taking a bite out of matzah under the peh,’” said Scheier. “I’m excited to be able to contribute very personalized Canadian content to Seder tables across Canada.”
The “Canadian Haggadah Canadienne” is available through amazon.ca and Canadian Judaica stores.
The Asufa Haggadah
“The Asufa Haggadah” is, in a word, stunning.
Each year for the past three years, 45 Israeli designers have been selected to contribute to the haggadah produced by Asufa Design in Jaffa, Israel. The rules, explained Lior Yamin, are simple. Each artist is allotted one page and they must use the standard haggadah text. Beyond that, anything goes.
The results range from modern art pieces bursting with color to subdued charcoal sketches. Traditional depictions butt up against an image of a unicorn or a clever board game where squares along the way represent the order of the Seder. All pages are in Hebrew without English translation, but non-Hebrew readers can still appreciate the beauty of the book.
Seeking to expand to the American market, Asufa reached out to Philadelphia-based niche publishing company Print-O-Craft. The Asufa haggadah is in good company alongside Print-O-Craft’s only other title, the “Seder Oneg Shabbos” bentsher, which features historical typefaces, illustrations and traditional liturgy melded with terms used by egalitarian and LGBT Jews.
According to Print-O-Craft founder David Zvi Kalman, plans are in the works to add new titles, including a graphic novel based on the English translation of Pirkei Avot and possibly an English-Hebrew Asufa Haggadah to accommodate a wider audience.
Wrote Kalman via email, “We’re still looking for new titles — it definitely appears that there is an audience for these kinds of books. People seem to want religious texts [that] express beauty in pictures and not just ideas.”
“The Asufa Haggadah” is available for purchase at shabb.es.
Seder Talk: The Conversational Haggada
Erica Brown, scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and a regular columnist for The Washington Post’s On Faith column, has penned a new book, “Seder Talk: The Conversational Haggada.”
In truth, the book is really two-in-one. The haggadah portion features the standard text on the top half of the page, with commentary following below, along with textual learning and thought-provoking conversation starters, each marked with an icon. For example, in the maggid portion, the questions posed include: “What is or was the hardest part of adolescence for you? When you were at your most miserable at this stage of life, who mentored you and helped you emerge into adulthood?”
To get the full value of the haggadah, it should be read in close detail before the start of the holiday in order for the leader to better facilitate discussion.
Flip the book around and readers will encounter a set of eight essays, one for each day of the holiday, that delve into themes of “All Who Are Hungry,” “Tzippora’s Flint” and “Pour Out Your Wrath, Pour Out Your Love,” among others. Each section concludes with Life Homework, such as the homework for the four children that asks the reader to “identify some characteristics that make those children different from each other.”
“Seder Talk,” published by Maggid Books, a division of Koren Publishers Jerusalem, is available through ou.org and amazon.com.