The pandemic has altered the experience of the Passover seder, but one thing hasn’t changed: It’s a golden age for creative Haggadahs. Here are a few to try if you’re attempting to give your seder a makeover.
For those mentally afflicted by the pandemic
Bari Mitzmann, a Jewish blogger with a sizable Instagram following, for the second year has spearheaded a joint Haggadah project she calls “HaKol B’Seder.” Her Haggadah and guide to the holiday weaves in an array of female voices who either talk about how a specific part of the seder resonates with them or provide tips on how to fruitfully get through the Passover season. It’s aimed at those feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the preparations that a seder entails, the pressure to intellectualize the holiday’s themes or all of the above.
For those who exhaled when Trump left office
Dave Cowen has contributed to humor sites such as McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and that flavor of humor shines through in his latest work, “The Biden-Harris Haggadah: Thank G-d!” Cowen imagines how various figures, ranging from those in the White House to others such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Merrick Garland, would narrate a seder, if all brought together in
For the “Seinfeld” superfan
The seder is definitely not “about nothing,” as the iconic ’90s sitcom “Seinfeld” is often described. Beyond a retelling of the Exodus story, which Jews have looked to for inspiration for millennia, the holiday meal’s guiding text is loaded with symbolism and ways to connect the biblical tale to contemporary times. As Rabbi Sam Reinstein writes in the introduction to his “Seinfeld”-themed “The Haggadah About Nothing,” his goal is to use the series’ characters and storylines as a foil to show how not to experience the holiday. But the real appeal of “The Haggadah About Nothing” is its constant specific “Seinfeld” references.
For the kids who can’t wait for the food already
Last year, Rabbi Matt Berkowitz and Dr. Ron Moses conceived a slim, fold-up seven-page pamphlet — aptly named “The Express Haggadah” — to assist in getting families through the ritual in its entirety. True to form, nothing is left out, from the core prayers to the Exodus story, which is told in a series of quick blurbs.
For the artistically inclined
Some Haggadahs of centuries past were illustrated manuscripts, artist Emily Marbach points out in the introduction to her “Collage Haggadah,” which features her own beautiful pastiche works. “The Middle Ages were a very fruitful time for new Haggadot. The Birds Head (I have made one collage in homage to that version), The Sarajevo and the Golden Haggadot are just a few of the most well known,” she writes. Marbach, a London-based collage artist and printmaker, intersperses the pages of prayer and storytelling with dozens of stimulating artistic works.
For the history buff
“Next year may we be free men in Palestine,” Nissim Ben Shimon wrote in 1943. As World War II began to swing in favor of the Allies, Ben Shimon, a Moroccan Jew in Rabat, wrote what has been deemed “The Hitler Haggadah” — a semi-humorous seder text. Translated this year into English from the local Judeo-Arabic of the time, it offers a running commentary of sorts about the war’s events, cracks Nazi jokes and infuses the seder prayers with hope for a better future for Europe’s Jews, all from a rare North African perspective.
For the Reform Jew
The Reform movement in America has published many Haggadahs over the past 130 years. The movement’s latest is “Mishkan HaSeder,” which adds contemporary poetry and social justice commentary to the traditional rabbinic text. Among the poets whose words make the new order are Emma Lazarus, Adrienne Rich and Yehuda Amichai.
This originally ran on JTA.org.