5 Haggadot and Haggadot Companions to Enhance your 2019 Seder Experience

With just enough time to get them before Passover

By Maayan Hoffman
eJewish Philanthropy

There is less than one week until the Jewish holiday of Passover. You’ve detailed your Seder menu, scrubbed your kitchen and invited your guests. But what Haggadot will you use to share the story of the Exodus from Egypt?

In order to help you fulfill the mitzvah of “to tell your son” of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt until today, eJewish Philanthropy put together a short list of new, traditional, unique and innovative Haggadot and Seder companions that you should still be able to purchase and bring home before the holiday.

The first-ever graphic novel Haggadah: Not just for children
(Published by Koren)

The world’s first Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel was conceived and designed by the former editor of the Batman franchise at DC Comics, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, and a graduate of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Erez Zadok. The Haggadah, which includes the unabridged, traditional Seder service text in Hebrew and transliteration is strikingly modern. Every vibrant panel imbues the classic narrative with renewed relevance and excitement.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Gorfinkel and Zadok said they wanted to make sure that people could “literally see themselves in the Haggadah,” including people of different races, genders and ages. Utilizing what comics call “sequential art” techniques – deploying images in a specific order for the purpose of conveying information – this Haggadah presents a diverse cast of characters to which young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular alike can relate.

Steinsaltz simple
(Published by Koren)

The Steinsaltz Haggada with new essays and commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz leverages the great rabbi’s renowned pedagogical skill and insight to explain what might otherwise seem like obscure, old and complicated traditional texts. The work is divided into text, commentary and thought-provoking expansions.

Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, executive director of the Steinsaltz Center, told eJewish Philanthropy that the aim of this Haggadah is simplicity and open-mindedness.

“The Haggadah is very clear, very transparent and gives a lot of room to grow,” said Even-Israel. “A lot of Haggadot are very opinionated, they don’t give you freedom of thinking. This Haggadah gives you the option to ask questions.”

The book is translated into standard, modern English, so that anyone can read it.

“Although the external format of the Seder is fixed, it is not rigid,” writes Steinsaltz in the introduction. “It is designed to accommodate changes and novel interpretations, and this approach is even ideal.”

A conversation with Dr. Brown
(Published by Maggid Books)

In Seder Talk: The Conversational Haggadah by Dr. Erica Brown, the well-known educator and Jewish communal inspiration takes concepts that are traditional and applies then to modern days, with discussions about leadership, change and more. Brown provides a variety of practical exercises that one can use at his or her table to help drive the conversation around community building and life.

“There is a small spiritual trigger that is located in the heart and activated each Passover,” writes Brown. “It is the point of inspiration that translates into action.”

The highlight of this Haggadah is eight essays one for each day of Passover – meant to stimulate reflection.

In her essay on “The Art of Order and Chaos,” Brown explains how we begin the Seder with a to-do list: “It is our laundry list, our planned statement of accomplishment that affirms our commitment to systems and goals.” But then she explains that “by the end of the evening, the tablecloth has become a testament to entropy. Order has been replaced by story. Stories are always a muddle of fact and fiction; they involve digressions and details and defy logic. … We are free, blessedly free.”

Some Seder companions

Another way to enhance your Seder is by pairing a traditional, basic Haggadah with a thought-provoking Seder companion. Hadar, an organization centered on empowering Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing egalitarian communities rooted in Torah, avodah, and hesed, provides “The Stories we Tell: Reflections on the Book of Exodus.” This 36-page companion was released in April 2019 and is downloadable.

One of the highlights of this companion is “Questions for any part of the Seder,” a series of trigger questions that have the potential to bring a Seder to life. These include questions such as, “What can the person to your left teach you about that?” (referring to whatever was last read) and “How does the food we are eating now reflect the meaning of this part of the Seder?”

Essays are contributed by a mix of Jewish leaders from Rabbi Ethan Tucker, rosh yeshiva and co-founder of Yeshivat Hadar in Manhattan, who is considered an authority on Egalitarianism in Jewish law, to Dena Weiss, Hadar’s rosh Beit Midrash and director of Fellowship Programs.

Another Seder resource can be found on the Repair the World website under the heading #MySederServes. The website describes how, “Each year, we gather around the Seder table to retell the story of the Exodus to reflect on an ongoing journey to freedom, and to connect past to present – from servitude to service. This year, as we reflect on what freedom means as a multiethnic, multiracial Jewish community, we will serve up new conversations at our tables and dedicate a moment in our Seders to go from memory to action.”

The resources Repair the World provides include essays on food and justice, for example. However, here the highlight is printable “trivia place cards” designed in conjunction with Be’chol Lashon.

“Because Moses floated in the water in this,” reads one card, “what item do many Jews of Tunisia decorate with a colored cloth and place on the table?”

Guests can read these trivia questions aloud, the table can try to answer them, and then participants can share their own traditions, as well.

Selfpublished for the Seder

If you want a Haggadah at your table that almost no one else will have and that is written and designed with full-heart and hope for the little ones, then order Devorah Werdesheim’s A Pirate’s Haggada. Its stunning, full-color images bring the story of Passover to life for any child.

Werdesheim is based in Maryland and took up writing and illustrating children’s stories when her first grandson was born five years ago. A children’s book called “The Brave Young Pirates Save the Day” led to this new Passover adventure.

“Some of the kids are not so religious and are less familiar with the mitzvahs involved in Passover,” Werdesheim, who lives in Baltimore, Md., told eJP. “I thought that if they love pirates so much, maybe I can write a book that is about pirates and therefore catches their imagination.”

It took Werdesheim more than six months to write A Pirate’s Haggada. She said that she planned originally only to print it for her own family, but so many other families started asking for copies that she found a printer to replicate the project in full-color and at low cost. Now, she sells the Haggadah via email/direct mail from her home for $12. (email devorahw48@yahoo.com) from her home for $12.

“Being retired is a blessing, because I can spend as much time as I want on my artwork,” said Werdesheim.