Haggadot.com: Putting the Personal and Pluralistic in Passover

[This is the seventh in a nine-part series describing the projects of the 2011-2012 Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Award Recipients.]

by Eileen Levinson

For me, and for many of my peers, Jewish identity is complicated. Connecting with rituals can, at times, be challenging and fully rooting myself within a singular community – like my parents and grandparents did – is nearly impossible. It was out of this feeling of that I created Haggadot.com – a new resource to help us “complicated” Jews find seder texts that can both speak to our unique perspectives and inspire meaningful relationships to the traditions and themes of Passover.

Haggadot.com is a place for Jews of all backgrounds to upload, exchange and personalize Passover haggadot. The site works like an interactive scrapbook, with pieces collected from contributors around the world. Any user can login for free, and search by keyword and section to mix and match content that fits their unique interests.

Since launching the site last month, a number users have asked what my inspiration has been for building the site, and for the most part, the answer has been simple: inclusion. I wanted a place – a shared space for diverse perspectives – where people could go to access and share texts that enabled them to celebrate Passover more meaningfully, creating a Haggadah that reflects the stories and texts that speak to our personal experience.

As people started to add texts to the site, I realized that while focusing on the hyper-customized Jewish practice, it is one of the central messages of Passover that we remember what it is like to be slaves in Egypt, surrounded by a foreign culture that we don’t understand.

There is great value in feeling foreign in our spiritual practice. Many of my favorite Passover experiences have been those spent outside of my comfort zone as the guest at a new seder, with traditions unlike my own. Like traveling to a new city, being immersed in the unfamiliar can be as liberating as it is challenging – forcing us to think beyond our habitual thoughts and empathize with the situations of others.

Those of us who live in the Diaspora have two seders – perhaps we could focus the content of each seder to embrace both the personal and pluralistic natures of inclusive Jewish communities, thus reliving the passage from Exodus to a shared platform of individualism and global peoplehood. At one seder, focus on what is uniquely particular to your Passover narrative. At the second, be an engaged foreigner. Find the text that seems the most different from your viewpoint, and do your best to place yourself in the contributors perspective.

Of the many valuable contributions on the site, here is a selection of personal favorites that might help you begin the journey.

Enjoy, happy travels and Chag Sameach.

Eileen Levinson is the founder of Haggadot.com.

cross-posted at JewishNewMediaFund.org

Highlights from the Haggadot.com library

  • Will Levin’s Shabot 6000
  • Bibliyoga’s “Kosher Sutra”
  • “Passover, A Lesson in Inclusiveness” from Jewish Outreach Institute
  • “Pledge Exodus from Negative Language” from Jewish Outreach Institute
  • “The Orange on the Seder Plate” by Anita Diamant
  • “The Four Adults” from the Love and Justice in Times of War Haggadah
  • The Global Seder by Be’chol Lashon
  • Matza Eating Meditation by Jay Michaelson
  • The Ten Plaques of Egypt by Beth Flusser
  • Had Gadya-Igbo Jewish version by Remy Ilona