How is This Haggadah Different?

There are numerous versions of the Haggadah now in print, each bringing a new perspective to the holiday of Passover.

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The Feast of Freedom (Rachel Anne Rabbinowicz) is the official Conservative movement Haggadah. First published in 1982, it has a "new" translation, encourages the active involvement of all participants, and contains sections on the Holocaust and on modern slavery. The Orthodox world has a plethora of new Haggadot, many offering the insights of a single well-known contemporary rabbi or the translations of the commentary from a rabbinic figure from the past. Compiling the writings of many rabbis, a relatively new version is the Haggadah of the Roshei Yeshiva: Illuminating Thoughts from This Century's Great Torah Leaders.

A cross-denominational version, published by the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem (A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah compiled by Noam Zion and David Dishon), employs various journalistic, fictional, and rabbinic texts to engage the entire family in discussions exploring the various themes and expanding meanings of the Haggadah.

In the spirit of Jewish renewal, several Haggadot are still in a process of evolution and modification. Rabbi Hurvitz edits and prints a Haggadah every year, offering an electronic version that "can change at any time," and can be read " both linearly and hypertextually" (www.davka.org). Secular humanist Jews also have their own Haggadah, The Liberated Haggadah: A Passover Celebration for Cultural, Secular, and Humanistic Jewsby Rabbi Peter Schweitzer and published by the Center for Cultural Judaism.

Political and Social Themes

The 1940s and 1950s marked the evolution of the traditional Haggadah into a text incorporating social and political realities, a process that still continues today. New Haggadot began appearing, outlining socialist, feminist, egalitarian, gay and lesbian, environmental, and other concerns. Kibbutz Haggadot (Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Artzi, Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuchad), produced by secular collective communities in Israel, tend to reflect the socialist--and often atheistic--views of kibbutz founders. They place more emphasis on nationalistic and seasonal elements revolving around spring, the harvest, the Exodus, peace, and the ingathering of the Jewish people in Israel. These Haggadot often abbreviate the original text, downplaying its religious message.

Universalist Haggadot, emphasizing social justice and peace, tend towards free adaptations of the original liturgy, attempting to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers and seder participants, to universalize the experience of the Exodus, and to apply it to present-day life. The Israelites' slavery in Egypt becomes a metaphor for contemporary forms of oppression and social injustice, and the freedom gained by the Israelites is equated with social activism. The authors of Because We Were Slaves: A Concise Haggadah for All of Us (1999) state their intention to "share the seder with diverse Jewish and non-Jewish communities, to strengthen understanding within and among us, so it may also strengthen our commitment to work together for justice and peace." Shalom Seders: Three Haggadahs (1984) includes aJewish/Palestinian seder incorporating the Biblical and Koranic versions of Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, and Isaac, and accounts of Israeli and Palestinian suffering as well as mutual peacemaking efforts, and is aimed at the reconciliation of the children of Abraham.

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Sharonne Cohen

Sharonne Cohen is an Israeli-Canadian writer, editor, translator, and teacher. She currently lives in Montreal.