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New Haggadot to make your seder different from all other seders
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New Haggadot to make your seder different from all other seders

“The Dry Bones Passover Haggadah” by Yaakov Kirschen (Koren Publishers, $16.95)

A familiar presence for two generations in the English-speaking Jewish world since he made aliyah and began writing his Dry Bones cartoon for the Jerusalem Post and newspapers in this country, Kirschen came out with his own illustrated Haggadah. Full of wry commentaries, funded by Kickstarter, and published by Kirschen himself several years ago, it was available in softcover and PDF versions. Now Koren, a major Israeli publisher, has come out with a
hardcover edition.

Following the success of Kirschen’s original version, which sold nearly 10,000 copies and PDF printouts in more than a dozen countries, he was approached by Koren, whose edition includes the same text and drawings, an author’s introduction, and appearances by his ubiquitous Uncle Shuldig character.

“The Dry Bones Passover Haggadah” is “a family message to the kids, the grandparents, fathers, mothers, friends, etc.,” said Kirschen, a graduate of Queens College who turns 80 this year and marks more than four decades at the Jerusalem Post.

“I created the Haggadah with the dream of making it the Haggadah for generations of Jews to come.”

 

“Signs and Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces” by Adam S. Cohen (The Toby Press, $39.95)

Though not strictly speaking a Haggadah or a Haggadah supplement, Cohen’s book can serve as an adjunct to the former and as a visual aid to the latter.

Cohen, associate professor in the history department of the University of Toronto, and former assistant director of the school’s Centre for Jewish Studies, has brought together 166 images as well as erudite explanations from seven-plus centuries of Haggadot from around the world.

The full-color book offers fascinating history and striking visuals, but anyone fearful of food or wine stains might but be reluctant to use the Haggadah at the seder table.

Cohen’s “tasting menu” of Haggadot can be great fodder for seder-table discussion. “I don’t imagine everyone will — or should — agree with all my choices,” he said. “I was trying to find Haggadot that are representative of the entire 700-year history of the phenomenon, and … find items that are exceptional works of art.”

The Haggadot that made the cut range from the “Birds Head Haggadah” (early 14th century) to “The Rose Haggadah” (2014), and the Maxwell House Haggadah, an English-language favorite since 1932.

“I will confess that it” — the ubiquitous Maxwell House version — “is more important historically than art-historically, and probably shouldn’t be considered a ‘masterpiece,’” said Cohen, whose expertise is medieval art. “But I just couldn’t exclude what is arguably the most familiar Haggadah in history.”

Attending childhood seders in Brooklyn and Merrick, N.Y., Cohen read from the Maxwell House Haggadah and a variety of other ones. In recent years, as leader of his own seders, he has distributed “selected Haggadah images” to pique the interest of participants.

Over the years, he estimated, he has looked at some 2,000 Haggadot, from which he made the selections for his book.

Does he have personal favorites? “Certainly,” he said, “but for political reasons I will keep those a secret.”

 

“Rosenberg English Holocaust Haggadah for Passover: Holocaust Poems and Essays to Supplement the Seder” by Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg (Self-published, no price given; available at holocausthaggadah.com).

The title of Rabbi Rosenberg’s Haggadah tells the whole story — it is personal; it has a Shoah theme; it is all in English, with no Hebrew or Aramaic, as in a traditional Haggadah; and it contains dozens of literary works fit to be read throughout the holiday evening.

The rabbi, born in a Displaced Persons camp to Polish-born Holocaust survivors, put together this supplement after teaching for years in a New Jersey day school and authoring several books about the Holocaust. It’s intended to be a tribute to the victims and survivors — a reminder to post-Holocaust generations to keep the memory of that experience alive, and an education in what happened.

“We must incorporate in our religious services and religious traditions, memoirs, readings, and liturgy, readings concerning the Holocaust,” Rabbi Rosenberg, now emeritus spiritual leader of Congregation Beth-El in Edison, writes in the Haggadah’s introduction. “Reading about the Holocaust must become part of every Jewish holiday.”

The rabbi, who serves on New Jersey’s Holocaust Commission and chairs the New York Board of Rabbis’ Holocaust Commission, includes in his book essays, poetry, and short stories written by students at the day school where he taught, as well as contributions by survivors and their descendants. A few of the rabbi’s own writings, some discussion questions, and black-and-white historical photos are also part of the book.

The message of the Haggadah is simple, Rabbi Rosenberg said: “If you want to fight against anti-Semitism, if you want to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, you have to keep retelling the story.”

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