Haggadot for Everyone
by Cokie and Steve Roberts
(Harper, 137 pp. $19.99)
This small book has a lot of heart. In its two introductions, Steve Roberts, son of secular Jewish parents, and his wife, Cokie Roberts, a church-going Catholic, describe their decision to marry despite religious differences and family objections. To make their marriage work, they resolved to incorporate and honor both traditions.
The Roberts’s annual Seder—with invitations extended to other interfaith couples—led to the family’s homespun Haggada. The decision to publish it, Cokie Roberts says, makes it available to other “non-Jews who want to sit at the Passover table.”
This Haggada is a primer for the uninitiated to make their own Seder, with enough explanation to make the traditions meaningful. Included are basic instructions on setting the table and discussions about whether one must buy a Seder plate or matza cover. The rules of hametz, the four cups of wine, the dipping and the songs are related. Cokie Roberts, who is from New Orleans, decided that an authentic Passover meal should be Sefardic rather than East European cuisine, and a chapter of recipes is included.
Those who avail themselves of this Haggada will likely thank Cokie and Steve Roberts for sharing.
A Passover Haggadah: Go Forth and Learn
by David Silber with Rachel Furst.
(Jewish Publication Society, 230 pp. $18 paper)
Rabbi David Silber’s contribution to the Haggada bookshelf is actually twofold. From right to left is the Hebrew Haggada with accompanying English translation and commentary. Book two, from left to right, comprises eight scholarly essays. Silber explores “Arami Oved Avi” (usually translated as “An Aramean [Lavan] wanted to destroy my father”), considered the core text of the Haggada, which relates the near destruction of the Israelites in Egypt. Other topics are God’s covenant wth the Jewish people; seeing the Exodus as an individual and collective coming of age; rereading the plagues; the paschal sacrifice and the shaping of a nation; Lot and the destruction of Sodom; andHallel as a song of redemption.
Silber, founder and dean of Drisha Institute for Jewish Education in New York, which advances Jewish learning for women, and Rachel Furst, who teaches Talmud and Rabbinic literature in Jerusalem, have created an erudite work.