Books for the Holiday: Upping the Passover Quotient
When we look at the season’s latest Haggadot—for there will always be new, exciting, original, modern versions—we have to ask: What makes them truly different than all others? And does that difference appeal to me? Here is what is available:
*If you want updated Reform—there’s one of those.
*If you want the quickest way out of the dining room—there’s one for that.
*If you want traditional with cutesy touches—there’s one of those, too.
*If you want digital—yup, there is even an App for that.
And if you also want to jazz up the Seder with parodies that will showcase your dramatic talent, spend kitchen time with your kids or, lastly, give your kids storybooks appropriate for the holiday—we’ve got it covered.
The Bronfman Haggadah
Two years ago, the husband-and-wife team of philanthropist Edgar Bronfman and artist Jan Aronson published The Bronfman Haggadah, with text thoughtfully updated and edited for progressive Seder-goers and, perhaps most notably, beautiful watercolor illustrations gracing every page. Now you can see that art come alive in the Bronfman Hagaddah App (available for iPads and iPhones for $8.99 in the App Store). Aronson’s striking animated depiction of flames flicker on the tablet’s screen; the lintels and door post of an Israelite home receive daubs of lamb blood from a hyssop brush; and water pours swiftly out of Aronson’s painting of Miriam’s Cup.
The App features a complete narration if you wish to listen to the leader and celebrants’ lines, or simply follow along as the story unfolds page swipe by page swipe. Also featured in the App are several videos with Bronfman and Aronson. —Libby Barnea
The New Union Haggadah, Revised Edition
(CCAR Press, 110 pp. $18 cloth, $22 large print paper)
This update of the 1923 Union Haggadah does justice to the original. It remains a visual delight and retains its classic ethical-liberal outlook. Written in English, it is reader-friendly if you do not know Hebrew—Hebrew blessings and text are both translated and transliterated. Women will appreciate the gender-sensitive language and inclusion of the Miriam’s Cup. The artwork includes new full-color works inspired by stained-glass windows of Reform congregations and institutions. There are also several new essays: “The Biblical Exodus,” “The History of the Haggada,” “The Haggada and Reform Judaism” and “Exodus as a Theme in American History and Culture.”
Readers will appreciate the many thoughtful prayers, such as this one, which is said after the traditional Hebrew blessing for lighting the candles.
The Hyper-Modern Ancient With-It Traditional Haggadah
By Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. Illustrated by David Fletcher (Class One Press, 100 pp. $18.99 paper)
This cartoon-illustrated, easy-to-hold, spiral-bound Haggada is traditional, but designed to make people unfamiliar with Hebrew comfortable. For one thing, it reads from left to right. For another, the English is printed in larger type than the Hebrew.
The humor is kid-friendly. Overall, this version of the Haggada is a good teaching text.
Sixty-Minute Seder: Preserving the Essence of the Passover Haggadah
By Cass (Yickezkale) & Nellie (Nechama) Foster. (Six Points Press, 96 pp. $12.95)
Described as a simple guide to a traditional Seder, this truncated version of Seder traditions can be useful to participants whose Hebrew is limited. Where Hebrew is used for various blessings, there is English and transliteration. A glossary of terms (afikoman, berachah, Counting of the Omer) is included. One odd note: The section “Second Night’s Seder” gives instructions for preparing the Seder table, where to put holiday candles, providing cushions for guests, setting out Haggadot, the pre-Passover search for and burning of hametz—all the things one should read about before the first Seder.
There is a lot packed into this slim book: ideas for crafts and other activities for kids; topics for grownup discussions and recipes (quinoa-stuffed peppers, Israeli salad and Easy Flourless Chocolate Cake). You may not want this for your main Haggada, but you might consider it as a supplement.
60 Minute Seder: Complete Passover Haggadah
by Robert Kopman. Illustrated by Bil Yanok.
(60Minuteseder.com, 45 pp. $10.95)
Robert Kopman, who created the 30 Minute Seder, has extended the quick version to include all 15 parts of the Seder. Intended for Reform and Conservative households, the Haggada’s layout uses dramatic and colorful full-page photographs. It is clearly organized and easy to read, using mainly English. This attractive addition to the Seder table will be welcomed.
The Story of Passover
By David A. Adler. Illustrated by Jill Weber. (Holiday House, 32 pp. $15.95)
Prolific storyteller Adler and artist Weber have created a straightforward, entertaining and colorful tale of the events that began when Jacob and his family settled in Egypt, until their miraculous escape from bondage. Depicted are Moses’ tearful mother who places her child in a basket to save his life, Moses hearing a voice in a huge inflamed—but unburnt—bush—and all the plagues: the bloody Nile River, the swarms of frogs and locusts, cloud of lice, dying beasts and total darkness. The delicate but expressive artwork makes the story attractive reading.
The Littlest Levine
By Sandy Lanton. Illustrated by Claire Keay. (Kar-Ben, 24 pp. $17.95)
Redheaded Hannah Levine is the youngest child in her family. She is too little for so many things—too little to reach the sink by herself, too little to tie her own shoelaces, too little to ride in the big yellow school bus with her sister and brother. In the sukka, she cannot reach to hang decorations, she cannot light the Hanukka menora without help, she cannot put hamantaschen in the oven by herself. And she doesn’t like it one bit.
“I hate being the littlest Levine,” Hannah says. Her grandpa, who has a white mustache, tells her that soon she will be glad to be the littlest Levine and he starts preparing Hannah for her role at the Passover Seder. When he asks, who is the littlest Levine? Guess who stood up and asked all Four Questions?
The art is colorful and delightful.
Seder in the Desert
By Jamie Korngold. Photos by Jeff Finkelstein
(Kar-Ben, 32 pp. $17.95 cloth, $7.95 paper, $6.95 eBook)
Jeff Finkelstein’s photographs and Rabbi Jamie Korngold’s descriptions of hiking and climbing in the desert, help us appreciate (distantly) what it is like to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers’ who left Egypt. Just as they helped each other climb and had to contend with desert heat before they celebrated the Seder, so do the many people who participate in the Adventure Rabbi Program, which Korngold leads). There is singing and dancing and gratitude to God. Not a bad commercial for the program.
Sadie’s Lag Ba’omer Mystery
By Jamie Korngold. Illustrated by Julie Fortenberry. (Kar-Ben, 32 pp. $17.95 cloth, $7.95 paper, $6.95 eBook)
The title of this story is clever and fitting, since the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer is truly a mystery to many people. And the premise that starts the tale is valid: Upon seeing a full moon, little Sadie asks, What holiday is it, knowing that Jewish holidays begin at moonrise. When her grandpa answers that there is no holiday on the full moon this month, but there is a holiday soon after, Sadie and her brother, Ori, agree that it is a mystery. After all, there are no books about Lag B’Omer, no candlesticks or dreidels for Lag B’Omer. Soon their grandpa is telling them a story about Rabbi Akiva and how he and his students hid from the Romans in a secret cave in the woods to study Torah, which the Roman emperor had forbidden. And then they learn how we celebrate today (psst: bonfires and picnics). The textured illustrations help give the story depth. This is a great first book to teach about the holiday that follows Passover.
Passover Parodies: Short Plays for the Seder Table
By Shoshana Hantman (Sidney Books, $15, 217 pp.)
Rabbi Hantman is both a pulpit rabbi and educator whose students read plays in class every week. Now she has written 14, 10-minute parodies that are meant to be read at the Seder. They are humorous, ingenious takeoffs of well known films and books–from Shakespeare (“Much Ado About Bupkes”) to J.K. Rowling (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Horseradish”). If Doctor Who is your hero, there is “From Regeneration to Regeneration.” Other unsubtle but clever parodies are “Play It Again, Moses,” “The Sign of Four Questions”and “The Lambshank Redemption.” For Gilbert and Sullivan afficianados, there is the well-versed “Trial by Jewry”:
Moses: I am the prophet of the Israelites
All: And there is not another we would choose
Moses: You’re very very good , and be it understood
You’re a right fine bunch of Jews
All: We’re very very good, and be it understand
We’re a right fine bunch of Jews
though my pedigree is lowly
to posterity I’m holy
I’m devoted to my Hebrew flock,
And occasionally a rebel
Might make me smack a pebble,
But I’d never, never strike a rock!
All: What, never
Moses: No. Never
All: What, never?
Moses: Well–hardly ever!
There is a diverse range of play, fun and thought in these short plays, and you might want to whip one out to keep people awake
Let My Children Cook!: A Passover Cookbook for Kids
By Tamar Ansh (Judaica Press, 96 pp. $9.95)
This slim book is promoted as a cookbook for ages 8 to 108. The glossy paper, colorful illustrations and easy to understand recipes make it fun for kids to peruse and experiment with the more than 80 recipes offered by Israeli cookbook writer Tamar Ansh. The recipes include the very important Charoses, Traditional Fluffy Matzah Balls and Fun Finger Foods such as Turkey Shishkabobs and Munch-a-Brunch Matzah Brie as well as a variety of soups (chicken to potato).
There are also fish dishes (Really Easy Gefilte Fish), meat and chicken (burgers to barbecue-flavored chicken wings), salads and latkes.
Adults might like it just as much as kids, especially if they want to work in the kitchen with their children. Especially when they make desserts such as the 10 fruit-based dishes, six kinds of cookies and 12 sundaes, shakes and ice creams. Throw in some craft ideas and this well-stocked book delivers.
Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls: A Passover Tale in Chelm
by Linda Glaser. Ilustrated by Maryam Tabatabaei. (Albert Whitman & Co., 32 pp. $16.99)
Linda Glaser brilliantly brings the old folk tale of Stone Soup into the orbit of the foolish people of Chelm. When a poor stranger comes to town just before Passover and asks for food, the people say they have none for themselves! With only a stone—and a few other ingredients—the man soon concocts a delicious soup for the Seder that will fill the bellies of everyone.
The big-eyed villagers and their children and their off-kilter homes are brightly drawn in this satisfying tale.