• jewjubox

We Wrote a Haggadah!

Ellen writes:

When we created our first Seder Boxes, we were very pleased to find some Haggadot that would fit into our boxes as an exceptional price. To be frank, we think that it never occurred to the retailer we bought them from, that they would keep from year to year, and so they sold them at a deep discount after Pesach. Given that one of our primary goals is to keep our boxes affordable, we were thrilled. Since then, they seem to have figured it out.

Those Haggadot were …. fine. They came from a respected publishing house. They had all the required components. They fit in our boxes. But we knew that when we ran out, we wanted to replace them with something that better represented who we are and what we’re about. Gender-neutral God language. Inclusive. Accessible no matter the reader’s level of Jewish knowledge. Authentic. Inexpensive enough that we could keep the box affordable. Small enough to fit in our box.

There are a lot of truly lovely Haggadot out there. But we couldn’t find one that met all our requirements, and so…. we decided to create our own.

Picture of Union Haggadah and page open to ornate frontispiece.

For our entire lives, we’ve used one of two Haggadot: First the Union Haggadah, followed by the CCAR’s A Passover Haggadah. Our Seder and the Haggadah housed many traditions that are specific to our family. When the entire extended family got together, our Uncle Herb always read about the bitter herbs.

Cover of CCAR A Passover Haggadah

There's a spectacularly maudlin reading before Had Gadya that my father always reads with suitable pathos. It ends with “Small nose in large hand, large hand on small nose.” That became a unison reading a few years back. When our seders were large and our children were young, the Afikoman was broken into several pieces, and the search was by age category.

All of which is to say, it’s daunting to create a new Haggadah, for strangers. What’s essential? What will resonate with people? What should be included? Omitted? What do we like about other Haggadot that we want to incorporate? How long should it be?

Fortunately, we didn’t have to start from scratch. We started with Haggadot.com, where people generously share “clips” - readings or media that they created for their own Haggadot. The site allows you to start with a template in keeping with your needs, and then you customize to your heart’s content.

We went through one iteration that had everything we liked in it, with a lot of optional readings. It was so long that printing would have entailed expensive binding and printing costs. Back to the drawing board!

Do you know the expression, “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun”? With the bare outline of Haggadah #2 in place, the niggly, nit-picky work began: Adding and adjusting headers (which we decided to use to track your place in the Seder). Adjusting spacing and size. Editing text for consistency, and inclusiveness – no small thing, given how it’s pieced together from a multitude of authors. And then….inviting others to vet and edit. Each volunteer editor looked at the Haggadah through their own lens, meaning they all caught different mis-steps and had different valuable suggestions. Our favourite: Did you know that one iteration of the song "Let My People Go" has a verse about Jesus? We thought it was a standard, and so we really didn’t read every word. Lesson learned!

As I write this, we’re not there yet, but we’re close enough to be excited. Our plan is to include them in our Seder Boxes, but also offer them as a download by email. Watch our social media to find out when it’s ready.