Traditional, Up-dated and Radical Haggadahs Still Ask ‘why is This Night Different?
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Traditional, Up-dated and Radical Haggadahs Still Ask ‘why is This Night Different?

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Many different Haggadahs, ranging from the traditional to the “up-dated” to extreme “radicalized” versions prepared by Jewish adherents of the New Left, will be read at seders all over America when Passover begins at sundown tomorrow. The Haggadah relates the story of how Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land, as recorded in Exodus, the second of the five books of Moses. The traditional version that has been followed by most observing Jews over the years is one that had been used in the ghettos and “shtetls” (villages) of Eastern Europe for countless generations. Some Jewish religious leaders and laymen have been reading updated Haggadahs in recent years that retain most of the traditional text but include supplements and special prayers relating to the establishment of the modern State of Israel, the plight of Soviet Jewry and the struggle for racial equality at home. According to Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, director of the inter-religious affairs department of the American Jewish Committee, Passover “has become a universal parable whose symbolism has meaning for all people who strive toward freedom.”

Rabbi Wolff Kelman, an official of the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical arm of Conservative Judaism, said that in his own home he will read the traditional Haggadah with supplementary material. His seder guests will sing in Hebrew, “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the American civil rights movement, in tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Meyer Levin, the author, has written his own Haggadah illustrated with photographs of modern Israel, called “Israel Haggadah.” He said it complies with tradition but restores to the Passover seder “something of the spontaneity, of connection to current life, and hence to universal freedom efforts.” A “Jewish Liberation Haggadah” has been published by the “Jewish Liberation Project”, an organization of Zionist Socialists, which borrows extensively from the works of Zionist writers, modern Hebrew and Yiddish songs and poems. The JLP is strongly Zionist but is critical of the policies of the present Israeli Government.


The powerful symbolism of the Haggadah as a liberation tract has been recognized by Jews concerned with the struggle of Soviet Jewry for their basic rights including the right to emigrate to Israel. The American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry has urged every Jewish household to read a statement at the seder beginning with the words, “This is the Matzoh of Hope.” The statement continues, “This matzoh, which we set aside as a symbol of hope for the three and a half million Jews of the Soviet Union, remind us of the indestructible links that exist between us. As we observe this festival of freedom, we know that Soviet Jews are not free…As their voices rise in Jewish affirmation and protest, we add our voices to theirs, and we shall be joined by all those whose consciences are aroused by the wrongs inflicted on Soviet Jews.” In Los Angeles, the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews invited local Jewish families to take a non-Jewish friend to an updated “Third Seder” to be conducted next Thursday at Temple Israel. Its theme will be, “Let My People Go”, the ancient cry of Moses to Pharaoh, now directed to the leaders of the Kremlin.

The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York has estimated that 50,000 persons of all ages will attend seders at Federation supported homes for the aged, hospitals and child care facilities and centers. Bedside seders will be conducted for disabled persons and patients in need of special care, according to George H. Heyman, Jr., president of the Federation. New York’s Congregation Emanu-El, the world’s largest Reform congregation, held pre-Passover model seders at its religious school today. Passover services are scheduled to begin in the main sanctuary at 5:30 p.m., Monday, to be broadcast over WQXR radio. A congregational seder will follow the services.

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