A New Passover Haggadah from Edgar M. Bronfman

Edgar M. Bronfman’s no stranger to intermarriage. The publicity in the lead up to his 2008 book, Hope, Not Fear: A Path To Jewish Renaissance, was full of great quotes:

“Now we have a choice. We can double the amount of Jews that there are, or we can irritate everybody who’s intermarried and lose them all.”

“[T]he rabbi who refuses to marry couples [where only one partner is Jewish] is turning people off.”

“My answer to ‘who is a Jew’ is ‘anybody who wants to be.’”

Actually, I’m having a hard time not just quoting this whole, short article, so just read it now. I’ll wait here.

In his above-mentioned book (read an excerpt here), Bronfman wrote that among Jews and the Jewish community, the

task of building a significant Jewish future requires a newly hopeful attitude. Fear of assimilation and intermarriage should not replace fear of anti-Semitism…. We must open ourselves up to new ideas and new faces and be welcoming to all who choose to participate. Openness may not be the easiest way, but it is our only way.

Excerpt from The Bronfman Haggadah

And speaking of enjoyment — there is nothing more enjoyable than a good story. With that in mind, we move to the Maggid section of our ceremony — a Hebrew word meaning "to tell."

Keeping with the themes of openness, new ideas, and inclusion, Bronfman has written a new Passover Haggadah, the book used as a guide for the ritual dinner, the seder.

His own family seders are large and celebratory affairs and include intermarried family members and friends old and new who are welcomed to enjoy the annual feast together.

Well-chosen readings from luminaries, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass and poet Marge Piercy, highlight the story of slavery and freedom. Bronfman’s creative and interactive approach is a story for all ages, in which readers assume a character in the Exodus journey.

It also diverts from the traditional Haggadah in a way that is extremely welcoming to interfaith families. “I decided to open the door to Elijah at the beginning of the meal instead of at the end. I always found it slightly odd that Elijah was invited to the table after the meal. My wife, Jan, and I both believe it is before this joyous feast begins that we ought to invite the stranger into our homes,” he writes in the Haggadah.

In Bronfman’s view, Elijah represents a redeemed world — a world free of racism, slavery, cruelty, poverty and greed. Elijah also represents the hungry stranger. This gesture reminds us to open the doors of our hearts to those in need during this holiday season and the rest of the year.

Inviting and inclusive, and with illustrations by Bronfman’s wife, Jan Aronson, it looks like a nice new alternative for families who want to share the storytelling and keep the seder to English.

What do you think? Is this a Haggadah your family will try out this Passover?


Trailer for The Bronfman Haggadah.

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