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Your Own Personal Family Haggadah--For Free!

March 11, 2009

The haggadah is the prayerbook that structures the Passover seder, the traditional ritual meal of the first night(s) of the holiday. The main part of the haggadah is a retelling of the story of the exodus from Egypt. The themes of the service are liberation and family connection to a shared history. You can make your own haggadah that fits your family--in this article, I'll tell you how.

Do-it-yourself projects are an American tradition. Computers have extended our ability to publish our work and now you can provide a Passover seder for your family and friends with a personalized haggadah. I've provided resources on my website and I'd love to have readers from InterfaithFamily.com share their work there.

illuminated haggadah
This illuminated haggadah is from the Jewish Museum in Budapest. The page shown has the Four Questions in Hebrew. Photo: Flickr/Paul Seligman.

When you create your own haggadah, you make a souvenir that seder participants can take home with them to remember family traditions. You can create just what you need for the one or two nights you celebrate, especially if every seder you host has different participants who have different backgrounds, skills and interests. Creating a haggadah together as a family also presents an inter-generational learning opportunity. You can include parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, in the process of making something beautiful and meaningful to your family.

On my website, Jewishfreeware.org, I have provided several versions of the traditional haggadah. All of the versions on my site include Hebrew, English and transliterated Hebrew to maximally engage your seder participants, depending upon their familiarity with the seder, with Hebrew reading, or just visiting. These editions can be printed, copied and shared without limit as long as you are not using them commercially or making a profit.

You can use the traditional texts that I've provided to edit your own haggadah by printing the pages from .pdf format and using the hard copy to make your haggadah, editing in your own English texts and illustrations. Bind it with a three-hole-punch loose leaf binder or make a booklet with another binding. You can easily transfer cover art to heavier weight paper or cardboard at your local copy shop and make your own cover. Edit the text by removing pages you don't intend to recite at your seder and by adding readings or seder songs.

You can make the haggadah personal by creating your own contemporary readings, illustrations, cartoons and discussion questions and adding them to the booklet where you want them.

I strongly recommend adding a family genealogy for your concluding pages. You can include digital photos and a family tree.

You can also download the traditional haggadot I've provided in the software we used to create it, Davkawriter Platinum 6 Hebrew-English word processor. If you have this software, this option will enable you to edit the Hebrew side of the page electronically, including making the fonts larger.

Though I provided the text of the traditional haggadah for free, you might have found a published version of the service that you like better. You can still personalize this by downloading pages from other haggadot like the ones I've provided, or from my Seder Songbook. You can create personalized inserts for published books with supplementary readings that are meaningful for you.

Even if you don't feel up to making your own haggadah, you can soup up your seder with additional texts. Every year my family purchases new haggadot to put on the table for people to look at during the service according to their own interests. Then, using the shared, common Haggadah I've prepared, knowing that we are on the same page, we can have everyone adding to the discussion, comments, questions or songs in addition to whatever we've planned to share in advance.

I'm proud of the Seder Song Book I'm offering on my site. It's the world's largest book of parodies, traditional hymns and songs. You can print it up and bind it separately unless you want to select the songs and insert them into your personal haggadah. If you feel moved to write a new Passover song or parody, please send it to me! With your permission, I'll include it in my next collection.

Indeed, I'm interested in your whole creative haggadah. Nothing beats collecting books in my opinion. We have been collecting haggadot for decades and have literally hundreds--from the famous supermarket or coffee manufacturers to reprints of illuminated medieval manuscripts! Your creativity adds to the world of haggadot and collectors like me would LOVE to receive a PDF of your haggadah.

I love getting new creative haggadot so much that I am sponsoring a contest to find the best one. The contest closes March 26. I'm offering prizes including laptops, Jewish software and books. If you, or one of your children, would like to enter Hag HaHaggadah: A Creative Festival 5769, check out the rules on my site.

Happy Pesach!

Editor's Note: For more resources to add that special something to your interfaith family's seder, check out our Passover and Easter Resource Page. We have readings and tips for making the evening inclusive.

Hebrew for "telling," the text that outlines the order of the Passover seder. There are many, many versions of this book, which dates back almost 2,000 years. Because we are commanded to expand upon the story, the Haggadah contains ancient interpretations, as well as stage directions and explanations, for the Passover meal. Plural form of the Hebrew for "telling," it's the text that outlines the order of the Passover seder. There are many, many versions of this book, which dates back almost 2,000 years. Because we are commanded to expand upon the story, the Haggadah contains ancient interpretations, as well as stage directions and explanations, for the Passover meal. The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "Passover," the spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals.

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner is the President of the Foundation For Family Education, Inc., is the part-time Associate Rabbi of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim in Philadelphia and teaches for Gratz College Jewish Community High School. He has had millions of hits/downloads in more than 70 countries world-wide of holiday materials in the past 8 years of being on-line at www.jewishfreeware.org. Write me at bdlerner1@gmail.com.

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