Monday, March 29, 2021

The Haggadah You Have To Have

Comics and graphic novels are relatively new forms of publication for Jewish works. Recently, I reviewed the appallingly bad Just Imagine! graphic novel. There's also more than one Pesach graphic novel haggadah available. Some of them are unappealing at every level. Others have beautiful artwork, but suffer from presenting Midrash as pshat.

In contrast, The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel is simply fantastic. It presents the entire text of the haggadah in comic format with superb artwork, and it (largely) sticks to pshat rather than Midrash. But it's so much more than that.

The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel is amazingly creative in terms of how it takes the concept of Bechol dor v'dor - that every generation should see itself as being part of the Exodus - and makes it come to life, by interspersing the artwork of the Exodus story with other episodes from Jewish history of persecution and salvation. My son pointed out to me that there is an ongoing storyline about a Jew keeping his Jewish identity in Russia and eventually making aliyah which is told in several different sections interspersed throughout. And I love the picture for Avadim hayinu which depicts how it would look if we were still enslaved to Pharaoh today - in office cubicles under an Egyptian taskmaster! I keep discovering new things in it, such as the part about our not being masters of our own fate being illustrated by the George Washington Bridge!

But my favorite page is the full-page picture illustrating how everyone should see themselves as having left Egypt. It's a selfie taken by someone walking through the Yam Suf, and behind him you can see countless famous people from Jewish history. There's Rambam and Rabbi Sacks, and also Natan Sharansky and Ilan Ramon and Ben-Gurion and Albert Einstein. (There were several faces that I couldn't recognize - if you can identify more, please post the names in the comments.)

If you have kids who are not so interested in reading commentaries or listening to people give explanations, this is an amazing way for them to be engaged. But it's also a great way for anyone to think about the Haggadah in a new way. I was at a seder with many different people, and everyone was intrigued by it.

I must apologize for not writing this post before Pesach. But at least you can order it now for next year!

65 comments:

  1. The Just Imagine Pesach book happens to be excellent as well and is in no way comparible to the horrible Covid-19 book.

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    1. Yeah, this hagadah is amazing despite the fact that it has pictures of people like ben gurion, may his bones rot, who was an athiest for much of his life, hated Judiasm, ate pork, worked on yom kippur, and certainly did not refrain from chometz on pesach.

      Its nice to see him in this hagaddah, but that old charedi book is horrible. Makes perfect sense.

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  2. This is available in Hebrew as well.

    I have to commend Koren for having reviews on its site. The first here is a perfect example of Woke madness, though.

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  3. I was very good friends with one of the authors (Jordan Gorfinkel) when we were together at Boston University. He is talented in many fields--and an excellent בעל קורא as well!

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  4. R Natan, is this a book review or a puff piece? As the former it is remarkably short and wholly kind, which is uncharacteristic of this site.

    I enjoyed the Haggadah too as a comic book aficionado, and the Russian parallels were done very well (your son is right; look again and spot all the little touches), not to mention the genius of having the translation ONLY as part of the graphic novel. Really tells the story very well. And the illustrations themselves are of a very good standard and often historically correct, unlike the more charedi versions showing the Jews running around Egypt in stremel and beketche!

    I did have some reservations, though.

    1. I felt that sometimes the editors seemed to be trying TOO hARD to bash you over the head with the inclusivity concept, e.g. the mixed race Seder, with children of all colours sitting alongside each other, which isn't really practical - unless it's set in an orphanage, how many Jewish seder-observant families would have kids of different complexions at the same table?

    2. I was also slightly uneasy with the very same picture that you praise so highly. In the same shot you have Einstein, the Lubav Rebbe, R Jonathan Sacks, Baba Sali and Rambam. Then a bunch of other famous Jews. Not really Kevod Chachomim. I get that they were just trying to do the more famous faces, but the juxtaposition is jarring.

    3. I had never before seen a depiction of Sarah Imenu pregnant, in this case, grossly huge and fat as if she was bearing triplets. What did you make of that? The depictions of Yitzchok and Yaakov are also slightly whimsical rather than reverent.

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    1. You understated it. Not only does it present totally unrealistic and secular leftism-influenced pictures of a mixed race seder, but its also been heavily feminized. Almost every one of the illustrations shown on the Amazon sampler features a female speaker or protagonist. (There is a wimpy looking kid with a tiny kipah on his head, perhaps the writer's idea of "balance.") I leave it for others who own the book to report where they allude to the inevitable homosexual character.

      I thought Koren promoted itself as a home for "scholarship." I didn't realize that what they really meant, apparently, is just rootless secularism. What a shame.

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    2. I like comic books, anime, and graphic novels, too. I'll get myself a copy.

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    3. When the Haggadah was released, Gorfinkle went on a speaking tour to discuss the premise for the Haggadah, how pages were designed (not just artisticly but the imagery and intent) and the level of effort and thinking that went behind each page. Among other things, this included a diverse panel of rabbonim involved in evaluating how each page was coming together and provide an opportunity for comment and modification accounting for a range of sensibilities. Ultimately, Koren is a for profit publishing house and the haggadah needed to be broad enough in appeal across communities to make it profitable. The cost to put this thing together was substantial given the number of people involved and level of effort. The number of constraints was not insubstantial and based on Gorfinkle’s discussions, it’s amazing the project even completed.

      I don’t think Rabbi Slifkin was intending to provide a thorough review as much as a recommendation. Anyone seeking to provide the former has a responsibility to evaluate the work from the perspective of what did Koren seek in publishing and did it meet its objective rather than what each individual or communal representative would have liked to see since the intent was not to put forth a monolithic text that would meet the expectations of the far right or left and hope for the best thereafter.

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    4. When the Haggadah was released, Gorfinkle went on a speaking tour to discuss the premise for the Haggadah, how pages were designed (not just artistically but the imagery and intent) and the level of effort and thinking that went behind each page. Among other things, this included a diverse panel of rabbonim involved in evaluating how each page was coming together and provide an opportunity for comment and modification accounting for a range of sensibilities. Ultimately, Koren is a for-profit publishing house and the haggadah needed to be broad enough in appeal across communities to make it profitable. The cost to put this thing together was substantial given the number of people involved and level of effort. The number of constraints was not insubstantial and based on Gorfinkle’s discussions, it’s amazing the project even completed.

      I don’t think Rabbi Slifkin was intending to provide a thorough review as much as a recommendation. Anyone seeking to provide the former has a responsibility to evaluate the work from the perspective of what did Koren seek in publishing and did it meet its objective rather than what each individual or communal representative would have liked to see since the intent was not to put forth a monolithic text that would meet the expectations of the far right or left and hope for the best thereafter.

      With regard to your observations:

      1. The intent with the diversity of faces was to achieve a number of things: a b'chol dor v'dor effect, the diversity and range of the Jewish community and to enable a person looking at a given page to identify with it in some part. I think you're being a bit too literal in assuming the intent of seeing a table full of diverse children is meant to suggest any specific family.

      2. Not sure what you are suggesting - that gedolei torah be grouped and separated from other known Jewish personalities or for them to be pictorially represented in such a way that suggests greater weighting to their achievements in Torah over other Jews known for achievements not relating to Torah? I think this is an editorial decision that considered factors differently than you may have. At a minimum, I think all gedolei torah here are represented in a respectful way.

      3. I do not know what you mean by "reverent" in this context. Assuming you are referring to the page 47 (opposite "varbeh et zaro"). Sarah Imeinu here does not look grossly huge or fat at all. She certainly looks like an old woman, which is the neis, and ostensibly acceptable. When Yitzchak is born, there actually is a shine behind him which in my mind suggests a special neshama, not an ordinary baby, while Avraham and Sarah seem deeply appreciative with their tears. Yaakov, in a soft blue, looks regal and quite "tam" especially in contradistinction to the fiery orange of Eisav and his jagged clothing. Indeed, Ya'akov's family looks rather tzanu'a, with Eisav's much more revealing and wry. Perhaps Ya'akov does not look angelic (nor the older Yitzchak) but he does look at peace which seems wholly acceptable and not merely whimsical. Are there chazals you are thinking of that suggest a certain image that you would have liked to see which would emphasize "reverence"?

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    5. BHB,

      I haven’t yet seen that particular Haggadah, but I do question your reservations -

      1. Just last Friday, (3/26/21) the Baltimore Sun featured an article saying that 8% of that city’s Jewish population is non-white. The article also reported that roughly 12% of the US Jewish population (approximately 1,000,000 Jews) is Non-white. 60 years ago Yemenite Jews were discrimated against in Israel for their “complexions” and other things, who is it today? Israel has seen and continues to see an in gathering of exiles, kibbutz Galiyot, from every corner of the world. My own Seder table this year featured various complexions, including Caucasian, Black, and Asian - all reading from the same Haggadah - but not the same translations or commentaries, we had the Rav’s “An exalted Evening”, Rabbi
      Lamm’s “A Royal Table”, Carlebach’’s “Seder with Reb Shlomo”, Nechama Liebowitz’s “Studies in the Haggadah”. We also had Maxwell House and Nathan Goldberg’s Yellow and Orange edition. I’m not sure if we had more different looking faces or more different looking haggadot. (All adults at the Seder were vaccinated). I think more complexions at more Seder tables are the direction that things are moving in.

      The Gemara in Sanhedrin (pg. 38) discusses how G-D uses one template (Adam) and create people who ALL look so differently. But we need to know that we all come from the same ancestors. I wonder what the complexions of our Neshamot are?

      2. I think at the actual kriyat yamsuf, it was as you described above; Jews from all walks of life (mainly slaves) crossing together as one people (separated possibly by shevet, but not by honor)

      3. How is it that a depiction of a pregnant woman should be described as “grossly huge and fat”? Is Not pregnancy a beautiful thing?

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    6. I dont need to see a picture of someone who looks *exactly* like me, to *identify* with him. I enjoyed the many stories I grew up with gentile characters, I was never unable to *relate* because they didn't look exactly like me.

      GD says it was done "to enable a person looking at a given page to identify with it in some part." If so, then its a double failure. What do I care if someone can identify a part of a picture, if the picture as a whole is insensible? Does it help if I can recognize a word or two in a French text, if overall its incomprehensible? . Even going with the liberal notion that you have to look like someone to relate to him, a generic family would have been relatable to at least most readers. But no one at all can relate to the imaginary hodge-podge of characters depicted in this. Indeed, it is one of the many failings of liberalism that the more they focus on differences, the further apart we become. Gorfinkle is very talented, but this leftwing hagadah was a mistake.

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    7. The seder I and my family attended this year was indeed a "mixed race" seder with children of "different complexions" at the table and it was just us and the hosting family, our neighbours and close friends. We were not at an orphanage, just across the road in our moshav.

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    8. Unknown - you are misrepresenting a Haggadah that you have admitted you haven’t seen in full. There are no hodge-podge groupings of characters. There is only one instance where the people around a table likely are not all one family (p23-24) but it is likely that the “outsider” is a guest. The children singing mah nishtana also are of a range of backgrounds, but there isn’t the slightest attempt to suggest they are all one family. Otherwise, all family groupings are “generic” to use your term. Obviously the representation of people does not align with one specific community - that would have defeated the purpose of making it accessible to a wide audience.

      The Haggadah is not left wing, per se. it is the traditional text, with traditional translation, traditional halachic guidance on covering and lifting snd drinking etc and for the most part steers clear of any controversial statements. Yes, it shows a broad range of people not all of whom are halachic Jews, but it doesn’t do so to promote or validate as much as to acknowledge the reality of the diversity of our community. That’s not left or liberal unless you’re deeply moored in the far right religious community, but they are not buying anything Koren so what’s your point?

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    9. BHB,

      I can't imagine what problem you could possibly have with a "mixed race Seder, with children of all colours sitting alongside each other".

      At my (covid-compliant) seder this year, we were privileged to have not only my traditional (boring) Ashkenazi family, but our very dear friends: a family of blond-haired, blue-eyed Russian Jews, and a family of African-American geirim with their beautiful children.

      As "Mollie Fisch" commented below: perhaps consider expanding your horizons a bit.

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    10. GD - let me first say that Jordan Gorfinkle is an artist and a talent and we can always use more of such individuals. He is not only a cartoonist of note, but he is also a musician, and wrote the very moving "Chazak" song (a la We are the World) during the Oslo terrorism. I definitely think people like him should be encouraged and, where possible, supported.

      The problem is that this isn't a cartoon in a left wing paper, like the very fine "Everything's Relative" Jordan used to (still does?) write for the Jewish Week. This is sacred literature. If he or his editor believes in Identity Politics he can incorporate that into a weekly strip, or a book of his own. It has no place in the Pesach Haggadah, a work even older than the Talmud.

      You say I didnt read the whole thing. True. I've never been to Alaska either, but I know it's cold. I saw enough from the two dozen or so panels on the Amazon page, plus the descriptions of you and others, to get a sense of what its about. That's how I was able to see it was feminized, even before hearing that the 4 Sons had now turned into girls.

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    11. I really am struggling to understand your position here. This haggadah has nothing to do with identity politics – it is a tribute to the diversity resiliency and joy of the Jewish community. While you are not overtly saying it, I can only infer from your comments that you believe this haggadah’s depictions should be limited to white Eastern European males, most of which rabbinic in appearance, despite the fact that our community is vastly more diverse than you are willing to recognize. More than 25% of Jews are Sephardi, double digit figures are former Soviet Jews. 1% are Ethiopian etc. And 50% of our population is female! Why wouldn’t you expect to see a similar range of representation in a text where the primary obligation is for one to envision himself as if he is leaving Mitzrayim today.

      I also have no clue why you suggest the haggadah reeks of feminism, there is not one instance of a woman depicted as performing any mitzvah traditionally or halachicly performed by a man: kiddush, carrying a sefer torah, wearing teffilin, blowing shofar are all done by men. To wit – a woman is lighting yom tov candles and serving food to a family. Depicting two of the four banim as female shows more fidelity to the halacha and the general use of “ben” in the Torah than limiting that term to boys only (what do the women do at your seder: gloss over the text and say I’m not a son, so this is irrelevant to me?).

      Lastly, your talk of sacred literature shows a certain ignorance. Gorf approached this work with great trepidation and deferred to the guidance of rabbonim provided by Koren throughout the process to ensure he was being respectful and presenting a vision with kavod, not to mention consistent with midrashic or other external considerations. Even more, haggadahs for centuries depicted images that even by today’s standards – and most definitely yours – would be considered scandalous: women openly nursing babies, fully naked men prancing in fields, whimsical women resting with fully exposed breasts, women making matzah l’halacha, dancing demons, fully naked babies wondering about, women and men holding hands and dancing, kipah-less men on every page to name but a few. These were not fringe texts but standard, the images Jews for centuries beheld each Pesach. Not just simpleton Jews – learned, halachicly informed Jews: the illustrated Abarbanel haggadah would make even the most liberal-hearted blanche. I don’t recount these to suggest Gorf is in this tradition as much as to point out that your vision of a puritanical sacred text is simply that: a figment of your imagination. If anything, Gorf shows a certain modesty and thoughtfulness wholly absent from historical haggadahs, in part, of course, because most of the images were repurposed from Christian or otherwise non-Jewish wood-cutouts, but more specifically, because he deliberated over every detail. Not because he had some woke agenda (this text was developed way before that was even a colloquialism) but because he believes in the joys of sharing what he refers to as the ultimate origin story of our people, a diverse lot that has more range than even that depicted in his text.

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    12. I must admit that I am just flabbergasted by this idea that there is no diversity in people's seder table. How locked in your own ashkenormative world do you have to be to think like that. I admit that I live in Israel where there is incredible diversity in the population. I could completely imagine a seder with Moroccans, Yemenites, Ethiopians, Bnei Menashe and even Ashkenazim sitting together here. Furthermore, I know of a family where both parents are "white" whilst there are four children that are half-Ethiopian and one child is half-South American (she has an olive complexion) and one child is white. This is an actual family that I know, and not some "leftist agenda". I cannot, for the life of me, understand why some people get so triggered by inclusivity.

      Judaism is open to anyone who wishes to sincerely convert irrespective of their race, and as such, we have a diverse population. This is not anyone's agenda, but a fact. I have met Brazilian, Trinidadian, Nigerian, Sri Lankan, Zimbabwean, Mexican, French, Moroccan, English, South African, Argentinian, Australian, and more types of converts. News flash, these people, given that they have followed in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu, intend to keep Seder. How nice it is for them to see their journey validated in the Haggada.

      On behalf of all of us "that don't look typically X", I want to thank the designers of this Haggada for allowing a diversity of people to connect to this touchstone of Jewish identity.

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    13. It's clear from your long response that you've drunk so deeply from secular leftism that you're not even aware of it. That's the only way to explain a single sentence that says "It has nothing to do with identity politics, its a tribute to diversity...." Or focusing on "white males" , or your belief in moral superiority over our forebears (because of some trivial cover art that you obviously read on Seforim Blog.)

      Given that, we are speaking two different languages. No doubt you are the target audience for a comic book hagadah. Not much more to talk about. Good Moed.

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    14. Schreiber clearly hasn't read the Haggadah himself, or if he has, not in any detail. That much is clear from his ignorant comments such as " I was able to see it was feminized, even before hearing that the 4 Sons had now turned into girls " - which is not factually correct

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    15. A. Schreiber / Unknown - You are wholly divorced from reality. The fact of the matter is that Jews cover a broad range of backgrounds and reflection of such is valid and not part of some broader leftist / feminist agenda, as you assert. And even if you suggest the community worth reflecting is only those who are Torah observant, the diversity still remains. This superiority that you are championing around East European Ashkenazi Jews is the same insularity that led to the rise of Aryeh Deri, Shas and the multiple religious parties in Israel that are specifically not Ashkenazi.

      If your premise is that this haggadah should represent a charedi outlook, then yes, I guess from that perspective, this is left. But, that is myopic and wholly not Koren’s platform. And fundamentally, I don’t see why you’re so hot under the collar. Please explain why in any haggadah depicting people (as opposed to animals or inanimate objects) none should have a complexion different from yours. Please explain why a haggadah should not have women depicted in it, when such has been the case for centuries. Please explain why it is anathema to suggest any of the banim are female. I have not read any other actual objections you have, but would be curious to understand why you are so cynical about a work that was crafted sincerely by people who care about Torah and our mesorah.

      As an aside, I am not sure what you mean about Seforim Blog, that forum typically focuses on anomalies or lesser known sundries. Yerushalmi and others have done extensive work documenting the history of the haggadah and the examples I provided were mainstream, not curiosities that emerged over the centuries; centuries, mind you, where Jews were predominantly yiras shamayim/Shomrei mitzvos and used these haggadas. Not just cover art from the Sefirim Blog as you put it, but the very same haggadahs featured by Feldheim in its People of the Book. Just because you are not familiar with Jewish experiences and representations of such doesn’t mean they didn’t exist or were not common in their time.

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  5. Our kids used to fight over who got to use the "The Animated Haggadah" which has claymation-style figures. (I think I must have had some kind of allergy to buying more than 1 of the same haggadah!) Fun graphics always seem to grab kids' (of all ages) attention.

    One of the most discussed topics has always been how the 4 sons (or in some newer haggadahs, the 4 children) are depicted. The Schechter Haggadah (a masterpiece!) has a great historical section on this. Wondering how this "graphic novel" haggadah does it?

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    1. It has two of the sons as girls. Would you believe. And surprise surprise, the Chochom is a girl....

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    2. The בנים cover six page, three illustrated and three with text. The illustrations feature one family with four children, two girls and two boys. The חכם is the oldest daughter and the שאינו יודע לשאול is the youngest. The רשע is interesting because when the Haggadah suggest that if the רשע were in מצרים, he would not have been redeemed, there is an image of the boy in his modern clothes in ancient Egypt being carried away by taskmasters.

      With regard to Baal Ha Boss's remark, clearly there was an editorial decision to make some children female, which is in line with the Torah since "בנך" as a mitzvah is applicable to both male and female. Once that decision is made, there are some obvious considerations that need to be addressed: how many and which children. Splitting in half is a simple solution but invites challenges around the second consideration: which two children? Selecting the רשע likely would have been greeted with criticism of misogyny and limiting to תם and שאינו יודע לשאול would also have sent a message that would have fallen flat. Hence, חכם is least controversial and likely not intended to be a subtle dig. Since a second is required, שאינו יודע לשאול as a small child rather than an incompetent child also invites the least amount of controversy. No need for cynicism here.

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  6. I used this Haggadah at my seder and fell in love with it. My favorite part was the Gadiah narrator crawling out of the pile of bodies and picking up his cap. Jewish history in a nutshell. :)

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  7. I LOVE this hagaddah. We bought it when it came out and each time I see more in it - which often makes the text come alive and mean more. (The image of Eichmann's trial is one). I also love the selfie - there's also Menachem Begin and Stephen Spielberg. (This was before he won the Genesis Prize).

    I keep meaning to write to the authors to get a complete list - I suspect some are their family members.

    I profoundly disagree with a comment above relating to "Kevod Chachomim". Were they the only ones who would have left Egypt? Of course not - Kol Yisrael Chaverim and this picture shows this so clearly with so many different Jews in the picture. What better way to illustrate it.

    There's a really interesting postscript that I suspect most will miss. The last page is another interpretation of the 4 sons (or children).

    It starts with the astute one (the wise child) lighting Shabbat candles - around a century ago. Then a generation later - in the same room - you see the rebellious child, who has rejected the ways of her mother, as shown by the shabbat candles toppled. The next generation is away with the fairies - she has no grounding at all and it shows. It's the last picture that makes one think - as it's a different interpretation of the child that doesn't know how to ask. She is now under the wing of the great grandmother (the astute one) - being shown how to light shabbat candles. She is the one who will light the way forward.

    There may be no traditional midrash / commentary but the pictures do take the role of midrash and commentary - even if not always in the traditional sense. It's also a story - with characters moving forward and reappearing, as you say.

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    1. So the 4 sons have now been replaced by girls too, eh? Like I said above - completely feminized.

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    2. So the 4 sons have now turned into girls, eh? As I said above as unknown - completely feminized. Is there also an orange on the seder plate?

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    3. It’s not completely feminized at all. Banim means children and you have a chiyuv to communicate Yitziat Mitzrayim to all children, irrespective of sex. Indeed, alienating your daughter from the seder creates a doubt as to whether you were yotze your chiyuv. It’s wholly reasonable to depict the banim as both boys and girls. This isn’t an egalitarian minyan it’s not a yoetzet niddah it’s not women dancing with a torah - it is a fact - daughters attend a seder and we have a chiyuv to inform them. Now you may be from a community that chooses not to depict women in media. Koren dies not share that concern. You’re being overly critical of a text you yourself have not even reviewed.

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    4. There was no orange on the Seder plate. This is a traditional Hagaddah that appeals to a modern Orthodox, educated audience - as is the case with many Koren (maybe most) publications.

      It is not Art Scroll and doesn't aim to appeal to an Art Scroll audience. In fact I have serious problems with the Art Scroll approach - not only in its removing half the Orthodox population or sidelining them (i.e. women). It also censors Rishonim (Rashbam in Mekraot Gedolot for example - see https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-torah-wasnt-censored-so-why-censor-jewish-books-censored-today/ among other comments) - meaning it views itself as better than the Rishonim.

      Have you thought why some people include an orange on the Seder plate. It's simple: the traditional seder doesn't speak for them and they feel excluded BUT still want to belong. So it's a symbol of their exclusion. Find a way to be inclusive and no orange would be needed by those few who feel pushed out of Kehillat Yisrael. Art Scroll's approach excludes. Koren - and especially the approach of this Hagaddah includes so no non-traditional element would be needed - and in fact it would be more likely to bring people back to yiddishkeit than the critiques that this is inter-racial, feminised and other such nonsense.

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  8. Agree with Baal Ha Boss. Great concept, but the execution falls flat in some areas. The family of sheep is a bit weird, and I'm pretty sure the target audience for the Haggadah is not black kids with corn-rows from the inner city. The Haggadah is not a woke free-for-all. I still give the work credit for creativity and bringing the Haggadah alive.

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    1. You should probably read Jeffrey’s comment.

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    2. You are misrepresenting the Haggadah and emphasizing 2-3 illustrations among hundreds.

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    3. Weaver - I had only 2 or 3 reservations. On the whole, I loved the Haggadah, wokeness or not, but maybe that was coming from me as a comic book fan.

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  9. Imagine if the other, almost unrecognizable faces were Spinoza, Jezebel, Jesus, Shabbetai Zevi, and Eliezer Berland.

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    1. It would acknowledge the reality of the diversity of our community.

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    2. Shmuel, we know that אילו היה שם לא היה נגאל, so most of those would certainly not appear...

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  10. Could you share some more pictures? thanks.

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  11. When the Haggadah was released, Gorfinkle went on a speaking tour to discuss the premise for the Haggadah, how pages were designed (not just artisticly but the imagery and intent) and the level of effort and thinking that went behind each page. Among other things, this included a diverse panel of rabbonim involved in evaluating how each page was coming together and provide an opportunity for comment and modification accounting for a range of sensibilities. Ultimately, Koren is a for profit publishing house and the haggadah needed to be broad enough in appeal across communities to make it profitable. The cost to put this thing together was substantial given the number of people involved and level of effort. The number of constraints was not insubstantial and based on Gorfinkle’s discussions, it’s amazing the project even completed.

    I don’t think Rabbi Slifkin was intending to provide a thorough review as much as a recommendation. Anyone seeking to provide the former has a responsibility to evaluate the work from the perspective of what did Koren seek in publishing and did it meet its objective rather than what each individual or communal representative would have liked to see since the intent was not to put forth a monolithic text that would meet the expectations of the far right or left and hope for the best thereafter.

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    1. GD,

      When the Haggadah was released, did Gorfinkle go on a speaking tour to discuss the premise for the Haggadah, how pages were designed, etc, etc? :P

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    2. Yes he did. Very illuminating especially when he discussed key concerns. For example, shall we depict women? Do they need to be fully tzniut? Do they need to have hair covered? Should all males wear kippot? Should we have a transliterated text? How literal should pictures be? How abstract? How many panels per page. Can the English translation be loose or tight? Etc...

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    3. One thing is clear to me is that Koren always put thought into their productions. Nothing is done without some form of reason. They are setting a new standard of professionalism which Fedlheim and Artsrcoll would do well to learn from.

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    4. To Baal Haboss, who claims Koren is "setting a new standard of professionalism that Feldheim and Artscroll would do well to learn from" - I dont know about Feldheim, but Artscroll is far and away the industry leader, and they would rightly laugh at a suggestion that they need to be learning from anyone.

      Koren, in fact, is trying very hard to brand itself as the "anti-Artscroll" (in the sense of opposite), and basically looks at Artscroll to do the exact opposite of whatever they did. That means not only feminizing things as described above (or, in the case of the siddue, adding some kind of female shalom zachor thing), but even for ostensibly apolitical things they also just do the opposite. Artscroll put their translation on the left side, so they put it on the right. Artscroll italicized the translation, so they don't. Most recently, Koren now brags that its chumash transliterates Biblical figures like Abraham and Isaac, rather than using their traditional English names, to make them more "relatable." I guarantee you if Artscroll had done that the haters would have come out in full force. But because its Koren now they're going to like it. Such is life.

      Delete
    5. Baal Haboss - agreed. Artscroll already has that level, but More. -especially its Maggid Imprint - is surpassing it.

      Delete
    6. Rabbi Schreiber -

      When you write nonsense like

      "Artscroll put their translation on the left side, so they put it on the right."

      it's hard to take you seriously.

      ALL translated Siddurim have the English on the left, not just Artscroll.

      Koren did the opposite from an aesthetic point of view, to have the text on both pages fan out from the middle.

      To suggest Koren has an anti-Artscroll vendetta is quite peculiar.

      Delete
    7. Metsudah siddurim/machzorim back in the day also had a different Hebrew-English layout. IIRC, they also had the fanning out from a central axis.

      Delete
    8. Baal Ha Boss - forgive me, but whether or not somebody calling himself "Baal Ha Boss" takes me seriously or not is not very important to me. It is, however, amusing, and it did make me smile, and for that I thank you.

      (As for your point, to the extent there was one - yes, all translations have it on the left, but Koren's isn't competing against the Birnbaums and De Sola Pools or Metzudas's. Their eyes are on Artscroll, and there is no doubt whatsoever that they are looking to be the Anti-Artscroll, even in items that are ostensibly apolitical. Good day.)

      Delete
    9. PS - I didn't say they had an anti-Artscroll vendetta, I specifically said, *precisely* so that readers unfamiliar with Latin shouldn't make the mistake you did, that I meant anti "in the sense of opposite", like Antarctica or Antitheses.)

      Delete
  12. It seems to be a little strange to complain about a hagadda of all things as being too midrashic - the core of the hagadda (from arami oved avi, etc.) is all midrash!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm so pleased to learn that you like it as much as I do! I bought copies for all the families that have hosted me at their sedarim in recent years and they were all delighted with them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My son's school gave them out for free to all the kids in his class. I can concur Koren will likely be printing these for awhile. It is very much like reading a well-illustrated comic book about the story of Pesach etc.

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  15. Pre-covid, our MO very traditional sedarim usually have extra guests, including Jews of assorted races, as singles or a family. Some of your readers might consider expanding their horizons. Inviting people of other backgrounds and experiences enhances our sedarim/Shabbat. Many fine people are out there who would welcome an invitation, and once the pandemic passes, we will be happy to extend our invitations to friends old and new for meaningful religious experiences. Kol dich-fin, after all.

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  16. I noticed Moshe Dayan, Stan Lee, Shimon Peres, possibly Jonathan Pollard, Herzl and Spielberg on that page.

    Great book for all ages!

    ReplyDelete
  17. One other important note about that particular picture- the child taking the picture, right up front, is the wicked child. That is, over the course of the haggadah, they have an epiphany, and would have been redeemed.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The Ethiopians were never Jews. They had no Torah - that is, no scribes who could write a Sefer Torah, no tefillin, no mezuzah, no Hebrew, obviously no Oral Law of any kind, essentially no Jewish practice or knowledge among any of them, except what they may as Christians take from the Bible. That's because they were never Jews, but an invention going back about 300 years. This is simply objective truth. That Israel gave into this political correctness will eventually come back to haunt us. The idiotic myth they are descendants from King Solomon and Bathsheba is just that, an idiotic myth with zero evidence.

    "The Invention of Ethiopian Jews : Three Models"

    https://www.persee.fr/doc/cea_0008-0055_1993_num_33_132_1497

    "Because the Jewish haplotypes VII and VIII are not represented in the Falasha population, we conclude that the Falasha people descended from ancient inhabitants of Ethiopia who converted to Judaism."
    Except that they never "converted" until they came to Israel.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10592688/




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been to Ethiopia. The more traditional view is that the Jews of Ethiopia were of the tribe of Dan, exiled from Northern Israel in the Assyrian exile, not the mythical Solomon-Bat Sheva story. The Beta Israel at least had the Chumash, and lived by the mitzvot there in Ethiopia for many years, perhaps had some of Tanach, but did not have the Gemara because of their isolation for centuries. Rav Ovadiah Yoseph was convinced of their sincerity, and determined that they should follow the Sephardic minhag. I've davened in Orthodox shuls all my life but the Shabbat davening I experienced in Addis Ababa in 2003 absolutely blew me away. The weekday Shacharit also - seeing men line up for their turn to borrow the few sets of tefillin available was amazing and inspiring. Of course, we brought our own food on that trip for kashrut reasons and also health reasons -- conditions were primitive. So, as I've said before (see below), broadening your horizons enriches your life.

      Delete
    2. OOPS! correction! Meant to write Solomon and Malkat Sh'va myth, not Bat Sheva, his mother.

      Delete
  19. Pictures depicting Midrashim? Ew, no thanks.

    Depicting Stan Lee and Herzl at krias yam suf? Yes please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The difference is that nobody is believing that Stan Lee and Herzel were *actually physically* at Kriyas Yam Suf!

      Delete
    2. Johan Write - its like Koren now transliterating Biblical names rather than using the traditional English equivalents. It's ok when WE do it, but not ok when THEY do it. Same with this comic book hagadah. Same with a thousand other things. They criticize and criticize until they start doing it themselves. (And yes, this happens in the more religious world too.) That's why criticism should never be taken too seriously.

      Delete
    3. Haggadahs with illustrated midrashim don't dictate whether they are 'depicting (them) as pshat' as you put it, or whether you must believe them to have occurred. It is just that some Jewish children are able to enjoy their religion even when they're not being pandered to with an imbecilic pop-culture remnant of it.

      Delete
  20. If you ever wonder why Yekkish / upper middle class / 'Rationalist'/ genteel Kahanaist Judaism has failed to form a self sustaining chain of transmission anywhere, surely the sinas chinom puerile nastiness on this page would explain why the majority children despise this type of Judaism.

    If everyone is minutely judged for their conformity with normative standards for trappings of wealth, academic credentials, colour of their skin, politics and gender then you'd better up the fertility rate a notch or 10, because the tam and the sheeino yodea lishol are rashaim too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Given that all of the sinah on this page came from chareidi criticisms, I'm not sure what you base your point on.

      And with more publicaitons like this Haggadah, we can hopefully perpetuate MO more solidly, rather than having everything be "chareidi-lite," which itself has numerous problems...

      Delete
    2. So Dr Yosef, in answer to your question about sinah, do you support the notion that poor Jews are parasites?

      Delete
    3. if Yosef R is a doctor he should ask one of his colleagues to examine his eyesight. Where on Earth does he see "all the sinah on this page coming from charedi criticism"? Unless he has a creative definition for one of those words not shared by the rest of the world, there can only be something wrong with his vision. (Possible diagnosis: you see what you want to see.)

      Delete

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