Categories
Books Passover Pesach Social Justice

Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: The Obligations of Our Exodus

In anticipation of the release of CCAR Press’s newest book, Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: Our Jewish Obligation to Social Justice, we’ve invited Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, co-editor of the book, to share an excerpt of the book on Passover. Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority is now available for pre-order from CCAR Press.

A couple of months ago I was arrested in the grand rotunda of the Russell Building of the United States Senate. Nearly one hundred Jewish clergy and leaders joined in song and prayer, demanding that the United States Congress pass the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to the nearly eight hundred thousand Dreamers who came to the United States as children and are every bit American as my own daughters. As we sang “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” (“We will build this world with love”) over and over again, hundreds of Dreamers stood cheering us on from the balcony, ringing us like a human halo. In an intentionally ironic twist on the famous cry from Moses to Pharaoh, we chanted, “Let our people stay!”

When we were handcuffed, removed by the Capitol Police, and placed under arrest, we understood that we were following directly in the footsteps of our ancient Israelite ancestors. Ironically, our being put into fetters was inspired by the Hebrew slaves, who rose up from their slavery in Egypt and cast off the chains of Pharaoh’s bondage in their journey to redemption. As our hands were locked in cuffs and we were led away, we chanted the verse taken from the Song at the Sea “Ozi v’zimrat Yah, vah’yi li lishuah,” “God is my strength and might, and will be my salvation” (Exodus 15:2). There seemed no words more fitting than those our ancient Israelite ancestors sang as they passed through the parted seas of their redemption.

Even as we were led into police custody, our group understood that we were walking in the footsteps of countless generations of Jews before us, generations who internalized the Rabbinic mandate in the Passover Haggadah that “it is incumbent on every generation to see itself as if they themselves—every person—had personally escaped from Egypt” (Babylonian Talmud, P’sachim 116b). Our deeds of civil disobedience were an act of moral resistance to the injustices being perpetrated on the Dreamers, along with tens of millions of other immigrants and refugees. We acted on the spiritual authority inherited from recent leaders like Rabbis Richard Hirsch, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Maurice Eisendrath, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because they internalized the most often repeated commandment in all of Torah: “You shall love the stranger, because you were a stranger in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34). Jews have marched throughout history because the core narrative of our people, the defining master story of our tradition, is the archetypal tale of redemption. Our Exodus from Egypt is the story of the transformation of the world-as-it-is, in which “strangers” are continually crushed by oppression, into the world-as-it-should-be, one where all people know justice. The power of the Jewish master narrative lies in its inherent call to every generation to live empathy; because our ancestors were strangers, we—in this era, and in every era—are to love the stranger.

Jews not only retell the master story of redemption throughout our ritual and cultural life; we have relived it throughout history. Our history has served to reinforce the most central exhortation of our Exodus narrative: we are obligated to love the stranger as ourself.

Among the many gleanings of the Exodus narrative that ground Jewish life and values, three stand out as the sources of the spiritual authority demanding that Jews resist injustice and champion morality in every age (and regardless of the challenges we face). First, we learn not only that resistance is required by our faith and experience, but also that it is always possible. Second, we are reminded that our empathy extends beyond the “stranger” to all those who are vulnerable in our midst. Finally, we instill in our souls that the Exodus is not simply about freedom from bondage; our master story culminates with the agency to enter into a covenantal community in which all people are bound to one another.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He has led the Religious Action Center since 2015. Rabbi Pesner also serves as Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader, creative entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for social justice.  Rabbi Pesner is the co-editor of CCAR Press’s  upcoming book, Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: Our Jewish Obligation to Social Justice, as well as a contributor to Seven Days, Many Voices: Insights into the Biblical Story of Creation.

Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: Our Jewish Obligation to Social Justice is now available for pre-order from CCAR Press. 

Categories
Books Healing News Prayer spirituality

A Prayer of Gratitude from URJ Biennial 2017

Take a moment to be fully grateful for just one thing in your life. That little pause may be enough to change your outlook and your attitude for the day.

At the URJ Biennial, CCAR Press offered that opportunity with a set of stickers and a poster board featuring the book, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day. Each of the stickers read ‘I’m grateful for…’ and folks who came by the booth could complete that line and add the sticker to the poster. Adults and kids, rabbis and cantors, educators, congregants, and lay leaders joined in. By the end of the convention, the board was covered with individual prayers of gratitude.

Gratitude for family and the Biennial appeared most often. One of my favorites came from a little girl who dictated her gratitude to her mother: “being fancy.” I got a chuckle reading “my puppy (woof).”

This is a prayer based on those stickers. I added the language in italics – as well as the punctuation and a few of my own gratitudes – and arranged the order. The words of the prayer are taken from the stickers written by Biennial attendees.

Biennial Sticker Prayer of Gratitude

We are grateful for so much,
All the gifts this world offers.
We celebrate:
The URJ, the CCAR and our congregations,
Biennial, the people, the music and the ruach,
The chance to learn and share,
Being a college ambassador
And singing in the Biennial choir.

I give thanks for:
My family,
My wonderful husband, my wonderful wife,
My children, my grandchildren,
My sons, my daughters,
Nephews and nieces,
Mom and dad,
Sisters and brothers,
My amazing boyfriend,
My fantastic girlfriend,
Thoughtful work friends,
My dog, my puppy (woof) and my cat,
My house, bed and toys,
Best friends and conversations,
Being who I am,
My camp, my nanny and my students,
Jewish music and my guitar,
You.

We marvel at the gifts of:
Dreams, spirit and creativity,
Opportunities, expected and unexpected,
Personal passions,
Good health and sleep,
The ability to grateful,
The ability to forgive,
Second chances and
Guardian angels,
Good food and better company,
Water, hugs and coffee,
Doctors, medicines and helping hands,
America,
Torah and Israel,
Books, puns, words and being fancy.

Today, Source of love and light,
We are grateful for
Every. Single. Thing.

Alden Solovy is a liturgist, author, journalist, and teacher. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem to Limmud, UK, and synagogues throughout the U.S. Solovy is a three-time winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism. He made aliyah to Israel in 2012, where he hikes, writes, teaches, and learns. His work has appeared in Mishkan R’Fuah: Where Healing Resides (CCAR Press, 2012), L’chol Z’man v’Eit: For Sacred Moments (CCAR Press, 2015), Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe (CCAR Press, 2015), and Gates of Shabbat, Revised Edition (CCAR Press, 2016). He is the author of This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day, published by CCAR Press in 2017.

Categories
Books Holiday Inclusion

Sukkot Inclusion and Children’s Books

After the power drill is put away and all of the pointy parts of the s’chach that is just right for poking your brothers’ eyes out is finally on top of our little booth, Sukkot transforms into one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with my children. In the Moroccan Sephardic tradition, we leave a chair out for Elijah. This special chair is often laden with books for ushpizin. As the younger of my three year old twins still occasionally chews on the furniture, I prefer to leave more child-friendly books within reach (rather than, say, my favorite binding of Psalms I enjoy periodically weeping over). But which books to pile onto our special chair this year?

To me, the value of inclusion is deeply related to the concept of hachnasat orchim (the welcoming of guests). After all, hachnasat orchim, treating each other with empathy and kindness, is the first step into true inclusion. We particularly celebrate these values at Sukkot, as we welcome both real and spiritual guests into the sukkah. In honor of a holiday in which we greet and happily receive others into our dwellings, here are eight non-traditional children’s stories about welcoming others into our hearts. I included several about narwhals; narwhals are so hot right now.

You could read one a night with the ushpizin who come to your sukkah!

Wendell the Narwhal How do we invite in though who want to be included, but don’t know how and feel overwhelmed?

Not Quite Narwhal How many communities do you belong to? How does belonging to a variety of communities enrich our identity?

Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea Sometimes it is hard to make friends with someone from a different background; but these friendships can be some of the most important. (This is set up in semi-graphic novel style and is the beginning of a series about Narwhal and Jelly’s adventures together.)

Something Else Have you ever felt excluded? What does that feel like? How can you use that experience to prevent someone else from feeling the same way?

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed  Authority figures setting the standard to create a culture of inclusion

Can I Play Too? Learning how to find a way to play together might take some creativity, but means that everyone can have fun!

Ada Twist, Scientist Sometimes even the people who we love most (and who love us the most) aren’t quite sure how to acknowledge who we are, celebrate our differences, and include us. Inside a family, how can we figure this out?

Winnie the Pooh Written in a time before many of the diagnoses we now use today, Winnie the Pooh’s friend circle as an example of inclusion of individuals with a variety of dispositions and procivities. No matter which story you choose, note how this community of toys consistently and naturally includes one another, without ever asking anyone to “just get over it.”

Do you have any other books you love to use when talking about inclusion? How do you practice including your Sukkot guests?

Rabbi Lauren Ben-Shoshan, M.A.R.E., resides in Palo Alto, California with her lovely husband and their four energetic and very small children.

Categories
Books

Nu, Did You Know? What’s New For You from CCAR Press

There is so much going on around us that it is easy to let information slip through the cracks. As we head toward Convention, our annual opportunity to come together as a community face-to-face, we want to take a moment and bring you up to date on some of the resources now available to you from CCAR Press.

The CCAR Press has been providing essential resources for the Jewish community for over a century. With the recent addition of our new imprint, Reform Jewish Publishing (RJP), as well as our ongoing development of a wide-range of electronic products, we find ourselves in an exciting new position. Now we are able to extend our support to rabbis worldwide, whether through eBook versions of classic texts, our growing collection of Visual T’filah, or any one of our liturgical publications. And by providing such support, we are blessed with the opportunity to support our Jewish community at large. As the primary publisher of the Reform Movement, we see it as our responsibility to not only provide the highest standards of support to our members, colleagues, and friends, but that we are able to directly connect with and strengthen the many communities of which we are lucky enough to be a part.

In an effort to better serve you and every one of your unique communities, we have launched several new Press initiatives. The first, our CCAR Press Resources initiative, provides material and event planning services to lay leaders, gift shop professionals, and congregants. Whether seeking educational resources for Temple programming, customized material for upcoming events, or a message of inspiration to share with the community, CCAR Press is here to help! Coupled with our 2015 Gift Shop Initiative, which provides resources for gift shop professionals at significantly discounted rates, our new Resources initiative makes it as easy as possible for you to introduce and utilize the most current and essential Jewish resources to your friends, family, and congregants. Please contact info@ccarpress.org for questions and tailor-made materials.

This is a time for learning and conversation, and we believe that in fostering community-wide conversations with accessible Jewish resources, we can aid in restoring and sustaining the unity and strength of our community worldwide. To that end, we’ve also introduced our Host an Event Program, created to help you organize and host community events in your congregations, schools, libraries, and Jewish Community Centers. Here at the CCAR, we know that no community is the same, and we’re excited to work together to determine how we can best meet your distinct needs.

Launched in 2016, The Sacred Calling Event Program continues to connect and inform congregants throughout the nation, and we are excited to announce that this program remains available for communities through 2017. Meant to facilitate an ongoing conversation about the impactful reality of women in the rabbinate, this program uses the narratives provided in the award-winning CCAR Press publication, The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate, as a launch-pad from which communities may begin to add their own voice to the continuing narrative of equality in the Jewish world. In celebrating the accomplishments of the past, we encourage you to consider the future, and to discuss the actions you can take against prevailing inequalities in your own communities.

New in 2017, we also offer a Grateful Heart Event Program, which features our new publication from poet and liturgist Alden Solovy. This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day provides a uniquely original anthology of modern day psalms and prayers to lift us up, inspire our days, and mark our milestones, spanning topics from the simple delights of daily living to the complexities of grief and sorrow. We offer this program not only with the conviction that Solovy’s words will speak to our own personal moments of grief and joy, gratitude and struggle, but with the hope that these prayers will speak to your collective hearts, giving you the opportunity to bring your community together with the simple yet formidable power of prayer. For more information about these programs, please see the links above. For a full list of upcoming events, visit events.ccarpress.org.

Finally, and in response to requests, we have launched Your Jewish Library, a one-stop-shop for the home libraries of anyone who hopes to further immerse themselves in the rich heritage of our tradition. From CCAR Press classics to critically acclaimed Torah commentaries from RJP, we offer essential Jewish resources to enhance your Jewish life and learning. All titles included in Your Jewish Library are offered at a discount, providing the perfect opportunity for congregants to  stock their shelves with important Reform resources.

As always, we continue to develop new publications, resources, promotional material for your bulletins and mailings, and programs that will help us to help you in strengthening your communities and, ultimately, in strengthening our Movement. Please contact us to learn how you can work with your local libraries, gift shops, and JCC’s to better introduce Jewish resources to your communities, continue important conversations pertaining to our Movement, and to come together in empowerment and gratitude over our shared heritage, traditions, and faith.

Please plan to visit the CCAR Press area at Convention. Meet our staff, and find out what we can do for you. See you in Atlanta!

Rabbi Hara Person is Publisher of CCAR Press and Director of Strategic Communications for the Central Conference of American Rabbis

Categories
Books General CCAR Passover Pesach Technology

Post-Pesach Blog: Zero-Based Seder Leading with Sharing the Journey Haggadah

Passover might be over, but it’s not too late (or too early…) to look back and start to bank ideas for next year.  Rabbi Eddie Goldberg shares thoughts from his seder experience. 

Recently a stressed-out father asked me what haggadah would be best for a family with youngish children.  I was happy to recommend Sharing the Journey (CCAR Press), by Alan S. Yoffie and illustrated by Mark Podwal. But I reminded the dad that the haggadah does not a good seder make, by itself.  The more important question is not which haggadah but what is one trying to accomplish.  Indeed, a case in Chicago could be made for taking the children to Lake Shore Drive and asking them to imagine reaching a large body of water with a hostile army in pursuit.  What would they do?

Nevertheless, due to Chicago weather (it was snowing during the seder) and inconvenient rules involving religious rituals on state beaches, the seder we conducted last night was a close second to being the most authentic Pesach moment for the eleven of us, mostly cousins, who shared a seder for the first time ever or, if not, then in about thirty-five years.

In preparing for the seder I knew that the new haggadah would serve us well with its respect for tradition, beautiful appearance, transliteration (mostly) and contemporary spin.  I also spend a lot of time on a Power Point (or Keynote) component.  (I even have a version of the new haggadah on my iPad.)  Although I found the Visual Tefilah Haggadah supplement well done, I chose after considerable thought to use instead my own, which does not follow the new haggadah so much as provide a midrashic complement to it.  In general I see electronic tefilah (or seders) as an enrichment and not mirroring of the worship or ritual experience.

I am glad to report that, due in some measure to my efforts and the invaluable help of my 23-year old USC computer science grad, the seder came off without a hitch.  The incredible culinary talents and warmth of my wife did not hurt either.  It was great presenting a seder experience to contemporaries who thought that Maxwell House equaled the tip-top of haggadah offerings.  We also had a nine-year old cousin who had never attended a seder before.  She entered visibly scared and annoyed and left the star of the seder and having asked all the right questions and more!

Tonight the seder will be presented at our congregation with the new haggadot.  I know the food and atmosphere will not be able to  match last night’s efforts but I am delighted that, if we succeed, the haggadah will have proven its worth once again as a sacred component of an evergreen evening.

RabbiGoldbergSeder-2014

Edwin Goldberg, D.H.L., is the senior rabbi of Temple Sholom of Chicago and is one of the editors of Mishkan HaNefesh, the new CCAR machzor.

Categories
Books Passover Pesach Rabbis Reform Judaism Technology

Pesach Blog: Why is this Haggadah different from all other Haggadot?

VT1Purim is over so Pesach is not far away.  My congregation has the new CCAR Haggadah (Sharing the Journey) set and ready to go for a second night congregational seder.  Choosing a haggadah was the easy part in that the new Yoffie/Podwal is beautifully done and user friendly.  The challenge is creating an experience at a community seder that feels authentic and participatory.  I am planning to use Visual T’filah and group singing to help create community as well as engage participants.  I can also plan some shtick.

Fortunately there is much more that this new haggadah offers.  For instance, one can choose to buy on iTunes an electronic version of Sharing the Journey.  Why bother?  I decided to try it myself.  This is what I discovered:

STJ3First, it is very cool that I can tap on a song in the e-book and the melody is sung.  Think how nervous or musically challenged seder leaders now have support at their very fingers.  There are even choices between different melodies, say, for the four questions.  In addition, there are interactive things to do with the e-book that will make the seder more fun for a child.  If that were not enough, there are also notes for leaders that are accessed by tapping on a leader’s guide icon.  I am sure there is more to discover as I explore the interactive book.  (Btw, I foresee a revamped MT iPad tool that offers instructive tips and spiritual iyonim with a timely click.)

I will definitely use my iPad edition to lead my seder, and model it for others.  I don’t suppose the CCAR will have a Haggadah iPad Case by April so I will most likely go with my official Mishkan T’filah case.  But one can dream!

Edwin Goldberg, D.H.L., is the senior rabbi of Temple Sholom of Chicago.

Categories
Books Israel Rabbis Reform Judaism

Purim – Time for New Interpretation

I was teaching an Introduction to Judaism class this Tuesday night about (fittingly) Purim. I was in the midst of explaining to my class the mitzvah to drink until you don’t know the difference between blessing Mordecai and cursing Haman, and how it has been traditionally interpreted (get extremely drunk), when one of my students stopped me.

“What if,” she began, “What if we’re interpreting the commandment too literally. I mean, we’ve learned how many of the commandments have been analogized, or understood metaphorically,” she said, “but it sounds like this one is always taken literally, across Jewish communities.”

“Generally, yes.” I answered. “Purim is treated as an opportunity to drink heavily.”

“But what if,” she asked, “the commandment is not meant to be taken literally, not to mean that you should get really drunk, but perhaps, that you should use Purim as an opportunity to blur the distinction between good and bad people, to imagine that everyone, even our enemies, are good and evil, that people are complex, and that cursing people is a dirty business.”

There was a long silence. This was a brilliant and beautiful interpretation, but I wasn’t sure (in fact, I highly doubted) that it was what the Rabbis intended when they suggested the minhag. In fact, knowing what I do about Jewish history, and how Purim is, in many senses, a wish fulfilling fantasy of revenge on all those who have hurt Jews throughout the ages, I knew how unlikely it was.

But we live in a different world now. We live in a world where Jews wield power (political and otherwise), where we have our own state, and where humanist values have come to inform our understanding of what it means to be Liberal Jews. We live in a world where it is possible to find the wholesale slaughter of Jewish enemies (75,810 people!) at the end of the book of Esther morally troubling, and the cursing of Haman’s name discomfiting (however much he may deserve it). So what if we can use the commandment to blur the lines to teach complexity, nuance and that the notion that only in fairytales and Disney movies are people all good, or all evil. Too often we gloss over the slaughter of non-Jews that occurs at the end of Megillat Esther because it complicates the fairytale, because it’s too hard to explain to kids (let alone adults) the moral complexity of revenge fantasies.

For the past week, I have been reading Israeli journalist (and Haaretz columnist) Ari Shavit’s book, My Promised Land which has been hailed by everyone from Leon Wieseltier to Jeffrey Goldberg as exceptional. This is largely because of Shavit’s ability to hold and wrestle with multiple narratives about the founding of the State of Israel; the horrors of the Holocaust and the nightmare of the naqba, the miracle of Israel and the ongoing disaster of Palestinian displacement. What sets the book apart is its painful – and brilliant – ability to compassionately hold all of these narratives: the horrific losses of Iraqi Jewish olim, the unthinkable trauma of Holocaust survivors in the same period, and the nightmare for Palestinians who once inhabited the city of Lydda and were displaced by traumatized Jewish immigrants. These stories are told with grace, nuance and a heart big enough to hold –  and mourn – all of them. Purim gives us a similar opportunity; to know that in every victory there may also be great loss, and in every loss there may be a victory for our enemy, and that praying for tremendous suffering – for anyone – compromises us all. Purim is an opportunity to think deeply about these contradictions, and to acknowledge the pain, and nuance, contained in this realitiy.

So what did I tell my student? “That’s a beautiful interpretation.” I answered. “Really beautiful. But, I mean, given the historical context that the commandment comes out of, I’m not sure it’s accurate.”

“Maybe” she said, “It’s time for a new interpretation.”

Maybe it is.

Chag Purim Sameach.

Rabbi Jordie Gerson serves Temple Emanu-el Beth Sholom in Montreal. 

Categories
Books Passover Pesach Prayer Technology

Passover Blog: Using Visual T’filah at Your Seder

Mah Nishtana halaila hazeh?  What makes this seder different from all others? 

For many families and synagogues this year, it will be seeing the haggadah in a new light.  This year, the CCAR Press is excited to offer a Visual Tfilah companion to Sharing the Journey: The  Hagaddah for the Contemporary Family

Dan1Visual Tfilah, grounded in historical Jewish practices and built on modern technologies, mingles text and images on the large screen for all to enjoy. The images help give deeper meaning and connection to the ancient words, and the words up on the screen allow us to lift our eyes, our voices, and our hands. Visual Tfilah has become a popular way to enhance prayer services, and now it can enhance our Pesach seders, as well.

One of my favorite things on Pesach is to open the (printed) haggadah and see wine stains and crumbs from seders past.  It reminds me that in this ever-changing world, some things stay comfortably the same.  Its the same story we retell year after year.  The same rituals.  And yet, Im always excited to see what new materials, readings, and activities the seder leader will bring to the table.  While the story of redemption and freedom never changes, we are always changing, and finding new ways of reconnecting to the same story is essential to keeping the messages relevant and engaging.  The haggadah, after all, at its core, is meant to inspire us to ask questions.

Dan2A few years ago, a number of colleagues and friends participated in Tweet the Exodus.  Not only was it amazing to see the story told in 140 character segments, but some of the tweets contained links to exciting multi-media resources to tell the story.  A particular favorite of mine was a Youtube video of a family caught in their car surrounded by a massive locust swarm. (http://youtu.be/wxHOxCmbs-8). It was terrifying and awe-inspiring, and helped me understand better than anything else what it might have been like to witness this plague.  Can you imagine being able to share some of the other plagues this way? Or what about showing a short clip discussing what scientists have said most recently about the splitting of the Red Sea? You could even show a map tracking the 40 year journey of the Israelites stop by stop. Unfortunately, you cant embed Youtube videos in a printed haggadah.  But you can put them up on a screen.

Dan3And thats what I love about using Visual Tfilah at a seder: you can add new readings, videos, and more to enhance the experience and enrich the story (without creating a handout and adding yet another item to juggle on the table).  You could insert a PollEverywhere (polleverywhere.com) into the Visual Tfilah to ask your participants to vote on their favorite plague or even to pick the closing song.  You could ask participants to record a short skit ahead of time to be shown during the seder.  As long as you have the screen set up, you might even want to Skype in Bubbie who couldnt join you at the seder this year.  In fact, the screen becomes a blank slate for including almost anything you can think of, and the Sharing the Journey Visual Tfilah gives you the framework from which to unleash your creativity.

The nice thing about VT is that it doesnt negate the use of your printed haggadot.  No matter your inclination or comfort level, everyone can be included. Many folks are accustomed to using print haggadot and will be resistant to giving them up.  And anyway, who can deny the fun of being able to flip ahead to count how many pages are left, or even the benefit of being able to linger on a reading or an idea on your own?

Sharing the Journey VT is designed for both large communal seders, as well as smaller in-home seders.  If you dont have your own large built-in screens and projectors, smaller portable ones or even flat screen TVs will work perfectly.  In fact, an iPad and an AppleTV can be the perfect way for the seder leader to lead from her seat.

Sharing the Journey is also available as an ebook for iPads. (ccar.co/journey). One can follow along with the seder, just as in the book, but also find interactive features and embedded audio.  (Please note: we discourage disDan4playing the ebook on a large screen.  It is not designed for this and will be too difficult for seder participants to read.  Conversely, the VT is specifically designed to be projected and read from a distance.)

So while youd never want to spill wine on your iPad, nor get crumbs up on the screen, we hope Visual Tfilah becomes another tradition at your seder table, and a way to help all of us actually return to the table to finish the seder after the meal is served.  Chag sameach!

 
Rabbi Dan Medwin is the
Publishing Technology Manager, CCAR Press.

p.s.: A Seder Leader’s Guide, complete with two CD’s of music, is also available for Sharing the Journey.  In addition, the music can be downloaded from iTunes 

Categories
Books Passover Pesach

Pesach Blog: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Buy a New Haggadah

My history with haggadot is probably typical but certainly multi-layered.  I grew up with the venerable Union Haggadah.  In rabbinical school I was exposed to its successor, the “Baskin” Haggadah.  I then worked for an HUC administrator in researching various haggadot.  Even in the mid-eighties there were countless varieties, including one for vegans: The Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb.  Around this time David Moss was previewing his soon-to-be famous haggadah, Song of David.  I joked to my fiancée that she could have that instead of an engagement ring.  She took me seriously and we use the haggadah (alas, only one copy) every year.

For my family, after many years of experimenting we settled on the Shalom Hartman haggadah, Seder for a Different Night, and its successor.  They are wonderful resources but quite complicated.  For second night seders at the congregation I have used for many years the Eli Gindi Berhman House Family Haggadah.

Art from Sharing the Journey, by Mark Podwal
Art from Sharing the Journey, by Mark Podwal

In my new congregation – Temple Sholom of Chicago – I have decided to use the new CCAR haggadah, Sharing the Journey by Alan Yoffie, with art by Mark Podwal.  We will also try it out with our family on the first night.  The haggadah appeals to me because of its mix of being user-friendly and having some depth.  I am also excited about incorporating the visual t’filah element, having made my own power points for the seder in the past few years.

In the coming weeks I look forward to reporting how my preparation and execution goes.  Like a prayer book, I know that a haggadah does not a seder make.  But it is a sacred and useful tool, if it meets that elusive balance between being complex but not complicated.

Edwin Goldberg, D.H.L., is the senior rabbi of Temple Sholom of Chicago.

Categories
Books Passover Pesach Reform Judaism

CCAR Haggadot: A Feast of Haggadah Choices

I know, I know, Purim hasn’t even arrived yet, but Passover isn’t too far away and it’s never too early to begin to think about preparations.  One of the first questions that always comes up is which haggadah to use.  Here at the CCAR, we have a long history of publishing haggadot, and today we offer many different options.  Each one offers something a little bit different to meet the needs of your family or community.

It all began in 1892, which marks the beginning of Reform haggadot in North America. That was when the CCAR attempted to publish the first Union Prayer Book, in which a new haggadah was meant to be incorporated. That prayer book was ultimately and infamously rejected by the CCAR, and the haggadah was later published as a stand-alone volume (the subsequent UPB 2, which did pass the approval process, did not include the haggadah).

This early haggadah was an adaptation by Rabbi Isaac Moses of an even earlier Reform haggadah published in Bavaria in German by Rabbi Leopold Stein in 1841.  This original haggadah, as well as its subsequent adaptations and translations, was a contemporary rethinking of Passover for the Jews of the time.  As Dr. Richard Sarason writes, “While a strong affective connection to the seder ritual remains, there is a clear cognitive distancing from its premodern form and some of its content, which is either eliminated entirely or reshaped to conform to contemporary sensibilities. The passages of classical Rabbinic discourse are deleted, as are any angry or vengeful references to the gentiles” (Sarason, “The Haggadah and Reform Judaism” in The New Union Haggadah, CCAR Press, 2014).  Redemption is framed not as something far off in the future to which to yearn, but rather taking place in its audience’s own time as Jews gained political, social, and professional rights.  A revision, with slightly more Hebrew, was published in 1907/08.

Union HaggadahThe beloved gray hardcover known as the Union Haggadah, published in 1923, was a revision of this early 19th century haggadah (the image here is of the paperback facsimile version). This edition contains more Hebrew than the earlier versions, had a fuller version of the Exodus story, and also restored the traditional divisions of the seder.  But it still shared the original sensibility, looking not toward a future time of redemption but celebrating the freedom and liberty available to Jews in North America.  Generations of Reform Jews were raised on this version of the haggadah, as well as the revised version published following World War II. It was also appreciated for its gorgeous black and white artwork and elegant design, as well as the musical notation provided.  The CCAR Press has made a paperback version of this haggadah available.

PASSHAGG COVIn 1974 CCAR published A Passsover Haggadah, known familiarly as “the Baskin” though it should be known as the Bronstein-Baskin, created as it was under the editorial leadership of Rabbi Herbert Bronstein. This was the first full color haggadah from the Reform Movement, incorporating the striking art of Leonard Baskin.  A Passover Haggadah became an instant bestseller, as ubiquitous in Reform homes as The Union Haggadah once was.  This haggadah incorporates many supplementary readings and songs, drawing on the post-Holocaust Jewish experience as well as acknowledging the existence of and relationship with Israel.  It uses a much fuller Hebrew text than the  previous haggadot, a beautiful poetic style of English, adds back in much of the rabbinic commentary edited out in various editions of The Union Haggadah, and draws on many contemporary sources including Hebrew poetry.  This is an excellent haggadah for those who want a rich seder experience, with a tremendous amount of material to build upon.

Open Door-COVER-NEWThe Open Door, edited by Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell and published in 2002, reflects further changes in the North American Jewish community.  This haggadah, with beautiful art by Ruth Weisberg, incorporates voices of those previously marginalized or left out, including women’s voice, GLBT voices, and those from non-Ashkenazi Jewish communities.  This haggadah is a great addition to any collection, offering new perspectives on familiar texts and opening the door for all those who want to enter.

STJCoverIn 2012 CCAR Press added another haggadah to our offerings.  Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family, edited by Alan Yoffie with gorgeous full color artwork by Mark Podwal, offers a welcoming and accessible approach to Passover.  This haggadah is especially a good fit for those who don’t know a lot about Passover rituals or practices but wants to get started, or those with non-Jewish family members and friends around the table.  All are warmly welcomed and included in the shared experience of moving from slavery to redemption, with Sharing the Journey follows the traditional steps of the seder in a joyous, streamlined, non-intimidating way.  All Hebrew is fully transliterated and gender inclusive. There are discussion questions and explanations throughout. This Haggadah is also a great choice for congregational seders, which could be accompanied by the forthcoming Visual T’filah version. A separate Leader’s Guide is available, including a 2 CD set, and the album is also available on iTunes, both with words and without, for singing along too.  There is also an iPad version of Sharing the Journey, and it will shortly be available as Visual T’filah, a terrific resource for congregational seders.  In addition, a selection of Podwal’s signed giclee prints of images from the book are available and make special very special gifts.

CCAR-UnionOur latest haggadah is a completely revised edition of the 1923 Union Haggadah.  This edition, The New Union Haggadah, is being created in consultation with the Society for Classical Reform Judaism, with Rabbi Howard Berman as consulting editor and Rabbi Ben Zeidman as development editor.  This revision features beautiful updates of the original artwork, as well as some new full color art based on Passover images from stained glasses windows found in Reform synagogues across North America.  For those who still feel connected to the 1923 edition but want something slightly more contemporary, this is a perfect choice.  This edition preserves the beauty and elegance of the original, with its focus on the shared Jewish and American moral values and emphasis on liberty for all, while now offering full transliteration, gender inclusive language, and updates to the original such as Miriam’s cup and the option of an orange on the seder plate.  In addition, we are also offering a large print edition.

CHLDHAGG COVAnd then there’s A Children’s Haggadah,  by Howard Bogot and Robert Orkand, with illustrations by Devis Grebu.  This child-friendly haggadah features a vibrant fold-out section of the whole seder plate.   Designed especially for young people, this haggadah is a great choice for home seders with lots of young children, as well as for schools or community family seders.

There are many haggadot to choose from.  We’re proud to be able to offer a range of different options.  And of course there’s always the tradition of collecting many different haggadot, all the better to pick and choose the parts you like from each. Have fun making your choice, and chag sameach!

Rabbi Hara Person is the Publisher and Director of CCAR Press