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The Liberated Haggadah: A Passover Celebration for Cultural, Secular and Humanistic Jews Paperback – February 1, 2006

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Paperback, February 1, 2006
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Center for Cultural Judaism (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0974242047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974242040
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,272,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The first thing I check out in any haggadah is what it does with the plagues. The Liberated Haggadah does the following: Moses returned to Egypt to rally his people and bring them out of slavery. He went to Pharaoh and first tried diplomacy. This was rejected. Then he tried magic. This was simply matched, trick for trick. Then he tried plagues. Now this was successful! But even then Pharaoh hardened his heart and rescinded his permission to let the Hebrew people go. Determined to escape anyway, they woke at midnight to leave under the cover of darkness. Because they left in haste, they could take only the clothes on their backs and the pleasant memories of their youth in the good land of Goshen. This is interesting in a number of ways. No gloating over the plagues, but also no mention of the death of the first-born. Similarly, in the account of the crossing of the Red Sea, we get the story of Nachshon having the courage to step in first, but no drowning of the Egyptians. Later, the plagues are listed on a page that also lists ten modern afflictions, from AIDS and drugs to poverty and war, and we are asked to spill wine from our cups as these are mentioned. The framing of this haggadah is historical rather than mythic. The text states up front that the exodus is legend rather than fact, and points out that the Passover festival is related to spring festivals before it. The reasons to celebrate this story are that it is the first story in the world to embody the idea that slaves could become free people; that it has inspired Jews throughout history, even in our darkest moments; and that it teaches us to have compassion for those who are still not free because we, too, were once slaves in Egypt. The stress throughout is on the linked ideas of freedom and responsibility. The initiative-taking roles of Moses, Miriam, and the people as a whole are equally represented. The story of the all-night rabbinical conversation is used to offer suggestions for post-meal discussion. What enables people to fight oppression? What makes people like the midwives take risks for others? What we would have done if we were there during the Warsaw ghetto uprising? What about the fact of slavery being virtually ignored all over the globe today? What can we do about racism? Most radically, the text quotes the saying that it was not only necessary to take the Jews out of Egypt, it was necessary to take Egypt out of the Jews, and draws a parallel with the Holocaust. How do we escape becoming enslaved to the traumas and memories of the past? How do we resist enshrining the Holocaust as the defining moment of our identity? It even asks us to ask questions about Israel and Zionism. As believers in freedom, should we not support Palestinians right to self-determination? Should we not support choice of religious expression for Israel s secular citizens? This is a haggadah that, if used as intended, will stimulate and provoke discussion indeed. I wish I could hear some of those discussions. As a mom one of the features I like about The Liberated Haggadah is the way it responds to the four types of children. Call me permissive, but I appreciate the way it asks us to encourage them all, including the irreverent one: The rebellious child asks: What does this mean to all of you? This child is oppositional and also skeptical. This child likes to protest for protest s sake, but he still comes to the table. He wants to appear not to be listening, but he takes in all the lessons. He wants to still belong, and his challenges need to be taken seriously. Say to this child: We welcome your defiance and independence. We will guide you to find your place among us. To my ear, this seems both realistic and inspirational. Would it might be so in all our familie --Alicia Ostrieker for Jbooks.com

The Liberated Haggadah by Rabbi Peter Schweitzer (Center for Cultural Judaism) is different from other haggadahs in its humanistic approach, geared to secular and cultural Jews. This haggadah acknowledges early on the author s view that of the Exodus story as mythical rather than historical. Schweitzer, who leads the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Manhattan, recasts the story as a humanist parable, highlighting contemporary relevance. Rituals are connected not to the historical Hebrews, but rather to an ancient springtime celebration. In addition to the traditional Four Questions, he offers translations in Ladino, German, Yiddish, Russian, French and Arabic and a set of modern questions, framing contemporary issues. He asks, Why can we get people to the moon but we can not get the homeless adequate shelters? He also offers discussion questions for after the meal, raising timely issues including immigration, modern-day sex slavery and forced labor. Included are traditional and new songs, with touches of lightness and humor. --Sandee Brawarsky, The Jewish Week

You don't even have to believe in God to want your own Haggada. Secular Jews who identify with their heritage culturally but not religiously can link to excerpts from Rabbi Peter Schweitzer's $13 printed booklet, The Liberated Haggadah, published by the Center for Cultural Judaism (www.culturaljudaism.org). The whole Haggada is not online, but sections that can be printed out to supplement other texts include a modern version of the Exodus story of the 10 plagues that persuaded the Pharaoh to free the Jewish slaves. Instead of intoning about frogs, boils and locusts, this Haggada lists AIDS, illiteracy, terrorism and more. --Cathy Grossman, USA TODAY

About the Author

Rabbi Peter Schweitzer is the leader of The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in New York City. He is the author of A Rabbis Journey to Secular Humanistic Judaism (Shma, 2000), Ldor v Dor: Guide for a Humanistic Bar/Bat Mitzvah (City Congregation, 2000) and ""A Modern Lamentation: A Memorial to 9/11 (City Congregation, 2002). He is the Humanistic rabbinic contributor to Moment Magazines Ask the Rabbi column.

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