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Mar 13 2013

Passover Shopping Guide: Choosing a Haggadah

By at 11:52 am

happy passover haggadah

Seder plate? Check. Matzah? Check. Actual text you need to read at the seder?

Oh yeah. If you’re looking for a great haggadah to guide your family through the Passover seder, here are our favorite picks.

1. A Happy Passover Haggadah ($29.94) This is definitely one of the most aesthetically pleasing haggadot we’ve seen, and it’s perfect for the whole family. With both Hebrew and English illustrated with bright bold colors, this hardcover book is a great addition to the seder. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 5 2012

Haggadah Hoarding, Maxwell House Style

By at 12:38 pm

The one constant in all of my years of Passover seders.

I have haggadahs. Many different haggadahs. Every year I buy a couple thinking I’ll pick one and then buy enough for everyone at the seder. This year I even got into the DIY Seder thing and threw around some ideas to make my own.

But I never end up picking a haggadah. And I never end up getting copies for everyone. Because I can’t seem to get over my current haggadah. From Maxwell House.

I grew up with them. You know the ones. They were in a stack at Waldbaum’s every spring and your mom grabbed a bunch. And then she kept them in the cabinet nestled in between the box of Shabbat candles and the dreidels.

Oh Maxwell House Haggadah–your impossibly old school Americanized Ashkenazi Hebrew transliterations (haroseth?), awkward King James bible sounding English (speaketh? Thee and Thou?), and hills like rams and mountains like lambs; with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm you got yourself a place in my heart.

(I would like to note that I’m not looking at the haggadah right now and this is from memory.)

I’m nostalgic (ferklempt?) over a free grocery store haggadah sponsored by a coffee company.

And every year I think to myself I can afford to buy a nice haggadah. And I can buy them for everyone at the seder. And every year I come to the conclusion that it just isn’t Pesach without Maxwell House.

Mayim Bialik also has something to say about Maxwell House Haggadah.

Apr 13 2011

Your Guide to Haggadahs

By at 4:02 pm

Guess what? Passover is really soon! It starts next Monday night, so if you’re planning a seder, now’s the time to figure out which haggadah you want to use. There are a TON out there, so we thought we could help narrow down your search with a few we enjoy. Some are for kids, some are for adults, and some are for the whole family, so take a look and find what’s best for you.

1. Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah
This is part of the Sammy Spider series that cover most major Jewish holidays with beautiful illustrations and a totally non-scary spider protagonist. It has plenty of fun Passover songs, like “Crunch Goes the Matzah” (sung to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel). While this one is definitely aimed at kids, the illustrations are pretty and unique enough that adults won’t mind flipping through it, either.

2. A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices
Here’s another expansive haggadah with full traditional text, reflections on the meaning of Passover, folktales, songs, and stories. One of the best parts about A Night to Remember is the cartoon illustrations, with pictures like a bitter herbs taste test and a karpas vending machine.

3. The Katz Passover Haggadah
This one is the coffee table book of the haggadah world. Its glossy pages boast intricate artwork that is colorful, beautiful, and sometimes even a little scary. I’d probably avoid showing your kids the picture of Pharoah bathing in a pool of blood while a decrepit slave sits with his hands chained to his neck, but the adults at the table might appreciate the brutality.

4. Richard Codor’s Joyous Haggadah: The Illuminated Story of Passover
This one is definitely great for young kids, full of large text and bright, inviting pictures. The story of Passover is told in comic book form, and the back of the book has a recipe for “Chocolate Matzah Delight” that begs to be devoured.

5. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks’s Haggadah
On one end, this is a straightforward haggadah with all the prayers and steps necessary to run a seder–no drawings, no gimmicks, just the text. The other half of the book has 21 different essays on Passover, including topics like women and the exodus and the rebirth of Israel. This one’s definitely for the scholar in you.

6. Passover Haggadah: The Feast of Freedom
Here’s another fairly straightforward haggadah, though its shiny pages do have some abstract, color-block illustrations to make the big chunks of Hebrew text seem slightly less intimidating. It’s put out by the Rabbinical Assembly, so you can feel very official while using it.

7. A Family Haggadah
There are two editions of this hagaddah, one with the subtitle “A Seder Service for All Ages” and the other “For Families with Young Children.” The one for young children comes with a disclaimer in the introduction: “Do not attempt to discuss all the questions and do all the suggested activities. That would make the seder long and tedious.” I like the honesty. Both are very easy to follow and come with the Hebrew, English, and transliteration of all the prayers and songs involved with the seder. They’re also nice and small, so you don’t have to worry about overcrowding the seder table.

8. My Very Own Haggadah
This haggadah doubles as a coloring book, so it’s a great way to keep the kids occupied before, during, and after the seder. It’s been around for over 30 years, so it can serve as a nice reminder that what entertained you as a child still has the potential to entertain your own kids.

9. A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah
This is a very comprehensive haggadah that keeps both adults and children’s interests in mind. Along with outlining the steps of the seder in clear sections, ethnic traditions, interesting Passover tid bits, and even a fictional newspaper with headlines like, “Sudden death strikes men and cattle” fill the pages. For the kids, fun things like the script for a Passover skit help make the seder more than just a boring dinner. For those looking for a speed read, there’s also a compact edition that has all the traditional text with a little less commentary.

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Francine Hermelin

By at 2:31 pm

Francine Hermelin is the author of My Haggadah, Made it Myself, a haggadah designed just for kids that doubles as an interactive activity kit. She marries Jewish education with design savviness to create the perfect addition to your family-friendly seder. She’s also been dubbed a “grup” by New York Magazine, but you’ll have to read on to learn just what that means.

Why did you decide to create My Haggadah, Made it Myself?

My background is eclectic: children’s educational software, graphic design, avant-garde film festivals, and event programming for kids. When I had my first kid, I, like many parents, was suddenly struck by the need to sort out my relationship to Judaism and how to translate that to my kids.

I am part of a generation that has a very progressive approach to education—one that puts children’s natural curiosity, wonder, and engagement with the world at the center of their experience. The Jewish offerings have been consistently heavy-handed not to mention that a modern visual aesthetic is sorely lacking for our design savvy culture.

I joined forces with other like-minded parents living in downtown Manhattan to create meaningful Jewish experiences together. One of our first community-wide events seven years ago was for Passover and I decided to write our book for it.

Kids say the darndest things when asked about God, plagues, miracles, tikkun olam, etc. This book empowers families to start these rich conversations and document their kids’ candid answers.

What have been some of the reactions you’ve gotten from it?

The reactions have been so heart-felt and positive.  Last year, the book was picked up on a tastemaker website called and My Haggadah then went viral. It was wild to see requests come in from Brazil, Milan, Berlin, Jerusalem, the UK and of course around the US and Canada.

What’s your favorite part of the Passover seder?

First off, I should mention, I love Passover!  It is one of the major Jewish moments of the year, the holiday where essentially the Jews become a nation and it happens in the privacy of one’s home. The rituals are interpreted and led by family and friends. What an empowering moment. As a result, no two families’ seders are alike.

I have a couple favorite parts of the Seder. One favorite is Part II after dinner, the seder song medley: Adir Hu, Echad Mi Yodaya, and Chad Gadya. At this point in the evening we are all deliriously exhausted, the kids have scattered, and adult relatives are still awake singing to our hearts’ content.

The “same time next year” component of the seder is also quite comforting. The entire family comes together, a little older, a little wiser, and the same questions are asked, the same jokes are told, and we find comfort in being together. My family’s tradition is to sing a Yiddish drinking song “Lo Mir Alenanim” and toast to accomplishments in the year past and to milestones anticipated in the year ahead.

You and your husband were featured in a New York Magazine article about “grups”. Do you identify with this classification (meaning parents who are still, well, cool)?

I think cool is meant to imply that I am part of a generation that is more engaged in the day to day goings on of our kids. I wouldn’t say that I am so friendly with my kids that they don’t trust that I will guide and protect them as they grow. But I would hope to think that our kids feel as if we are more connected to and empathetic with their lives. I also think that this notion of cool ties back to what I said about being a generation that is eager to define itself.

On a more superficial note, I do think I am part of a more design conscious generation. We probably have many players to thank for that such as Ikea, the Internet, H&M, etc

How do you encourage creativity in your kids’ everyday lives?

My husband is an artist and has always spent time just drawing with the kids. Literally, parallel play. They all just sit and draw together. Moreover, easily accessible in our apartment you will find sketch books, markers, tape, glue, recyclables, paint, cookie cutters, sequins, wood, feathers, paper mache, stamps, musical instruments, clay, shoe boxes, buttons, fabric, paper towel rolls, etc.

We also are lucky to live near Canal Street where you can find raw material for practically any project. In fact when Halloween or Purim come around the kids will decide on a costume, we make a list of materials, shop our recyclable shelf, and then hit the fabric, art, plastic, lighting, and hardware stores in our four block radius. Whatever the kids dream up, we sort out a way to make it from scratch. Once they make something, we try to celebrate and keep it for as long as they care and our apartment permits.

One of the pages in My Hagaddah has a drawing of the Red Sea with the caption, “Had the Red Sea not parted, how would you have gotten across?” So, how would you?


Francine Hermelin was the co-founder of Associates in Science, a graphic design, marketing and branding company that worked predominantly with the entertainment industry and art world. Currently, Hermelin produces Jewish and political events for families. Most recently she created  Thirsty for Change, a national family empowerment program  that used the Internet to inspire families to create lemonade stands to raise money for the Obama campaign. My Haggadah: Made it Myself is Hermelin’s first attempt to put her empowerment ideas into an activity book for families. Hermelin lives in New York City, with her husband, Adam Levite and 3 children.


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