Magic? Seder? Can these two words coexist happily in the same evening? Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, author of the “Unofficial Hogwarts Haggadah,” currently the number one bestseller in both Haggodot and Jewish life on Amazon, believes so.
Kveller caught up with Rosenberg recently to learn a few new spells and charms and hear his wisdom on what kind of sorcery is appropriate for the retelling of the story of the Exodus at Passover.
Rosenberg writes in the Haggadah, “The most striking parallel between Hogwarts and Haggadah has to be the four houses of Hogwarts and the four children of the Seder. While they are not and need not be exactly correlated, these categories of students agree on a major principle of education—each student is an individual, endowed with unique character traits, aptitudes, and passions.”
When he is not expounding on how the wizarding world can provide advice to the Jewish world, Rosenberg teaches fifth grade Judaica and coordinates technology integration at the SAR Academy in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and is rabbi at a synagogue in Kew Garden Hills, Queens.
Where did the idea for the Hogwarts Haggadah come from?
When I was introduced to the Harry Potter series in its second book, I saw that is was a universal language for my students. I fell in love with the books myself—I could not do this project with something I did not enjoy. J.K. Rowling gets the human condition and humor and adolescence, characterizations and scenes. It is all there and it does not disappoint. The books address so many core issues in life. And the message says so many things we are teaching our kids through Jewish sources. I connect the dots, in order to drive ideas home, relate to something in kids’ own experience. Teachers have been doing this from time immemorial.
What is the target audience and goal for book?
I think that it is a book that refuses to pigeonhole itself. Young kids will get a kick out of it, middle schoolers will appreciate it, high school age kids are one of the strongest demographics for book. The kids from my Harry Potter nights [at SAR’s Harry Potter club], have been writing and tweeting and posting.
Did you expect this level of interest?
I thought there was interest, the question was reaching people. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my children. They are my team. They created a Facebook page, a sign up list, sent out announcements. We knew the audience was there, and we able to find them.
How can I make my seder magical?
The best way to make the seder magical is to get the kids involved. This haggadah can be a conversation starter, giving them a piece of commentary to build on. Once kids are engaged, your seder will be magical.
In the seder itself we do everything to induce kids to ask questions. Every generation has its own language and own frames of reference, this is theirs.
What is the most important element for a seder?
The Talmud tells us different people experience joy through different modalities. Just as you have 4 children [in the Haggadah, the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who does not know how to ask] and four houses [Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff], all learn differently. In the Haggadah, I asked students, ‘how do you like to learn?’ and got such a broad variety of responses.
How do I get my seder guests interested in discussing issues and engaging with questions when they are just there to eat?
I am supposed to know this because I wrote a book?
Let’s see, I guess, first of all, never stand between a Seder guest and their food. So timing is very important. You are not going to get to discuss anything when everyone is famished and it is 11 at night. You decide in advance at which juncture to try to engage: maybe one of the questions to kids? Like everything else in life, this requires preparation, not doing on the fly.
How can I get Fred and George Weasley to come to my seder?
By telling them they are not wanted. Or maybe if Peeves asks them. Tell them they can bring products from their joke store that will keep people interested.