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Roots and Branches: A Humanist Haggadah for Passover

Roots and Branches: A Humanist Haggadah for Passover


SKU: 978-0-9809810-0-1 Categories: ,


Oraynu’s Haggadah written by Sandi Horwitz, Barry N. Olshen and Lisa Wright

An excerpt from the text:

Roots and Branches: A Humanist Haggadah for Passover came into being as a response to the need of our community, Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Toronto. Our members, like many other families, were creating their own haggadot. They picked through, cut, and pasted the myriad seder texts available because no single published haggadah satisfied their needs.

Our haggadah bridges the foundational Exodus themes and those of the largest migrations in Jewish history–of the European and North African Jews who came in the millions to Israel and to North America during the past century and a half. In twinning these great Jewish transformational narratives, this haggadah evokes fresh emotional responses and new intellectual connections. It provides the basis for a unique, contemporary approach to the Passover celebration in the home as well as the community at large.

The main elements of our haggadah are epitomized in its title. “Roots” suggests the traditional story and its associations. In our haggadah (unlike most others and especially the traditional orthodox) the biblical Exodus is retold accurately and in detail. The seder symbols are explained in their ancient contexts and reinterpreted in contemporary ones. These features provide the principal teaching aspects of the first half of the text.

“Branches” refers to those Jewish exodus experiences that have shaped the development of modern Jewry and that we have incorporated into our new Passover liturgy. The largest migrations to America and Israel feature most prominently in its second part. The dominant theme reiterated throughout both parts is liberation-communal and personal. The “Humanist” adjective of the subtitle refers to the historical, cultural, and ethical focus of these stories of liberation.

In addition to Torah and prophetic excerpts, we include many illustrious voices from our modern literature, including those of Yehudah Amichai, Judy Chicago, Amos Oz, Marge Piercy, Chaim Weitzman, and Elie Wiesel, to name but some. We weave their poetry and prose with artwork and with our own ritualized and evocative language to create a unified, educational, and inspiring seder for contemporary North American Jewry.

We have perused scores of haggadot in the past few years and are now certain that we have produced something unique. We have confidence in the accuracy of our claims and in the details of our text. The power and immediacy of the writing has elicited very strong responses from those who have already shared in its use. The rituals are clearly prescribed and made relevant for contemporary liturgy.

Roots and Branches ought to have broad appeal within North America among all those who wish to conduct a stimulating and decorous seder and who do not require an orthodox haggadah. It may also come to be used as a resource to complement a more traditional seder or one that uses another modern version.

50 pages; includes Hebrew text, transliteration and music