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Chag Sameach from Our Publisher

Dear Reader,

Tucked toward the back of my family’s sole file cabinet is a manila folder, stretched to capacity, labeled “haggadah.” For many years, I’ve hosted a seder where friends are instructed to come with a piece of writing related to the holiday—which means that each year, new pages are added to the file. It’s ironic but fitting that a ceremony entitled “order” can give rise to such endless variation.

I know I’m not alone in keeping such a pile, an unruly packet of scattered selections that do or don’t make it into that year’s holiday. Among those for whom left-leaning political commitments are inextricably woven together with Jewish identity, Passover has a certain pride of place in the liturgical calendar. I have a few Jewish friends who are so adamantly anti-religious in their sensibility that they refrain from the whole show, but more often the allure of the seder seems to capture even a committed secularist.

In the spirit of Passover, we might ask: Why is this? I think it has to do with the overt politics of the holiday—with its emphasis on participation and questioning, its egalitarian insistence on ritual absent clerical authority. Passover is explicitly structured as an invitation to interpretation: Here is a text; now what do you make of it?

Given all of this, it is not surprising that Jewish Currents contributors have continually returned to the subject of this particular holiday. Last year, we published Arielle Isack’s reflections on celebrating a seder with the incarcerated at Rikers Island and Reuven Abergel’s recollection on writing the Israeli Black Panthers Haggadah in 1971. In the preceding years, a host of other pieces—from Rachel Meirs’s evocative illustrations of her grandmother’s cooking to Amy Berkowitz’s essay on the queer origins of the orange on the seder plate—have explored the practices and meaning of Passover.

Among those many pieces, I continually return to two, in part because they stand in such stark contrast to one another. Emily Filler’s 2021 essay, which argues for the radical possibilities inherent in the traditional haggadah, had me keeping my over-packed folder in the back of the file cabinet for a couple years. On the other hand, the translation of a 1919 socialist haggadah by the Galician Bund made the “radical” haggadot I spent years compiling seem comparatively tame. Even as they share a certain political orientation, these two pieces point to dramatically different ways of engaging with the text of the holiday, and with the tradition as a whole. Read side by side, they raise the question of how we ought to reconcile our political commitments with our commitment to that tradition, and with the practices of ritual and belonging with which we inhabit it.

At Jewish Currents, we aim to avoid easy answers to such questions, even as we strive to name the questions that we take to be most urgent in our moment. We hope that throughout this holiday week—however you celebrate it—our work can help clarify your own questions, and can serve as a connection to the many others wrestling with such questions across the country and the world.

As you prepare, we hope that you take time not only to read some of that work, but to support it. Our analysis and reporting and essays—including those mentioned above—are made possible through the generous contributions of people like you, and this holiday week I invite you to donate and support our efforts.

Chag Sameach,

Daniel May

Hagode shel Peysekh (with a Socialist Twist)
A translation of a 1919 Socialist Haggadah published by the Galician Bund.
Jewish Social Democrat Party
The Radical Case for the Traditional Haggadah
Leftist seders often use versions of the Passover text that articulate contemporary political commitments—but the classical haggadah allows us to make our politics our own.
Emily Filler
Who Owns the Orange?
Reclaiming a queer Passover symbol.
Amy Berkowitz
Ruth’s Kitchen
On Passover, an artist explores her ordinary—and extraordinary—culinary inheritance.
Rachel Meirs
Darkness in the Holy Land
An introduction to the Haggadah of the Black Panthers in Israel.
Reuven Abergel
A Seder on Rikers
On celebrating freedom with the incarcerated
Arielle Isack