Educator's Resources for Passover


Dear Educators,
From the vault of discarded-but-not-forgotten resources, another installment of holiday ideas. It is quite amazing to me that in all my many years as a Jewish educator the issue of freedom is only becoming more and more relevant. It is enough to follow recent election campaign rhetoric to understand that even the most basic freedoms we assume are granted in a democratic society are at risk. On this holiday, as we celebrate and enjoy unprecedented freedoms, let us not forget that we cannot take them for granted and let us remember those who are still enslaved in one way or another.

We hope the resources we put together here are thought provoking and inspirational for you and your students.

Chag Cherut Same'ach
Happy Freedom Holiday

Vavi Toran

Every Person Needs to Have a Certain Egypt
Poem by: Amnon Ribak
The poem in Hebrew

to redeem themselves from it, from the house of slavery,

to go out in the middle of the night to the desert of fears,
to march straight into the waters,
to see them open before them to both sides.

Every person needs a shoulder,
on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their backs.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
and a Jerusalem,
and one long journey,
that they will forever remember
in their feet.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
To deliver themselves from it
with a strong arm,
or with grinding teeth.

Every person needs terror and great darkness,
and comfort and promise and redemption,
that they would know to look up at the sky.
Every person needs one

that would always be on their lips.
A person needs to bend one time –
Every person needs a shoulder.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,

The Haggadah, which we read on Erev Peasach, is the reenactment of our master story. The text tells us that "In each generation, each person is obligated to see himself or herself as though he or she personally came forth from Egypt." It is not enough to remember or retell the story, but rather to experience the move from slavery to freedom on an intimate personal level. We, who are blessed with freedoms and liberties, are also obligated to look beyond our opulence and help others who are not yet liberated to come forth from their Egypt. 

These Israeli songs, hinting at the Passover story, deal with personal liberation and modern day exodus.

Out of Egypt - Alma Zohar (with subtitles)

From Slavery to Freedom
Lyrics: Yanlele Rotblit
Music: Yitzhak Klepter and Guy Bokatto
Sunger: Arik Einstein
Hebrew Lyrics

And there's something in me, like a full moon of Nisan
That calls me to rise, and calls yet again all the time                 
To embark on a journey full of perils
For a hint of a chance of an envisioned happy and unimaginative future

There is probably a chance, that from the top of some mountain
I will see far away a promise for tomorrow
That might not arrive, but even if I'll die on the road
Tonight I will go forth, from slavery to freedom

My ability to suffer failed, I could bear no more
Enough is enough, I said, I have to go
The slave in me, I left behind
In a place to where I shall never return.                        

I have nothing more to say, there are no words
I have nothing more to lose, except for these shackles

They have cut me to a pulp, I am still scratched
Tonight I will go forth, from slavery to freedom



Freedom Haggadot

A couple of years ago, we were fortunate to have a remarkable opportunity to closely examine the Arthur Szyk's Haggadah at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Szyk (pronounced "Shick") created his magnificent Haggadah in Lodz, on the eve of the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. The Haggadah is filled with sumptuous paintings of Jewish heroes, tyrannical foes and stunning calligraphy. Behind the beautiful design and masterful illustrations Szyk carefully interjects his criticism of Nazism in Europe. Szyk, who immigrated to the US in 1940, was throughout his life a staunch visual commentator on social and political issues. He was known for standing up to tyranny and was dubbed "A Soldier in Art" by his peers. 

Unfortunately, tyranny and enslavement have not been eradicated yet. On Passover night we ought to be mindful of people in the US, in Israel and around the world who are not free. We bring you several samples of "Freedom Haggadot" and other resources with the hope that you will find a way to incorporate them into your Seders. 

Link to Social Justice Haggadot

Freedom and Justice seder

Pesach Seder Supplements on Economic Justice, Slavery, and other issues of Tzedek

A Human Rights Haggadah


Current human rights issues in Israel

Strangers No More -  Oscar Winning Movie Trailer  

Strangers No More - Oscar Winning Movie Trailer  


Two Historic Haggadot and their Influence on Contemporary Israeli artists

There are several Haggadot dating back to the Middle Ages that we are familiar with. These illuminated manuscripts tell historic tales of Jewish life and creativity. They are also fine examples of ancient Jewish art and are therefore being addressed visually in contemporary Israeli art. Two of the most widespread examples are the Birds' Head Haggadah and the Sarajevo Haggadah.


Birds' Head Haggadah

The Birds' Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript (S. German, c. 1300), derives its name from the birdlike human figures illustrated in the manuscript's margins. This motif is believed to be related to the biblical (Second Commandment) prohibition against creating graven images. The Birds' Head Haggadah, discovered by Israeli art historian Bezalel Narkiss in 1946, the realistic human figure is avoided by providing it with the head and beak of a bird. Some of the figures wear helmet-like hats reminiscent of the conic hats Jews were obliged to wear in Ashkenaz (Germany) during the Middle Ages. From time to time new theories claim that the codex was illuminated by Christian artists who interjected anti-semitic elements by depicting Jews as ravens.

Michael Sgan-Cohen 
The Wandering Jew

Sgan-Cohen used the hybrid figure as a symbol of the wandering Jew and by association as his self-portrait. In his painting The Wandering Jew Sgan-Cohen used the motif of the Hand of God, pointing (in the picture) to the image of a man (the artist's self-image) with a bird's head wearing a Judenhut, a pointed Jewish hat that was forced upon Jews in the Middle Ages. The chair, a symbol of settling down, remains in the foreground empty for now.



Zoya Cherkassky
The Aachen Hagaddah

Cherkassky created the illustrated "Aachen Passover Haggadah" (named after the German city of Aachen where the artist did a residency). The Haggadah portrays graphic designs in red, black and gold - inspired by Jewish images, the Russian Avant-garde and anti-Semitic images. Throughout the Haggadah there are images of birds; their head is a Jewish head wearing a Streimel. These illustrations resemble the ones appearing in the Birds' Head Haggadah.The red, swollen feet symbolize the wandering Jew and the journey from Egypt to the Holy Land. 

Radical Storytelling: Samuel Klein explores a challenging new Haggadah by artist Zoya Cherkassky



The Sarajevo Haggadah - Creation

The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world. Originating in Barcelona around 1350, the Haggadah has survived many close calls with destruction, including World War II and the Bosnian War. Historians believe that it was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. Notes in the margins of the Haggadah indicate that it surfaced in Italy in the 16th century. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 by a man named Joseph Kohen.  The novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (2008), crafts a fictionalized history of the Haggadah from its origins in Spain to the museum in Sarajevo. The fascinating history of Dervis Korkut, who saved the book from the Nazis, was told inan article by Geraldine Brooks in The New Yorker magazine. The article also sets out the story of the young Jewish girl, Mira Papo, whom Korkut and his wife hid from the Nazis as they were acting to save the Haggadah. In a twist of fate, as an elderly woman in Israel, Mira Papo secured the safety of Korkut's daughter during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

Moses receiving the Torah

Moses receiving the Torah

Moses of Sarajevo"

Moses of Sarajevo"

The dramatic history of this Haggadah and its beauty fired the imagination of several Israeli artists, most notably the painter Arie Aroch. Aroch was familiar with the Sarajevo Haggadah and its illustrations, which interested him both thematically and composition-wise. 

Several pieces of his artwork are either directly related to the Haggadah or offer further developments on the themes and composition. These include: Moses from Sarajevo, The Creation, and The Figure 2 (based on a page where the number 2 was scribbles on the margins).

Other Resources for Passover

About Passover - Goisrael

Jewish Virtual Library

The iCenter: The Four Sons of the Haggadah - Creative Midrashim

The iCenter: Passover: Bringing Israel into your Seder

Neot Kedumim - Once we were Slaves

Shitim - Machon Ha'Chagim (in Hebrew)

Good News from Israel blog

Lookstein Resources for Passover

Hazon: Educational Resources for Passover

Hazon: Healthy sustainable passover resources

PJ Library