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March 30, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 30, 2012

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 30, 2012 New Haggadahs: J?eform version, novelists' take and Ethiopian flavor By David A.M. Wilensky SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (JTA)--Leading a seder for the first time this year? There's an app for that. Entries in the annual stream of new Haggadahs this year include a Reform version that comes in hard- cover, paperback and iPad app editions. Two others feature a gorgeously designed Hag- gadah that features an array of literary celebrity contributors and one with an Ethiopian flavor. The Reform Haggadah, "Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contempo- rary Family" (CCAR Press), is terrific for its introductions and artwork, bland in its content and promising in its use of technology. "Sharing" excels as a guide to Passover for those who are new to the seder--sections help first-time leaders with planning--or need a major refresher. It covers the en- tire weeklong holiday, from searching for chametz before through the beginning of the counting of the Omer at the end. But thte seder itself is bland. Responsive readings--a hall- mark of Reform ritual that seemed to have disappeared with the arrival of "Mishkan T'fillah," the current Reform siddur--unfortunately are back. Too often the surface themes of the exodus story outshine the subtler values of the seder. However, "Shar- ing" gets it right by taking prospective seder leaders straight from a section on leading the seder to one called "What Matters on Passover Is That Questions Are Asked." The highlight here is the artwork of Mark Podwal. His impressionistic illuminations in "Sharing" are a great addi- tion to the tradition of Hag- gadah art. Podwal interprets one of the four children as a headless suit of armor with a book at its feet and one as a Torah with a book for a head. The other two have book torsos and heads--one open and facing us, the other closed and facing away. A few years ago, "Sharing" might have come with a CD, but instead it suggests down- loading tracks online to learn Joseph and Anita Ham are living their life to the fullest at Village on the Green. In our resort-like senior community, our fabulous amenities and Gold Seal-rated Health Center provide the flexibility to live life just the way you want it. Come see why your friends are choosing Village on the Green,,, Uniquely, Distinctively Yours! 1 VILLAGE ON THE GREENi A LIFESPACE COMMUNITY  500 Village Place Longwood, FL 32779 Village on the Green is one of only 15% of senior living communities nationwide accredited by CARF-CCAC for quality practices in administration, finance, care and services to residents.   2010 Lifespace Communities, Inc. Congregation Ohev Shalom's Adult Conservative " '7' 100 Blessings: The Meaning and Practice of Jewish Prayer ***Spring Session - April 2 thru May 23, 2012"** Wednesdays 7:00 pm: Rabbi David Kay Portable Holiness: Creating Sacred Space (and Time) Wherever You Are Mondays 7:00 pm: Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik "Halleluyah! Praise God!": The Ancient Words of Hallel & Praising God Even in Difficult Times Birkot ha-Nehanin are those legendary Jewish "blessings for A closer look at the psalms of Hallel uncovers modem meaning everything." But what they really do is let us find the sacred in and helps us understand how we can praise God even when everything and every moment, the act of praise feels challenging. Please RSVP to Susan at 407.298-4650 or email Congregation Ohev Shalom 613 Concourse Parkway South * Maitland, FL 3275! Phone: 407-298-4650 * Fax: 407-296-7101 Web: * Email: Some new Haggadahs for this Passover: "Sharing the Journey,  the "New American Haggadah" and "Journey to Freedom." seder tunes. (Of course, iPad app version users will have them at their fingertips.) Despite emphasizing sing- ing during the seder, "Shar- ing" misses musical opportu- nities, such as its replacement of the psalms known as Hailel with "interpretive readings" of two psalms. (More of Hallel appears in an appendix--in English.) Meanwhile, "Shar- ing" goes for music that was probably best left out. Two cringe-worthy songs feature the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Coffee table art books have given birth to an entire sub- genre of artistic, if unwieldy Haggadahs, including the gorgeous "New American Haggadah" (Little, Brown and Co.). Edited by novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and translated by Nathan Eng- lander, this Haggadah aims not just to tell a story but to be about storytelling. It is far too unwieldy to be deployed in full at your seder, but that hardly seems to be its ambi- tion-and it's too beautiful to pass up. "New American" was type- set brilliantly by Oded Ezer, whose ethereal illustrations are a striking break with the concrete representations with which Haggadahs are usu- ally sprinkled. Though design occasionally trumps useful- ness, each page is a delight. A meta-telling of the story runs throughout, a timeline of the history of Passover itself strung along the top margin of the pages. The imagery is based on Hebrew letter forms that match the period of the timeline on the page. In addition to Englander and Foer, the seder is peri- odically interrupted by brief essays by the likes of Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg and children's author Lemony Snicket. The interruptions include installments in each of four streams of brief essays, each stream by a different author. The streams cover four themes: "Nation," "Li- brary," "House of Stu@" and "Playground." Why didn't anyone think of handing the seder, the Jewish narrative ritual par excellence, over to novel- ists before? New American indeed. The story of the ongoing immigration of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel seems to be a perfect thematic match with Passover. As interest grows in far-flung Jews with unexpected skin tones, an Ethiopian Haggadah was inevitable. What a shame, then, that "The Koren Haggada: Journey to Freedom" (Koren Publish- ers Jerusalem) is such awhite- washed letdown. It's "The Gould Family Edition," edited by Rabbi Menachem Waldman and translated by Binyamin Shalom. While Waldman has written a number of books on Ethiopian Jewry, it is im- plausible that no priests of the Ethiopian community could be found to at least co-edit "Journey." In his introduction, Wald- man says that, "Journey to Freedom" includes "the traditions of and heritage of Ethiopian Jewry alongside the story of the exodus from Ethiopia." Sadly this is not at all what "Journey" does. Instead it tells of Ethiopian Jewry in a series of sidebars and photographs interspersed among a standard Modern Orthodox seder. The Ethiopian obser- vance of Passover, which they call Pasika, is given some attention, but an in- troductory section spends a scant page or so on the community's actual tradi- tions for consuming the paschal sacrifice and telling the story of the Exodus. Instead, "Journey" buries their traditions under con- temporary Orthodox ones, as the Israeli rabbinate has long sought to do. Each of the three diverse Haggadahs fills a special niche and has a unique take on the seder. Bring the "New American Haggadah" on your journey this year. And first-timers may appreciate "Sharing the Journey" as a guidebook. "The Koren Ethiopian Haggada"? It's best left behind in Egypt.