Like mine, your Judaica bookshelf or Passover closet is probably filled with Haggadahs of various sizes, illustrations, fonts and colors and a selection of translations. In many homes, there are also Haggadahs with commentaries ranging from one per text to those with as many commentaries as the publisher can fit on a page.
Several years ago, I even bought three Bird Haggadahs at the Israel Museum because, while impressively printed on the lines of the famous medieval Bird Haggadah, the museum edition also has creative pop-ups that kept the younger children enthralled - for a while.
Keeping them involved is crucial because the Seder is meant to be centered around children and youngsters – the Torah's command is "vehiggadeta levincha - and you shall tell your son" with the root of the Hebrew word maggid – telling - the same as that of the word "Haggadah." in addition to the Four Questions, in our family, we dress the younger ones as Israelites with packs on their backs for a short skit, use toy replicas for the plagues, and hand out prizes to any child who asks or answers a question about the Seder. Other families do their own extras. It's a special family night, but it requires planning, especially with today's computer-savvy youngsters.
Only a few choice Haggadahs can capture the attention of older children and teens, unless the young people are of a scholarly bent and take part in the discussion of various commentaries that continues throughout the long ceremonial evening. What makes it difficult for some to stay attuned is a combination of the hour, the wine (for those diehards who do not drink grape juice), hunger before the food and sleepiness after it.
To this, we have to add the fact that they have heard it before and possibly are not ready to realize that the yearly repetition is the whole beauty of being part of an eternal nation with a unique history and tradition. That, hopefully, comes with time as they mature if we have set the example from early on.
You can tell them about the saga of the Exodus dramatically, but they are a visual generation and are more interested in seeing than hearing. In answer to that, Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd., has given us the world's first Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, guaranteed to have them glued to the story – if you can agree to let it out of your own hands, that is.
In a way, you can think of it as an au courant publication of the Haggadah akin to the illuminated manuscripts to be viewed in Judaica museums, but that is only part of its appeal.
The attractive Haggadah has a brand new modern translation by well-known translator David Olivestone, alongside the complete, traditional Hebrew text and its transliteration. The reader-friendly English is the result of intensive linguistic research and enhances the dramatic sequential graphic progress of the novel, with visual art that manages to be dramatic when necessary, and sophisticated and light-hearted at the same time.
We could expect no less, considering that the idea was conceived by Batman comics editor and Jewish cartoonist Jordan B. ("Gorf") Gorfinkel, and illustrated beautifully by Israeli artist Erez Zadok.
The "how-to" instructional cartoons for every step of the Seder and its preparation are just perfect, interesting, instructive and fun to read. The dramatic parts are just that and will keep young participants involved while enriching their identification with the Exodus of their forefathers from Egypt and later Jewish history – just as the Talmud instructs us to do. Note below, for example, how the age-old message about those who wish to destroy the Jewish people and how the Almighty saves us from their hands is given an arresting graphic interpretation which young people can immediately connect to the text.
I tested it on all those above reading age in our family, including adults and had to snatch it away from each and every one of them, to make sure they would find it new at the Seder. It is hidden somewhere in my home at the moment like the Afikoman is going to be.
Koren promised to have a Hebrew edition by Pesach and I have just been informed that the Hebrew edition - which has the graphics and cartoons in the language many of my grandchildren consider their mother tongue- is now available..
Koren publishers, you kept your word!