Friday, March 30, 2012

New American Haggadah {review}

I was very excited to receive the my review of the New American Haggadah, especially after this piece in the New York Times, which made me giggle a little.

And then I opened it. It is gorgeous.

It's hardcover, with beautiful illustrations. The translation is very interesting and literal, and the commentaries are creative and actually add something new to the text, which I truly appreciate. There's a very interesting timeline of Jewish history running throughout the book.

It is a fantastic study document, and I recommend it to all Seder leaders. You will learn something new, you will gain different and lovely insight into the Haggadah text, and you will be able to enhance your family's Seder with these ideas.

That said, I cannot imagine ever using this Haggadah at my family's seder. Firstly, there are no transliterations. Its sheer size and bulk make it really unreasonable to use as a family Haggadah. The commentaries are on their own separate pages and you have to turn the book to read them, and the timeline also requires you to turn the book, but the opposite way! I know that much has been made of the design of this book, and it is so beautiful, but it really doesn't seem like it would be a very realistic book to use during a Seder, itself.

In addition, I have spent most of my life struggling with translations that are masculine-based. In fact, I put my own Haggadah together many years ago in order to restructure the translation into something gender neutral. It's really not that hard, yet Nathan Englander chose to translate using masculine language. I'm disappointed, really, since I would imagine that a New American document would be a little more gender sensitive. (According to that same New York Times article, even the Maxwell House Haggadah has become gender-neutral.)

So, I definitely recommend that this book grace your shelf. It is beautiful to behold and there are new insights, definitely. But I recommend that you find a different Haggadah to use at your Seder table, if you are still looking.

What Haggadah does your family use?
P.S. Today over at my other blog, the #blogExodus prompt is Redemption, and I talk about my family's Haggadah...


Susanne said...

I agree completely with your review. The book is beautiful, but really not usable at a family seder. I, too, found the masculine language disappointed. We'll stick with "A Different Night," which works very well for us because it's so flexible.

Frume Sarah said...

I haven't gotten my hands on this one yet. (I'm not an the publishers' radars so I don't ever seem to see things ahead of time).

We use the CCAR Haggadah. But the seder leader (not me) always brings in passages from other haggadot.

And I am completely fine with gender-specific. I can't pray to a neutered deity.

Larry Kaufman said...

Three cheers for Frume Sarah. She will be more comfortable than Ima will be with my blog post on the URJ blog