I really hate Pesach. I know every other Jew in the world loves the seders, and thinks matzah is great and gefilte fish is the best gift we’ve gotten from God since Sinai, but frankly I have very little to say about this so-called season of redemption. I think it sucks. And I’m especially irritated by the seders. I hate the seders for two reasons: 1) There are, inexplicably, TWO of them. What could possibly be accomplished on the second night?? We just finished telling this story. It’s not like there’s a dearth of Jewish texts out there, so why in the name of God are we sitting around reading the same book two days in a row? 2) I find the Haggadah mind-numbingly boring. And yes, my family owns about forty different haggadot, and I’m not particularly fond of any of them. I’m an equal opportunity hater. But okay, I get that I’m pretty much alone on this issue, and that it’s not particularly practical to say, “Just skip Pesach this year,” so how about I give some wary recommendations of haggadahs that I don’t hate that much, and some tips for running a seder that doesn’t send all of your guests face first into their matzah ball soup, okay? So yeah, there’s A Different Night, which is a haggadah that is, seriously, fun for the whole family. Even the skeptical, irritable and too-cool-for-school 22-year-old daughter. But the pictures suck. The Haggadah for the Vegetarian Family is a bit too preachy for my taste, but pretty interesting if you’re a veg. I have a slight obsession with Nechama Leibowitz, and her haggadah does not disappoint, but just like her parsha worksheets, sometimes she skips right over an issue that seems pretty huge. I’m okay with the commentary in the Feast of Freedom, which is the Conservative haggadah, but the pictures are all these abstract ugly ripped paper things that are really distractingly horrendous. I bought my mom The Katz Haggadah, which has completely awesome pictures and is insanely frum. I wouldn’t use it for it’s commentary, but it’s really fun to look at. My mother doesn’t really like it, which is funny because she’s kind of crazy about haggadahs. But it’s cool. I’m not bitter. Looking for something a little more alternative? Trying to prove street cred at your seder? You should probably show up with a copy of The So-Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah which has a variety of songs from people like Killah Priest, Theodore Bikel and Matisyahu. Or you can download all kinds of haggadah texts from the web. Here’s an article from USA Today with more info on places to look online, but I’d say you should start with the awesome Open Source Haggadah created by Mobius. Now you’re cool. If you’re running a seder this year, or are going to a seder that traditionally blows and you want to subtract the suckage, check out a little mini-conversation over at A Simple Jew about how to prep. My Jewish Learning also has some good ideas about ways to keep people interested and engaged all the way through the haggadah. Or, if you want to take the same route as me, sit in the corner stewing and counting the minutes until pizza is again a viable option.
Tamar Fox has an MFA from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, but she still doesn't like sweet tea. Born and raised in Chicago, she's also lived in Iowa City, Dublin, Oxford, and Jerusalem. When she's not rocking out at honky tonks she teaches text study, cooks elaborate meals, and volunteers for a hospice. When she grows up she wants to be a professional whiskey taster.