The Haggadah is the text that guides this special dinner. There are special foods, songs, and there’s a text. It is the most illustrated of all Jewish texts, so very much of a wonderful challenge to a contemporary Jewish artist because it has so much history. This is The Open Door Haggadah, a new Haggadah from the Central Conference of American Rabbis – that’s the Reform movement – and it’s the first new Haggadah from the Reform movement in 27, 28 years. Rabbi Elwell edited the text and I had the enormous privilege of doing the drawings.
Passover is the celebration of the exodus from Egypt. The Jewish people are freed from slavery and they begin a wandering of 40 years in the desert. I think it’s very important to understand that when the story is retold, it isn’t retold as if about remote ancestors, but each participant in the seder is supposed to imagine themselves as coming out of Egypt and as being liberated from slavery.
Doing the major text for a Jewish holiday is a tremendous responsibility, but a challenge that delighted me. I had very strong feelings about this holiday – it’s a holiday that celebrates freedom. It’s possible just to illustrate a text – I wanted to do much more; I wanted to be part of the work of interpretation and commentary. I wanted to bring the stories alive and to tell them in a new way.
You can really imprint it with your values – it can very political, it can be very spiritual, it can be about any number of themes. This one is really about inviting everyone to the table, so that feels great.
From Ruth Weisberg: On the Journey, a documentary about Ruth Weisberg’s art and the values and belief it reflects, by Laura Vazquez.
Credit: Used with permission of Laura Vazquez.