The Many Faces of Freedom

Depiction of women in the Sarajevo Haggadah, 14th-century manuscript on parchment, Spain.

Exhibit at the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv. From Wikimedia Commons.

I recently experienced the multi-media performance The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book composed by the Bosnian-born Merima Kljuco, which expressed freedom at so many different levels and with such fervent passion. History was recast through a dialogue of accordion and piano, synchronized with artistic renditions of corresponding historical events. The 12 movements started with the creation of the Haggadah just before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, to Venice in 1609 where Jews were confined to the ghetto, to Sarajevo in 1941 where Hitler’s goal was to establish a “museum of an extinct race” and a Muslim imam hid the book until the war was over, through the siege of Sarajevo in 1992, finally ending with the Mother’s Benediction in Ladino when the Haggadah ends up back home.

Composer and accordionist Kljuco said the journey of the Haggadah reminds her of her own life and the exodus from her own homeland, when she was forced to leave under the strangest and heaviest circumstances. She was inspired to compose this piece when she read Geraldine Brooks’ book, People of the Book, four years ago. In Brooks’ story, the Haggadah goes through transformations as it is protected by many hands of various cultures. Its travels through the centuries symbolize an exodus, a diaspora, and a return, visiting cultures that were themselves the victims of expulsion or suppression in many ways.

The holiday of Passover commands each of us each in our own generation to personally experience freedom. I think about our world and all the different battles raging for freedom: freedom for independence and peace, freedom for women to choose, freedom for gays to love and marry, freedom for women to drive, freedom from oppression. I often think about the price that we are willing to pay and the sacrifices that we, and others before us, have made for the freedoms that we currently experience. Having grown up in Iran and now living here in the US, I often think back on all the freedoms and opportunities that I currently have as a woman, that I would have been deprived of had I stayed in Iran.  Although I miss the culture and the values of closeness of family, I am very grateful for the liberties that I enjoy today, being a woman in the US.

What would you like to be free of and what price are you willing to pay for it?

Topics: Passover, Music, Theater
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Although the fights for freedom currently going on in the US are certainly legitimate and need to be fought, I do always try to keep things in perspective; women in other countries and in other time periods in America were not nearly as free as I am.

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How to cite this page

Shaby, Velda. "The Many Faces of Freedom." 1 April 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 23, 2024) <>.