Seeking a seder experience that matters
The Haggadah Collective weaves tradition with uniquely modern elements in adult and children’s versions.
By Ilene Schneider
For Pearl Richman of The Haggadah Collective, Passover evokes memories of setting the table for her mother’s large seders in a small apartment, then creating the same kind of ambiance in her own home and constantly adding personal, inspirational notes to the standard, easy-to-follow Haggadah that everyone used. Richman, a teacher for 35 years, wanted people to have a seder experience that mattered, including things that resonated with her family.
Eventually, the pile of research and add-ons became overwhelming, and Richman, who is from Toronto, “spent a summer putting together what I wanted to use that was unique, beautiful and elevating,” along with the traditional elements of the seder. She filled it with photos and artwork to make it a living Haggadah, presented it to her mother, Lil Brown, and started using it. Seeing the project as a Hiddur Mitzvah – taking the mitzvah, elevating it and making it more beautiful – Richman wanted to share her creation.
“My friends really liked it,” Richman revealed. “The following year, we went to a local bookstore and sold 500 copies. We had book signings set up, and then COVID hit.”
Undaunted, Richman came up with a new version, one that had a voice for kids. The Kids Haggadah matches up well with the adult version so that everyone is literally on the same page. She also did some revisions to the adult version.
“The third illustrator we chose worked well for the right looks on the adult Haggadah,” Richman said. “We gave the illustrator the names of my sisters who had passed away, and they came alive. There are photographs of a candlestick and a bowl for matzah that belonged to them. We wanted to bring things that mattered to our family to everyone. We could hang onto the connection because love never goes away.”
While embracing the tradition and the order of the seder, Richman uses gender-neutral text and sometimes changes words to be more compassionate and inclusive. When talking about the four children, she replaces “wicked” and “simple” with “challenging” and “innocent.” Instead of the traditional four cups of wine, there are five, with the fifth one to honor refugees and displaced persons. The orange on the seder plate represents marginalized people, Miriam’s Cup honors women in the Pesach story and the broken “Matzah of Anguish and Hope” reminds us to support the people of Israel whose lives are continually shattered by terrorism. There is a page on why Elijah is relevant.
A special touch is the fifth child lost to the Holocaust. Brown brought the concept of the Fifth Child to the seders when Richman was a child, emphasizing the importance of never forgetting about the child who did not survive and thus could not ask a question. “The impact was never lost on me,” Richman said.
Thanks to Richman’s friend, who was also the child of survivors, The Haggadah Collective has joined forces with One More Candle, an initiative that is committed to remembering every one of the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust. By lighting a candle for these children, people can remember and honor the names that have never been said out loud.
Richman worked with her daughter, Maxie, a master’s student in Child Study and Education, to create Hug-It-Out, A Lil Haggadah for Kids. Emphasizing kindness and inclusiveness, the children’s Haggadah “is a love letter to children,” said Richman. The 47-page, full-color Haggadah follows the adventures of Annie and her brother Arnie as they prepare for and experience the seder. While telling the Passover story and providing what Richman considers important ideas, Hug-It-Out is fun and easy to understand, even including kid-friendly recipes. It incorporates the fifth child, illustrated by Annie and Arnie holding hands, gazing at the stars that represent the million bright lights lost during the Holocaust.
Educators loved the children’s Haggadah, according to Richman. She had 400 copies printed, and they immediately sold out. Today she is selling the Haggadot in two shops and three websites and adding to her repertoire.
Last year Richman designed a matzo cover and afikomen set with the motif of half of a Jewish star. She also created coasters with the ten plagues on them for seder participants to use after dipping their fingers in the wine. She is designing a seder plate, as well as a challah board and challah cover for Rosh Hashanah.
“If I can help to provide a way to celebrate holidays that resonates with people, then I feel good about it,” Richman said. “It’s a mitzvah to bring beauty and meaning into the home.”
To learn more about Haggadah Collective and see their full line: https://thehaggadahcollective.com/