Today is June 26, 2019 /

Beyond The Maxwell House Haggadah

Published in Jewish Values Online by Rivkah Lambert Adler
Posted on March 28, 2019
I didn’t grow up in a religiously observant home. As a result, I don’t have too many Passover memories from childhood. My strongest memory is of my mother telling me that if I wanted to eat bread during Passover, I had to go outside.

There is a single family photograph, taken in my grandparents’ narrow Bronx kitchen, of a Passover seder. My father, who passed away almost a quarter century ago, is holding a Maxwell House Haggadah and there is my grandmother’s famous gefilte fish, along with red, red horseradish, on the table. I am seven years old.

Taking a picture at a Passover seder would never happen in my Orthodox home today, but I’m grateful for that photo because it’s one of the few I have that show us as a Jewish family. As I got older, my parents and extended family dropped more and more religious observances so that, by the time I was in high school, we were all but indistinguishable from our non-Jewish neighbors and friends.
In my mid-20s, when I became more interested in the religion into which I had been born but not educated, I attended a few traditional Passover sedarim with other families. I learned a lot from those experiences, including the rather annoying addictive tune for Dayeinu. I recall being shocked to discover that there was yet more of the seder after the meal.

At those early sedarim, everyone used the same haggadah. I remember with delight getting six copies of the Maxwell House Haggadah at a local grocery store in the weeks leading up to the first seder I ever conducted. I still knew tragically little about Passover, but I remember that I made and served a potato kugel in a round tin. To me, at the time, that was the height of Jewish holiday cuisine.

Today, I live in Israel, where we do only one seder a year. Every one of our guests, including those not so familiar with the seder, uses a different haggadah, and each one has different commentary. In this way, the seder table becomes participatory, and everyone can contribute something no one else has in their book.

Click here to read more.