How do leading contemporary Israeli artists depict the four sons? The Egyptian oppression of the Israelites? The Ten Plagues? The stubbornness of Pharaoh? Or God’s awesome signs and wonders? The diverse modern aesthetic interpretations of the ancient Haggadah text will be the focus of a Haggadah Fair sponsored by the Kol HaOt organization and the Inbal Hotel during Hol Hamoed Pessah.

The fair, to be held at the Jerusalem hotel on April 20 and 21, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., will feature the magnificent Haggadot of such internationally renowned artists as Avner Moriah, Maty Grünberg, David Moss, Eliyahu Sidi, Matt Berkowitz, Ya’akov Daniel and Ilya Gefter.

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Many of the artists themselves will be at the fair, and will discuss their diverse works and the creative journey they personally underwent to visually interpret the Haggadah text. Visitors will enjoy a visual feast for the eyes and soul, as they view these high-end, fine-art facsimile edition Haggadot, and trade editions.

Artist David Moss spent three years working intensely on The Moss Haggadah, which has been hailed by the London Jewish Chronicle as “the greatest Haggada ever produced.” He recalls that while researching the rich world of the Haggada, “I sensed that if any book had secrets to tell, then it was certainly this book of telling and retelling; I had only to listen carefully to the whisperings of the Haggada and to try to silence the voice of practicality.”

For The Moriah Haggadah, artist Avner Moriah turned to the Egyptian and Assyrian wall paintings and reliefs and the small human and animal figurines of the early Bronze and Iron Ages – the time when the Israelites settled in the Land of Israel. For colors, he looked to the blues, oranges and golds of the eternal Middle East landscape.

“The roundel motif is used frequently in the Haggada to represent the circular repetition of Jewish history and life,” explains Moriah, whose paintings are part of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

Prof. Shalom Sabar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says of The Moriah Haggadah: “Page after page, his vivid and original images take us on a rich journey through the themes inspired by the Haggada’s text. In so doing, Moriah imbues the words with captivating modern images and new ways to penetrate its many hidden meanings.”

When creating The Lovell Haggadah, artist Matt Berkowitz recalls that he wanted to “challenge the ennui often experienced around the Seder table, and recapture a spirit of creativity and spontaneity.” His portfolio, Passover Landscapes: Illuminations on the Exodus, which are based on his Haggada, “convey the soul of the Passover experience. It is an expanse of scenery that can be seen in a single view. The Seder imparts the breadth of Jewish experience, treating us to a panoramic view of Judaism through text and interpretation.”

Notes artist Menashe Kadishman of Maty Grünberg’s Bezalel Haggadah: “Maty has created a Passover Haggada which is now part of the collections of both the British Museum and the New York Public Library. It’s an important work, in woodcuts, just one of the many paths Maty treads. It’s a world of scrolls and letters… a world of stories. The Haggada takes us into the age-long Jewish heritage: spanning the Exodus from Egypt and the wanderings in the desert, through the expulsion from Spain down to our own days.”

The Kol HaOt organization is a new venture which weaves creativity and aesthetics, arts and inspiration, to convey the meaning and purpose of Jewish texts and ideas, history and values. In addition to the Haggada Fair, the organization conducts ongoing educational programs, targeted at North American travelers in Israel, that use the magic of the arts to engage participants with various Jewish concepts, texts and values. A handson participatory element is part of each program, enabling every participant to produce his or her own creation from their experience.

During 2011, Kol HaOt will be moving into its second phase, which includes a Visual Beit Midrash, where the organization will continue to conduct its educational programs, hold evening Jewish cabaret performances, ongoing exhibits, artist circles, educator training and Visual Beit Midrash studies.

Notes Elyssa Moss Rabinowitz, a cofounder of Kol HaOt: “The Haggadah Fair is just one way we hope to bring the aesthetically rich Jewish art being produced today by Israeli artists to the attention of the general public.”

The writer is director of marketing at Kol HaOt – Illuminating Jewish Life through Art.

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