'Pictures Tell': A Passover Haggadah using pictures to convey meaning - review

Pictures Tell can enhance any Seder and would make a most appropriate holiday gift and a valuable contribution to anyone’s Haggadah collection. 

 AN IMAGE from the ‘Pictures Tell’ Haggadah. (photo credit: Courtesy)
AN IMAGE from the ‘Pictures Tell’ Haggadah.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Zion Ozeri has developed one of the most creative, exciting Passover Haggadot published in recent years. 

Ozeri is a recognized and celebrated photographer, having published a number of books, such as The Jewish World Family Haggadah, and has received a number of awards for his work. However, in Pictures Tell, he has taken a step forward and integrated photography, Jewish thought and technology in producing an innovative and interesting addition to the ever-expanding world of Passover Haggadot.

The most striking aspect of this Haggadah is the beautiful, emotionally laden and spiritually moving photographs from Ozeri’s many travels to Jewish communities around the world. He has matched the themes and meanings of the photographs with the various sections of the Haggadah. As you read through the text, you are drawn to the images captured in the pictures and cannot help thinking about the universal meaning of Passover in the dozens of communities that Ozeri shares with you.

The central theme – that the Jewish people were created by the experience of the Exodus from Egypt – is brought to life with the images of people celebrating Passover in India, Mexico, Israel, Uzbekistan and Yemen, among a host of other locations. The Jewish people were united not only by the transition from slavery to freedom but also by the eternal celebration of the Passover by Jews universally participating in a Seder. This Haggadah reinforces the notion that no matter where Jews live, we are joined together through our shared cultural and religious heritage.

THE ARTHUR SZYK (1894-1951) Haggadah opens with ‘The Family at the Seder’ (1935) Lodz, Poland. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)THE ARTHUR SZYK (1894-1951) Haggadah opens with ‘The Family at the Seder’ (1935) Lodz, Poland. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Using photographs to stimulate discussions during the Passover Seder

Ozeri’s creativity is further evident in the use of photographs to stimulate discussions while reading the various sections of the Passover Haggadah during the Seder. Under many of the photographs, he has provided the reader with a series of questions that trigger the participants to respond to the images. They are asked to share their thoughts and feelings about what is captured in the picture and how it relates to the specific text opposite the image, as well as having the opportunity to focus on its meaning for us today.

This technique has multiple functions. It can be used in preparation for Seder night as you review the text and the questions to be discussed at the Passover table. Of course, this can be especially meaningful for children as they strive to understand the various rituals conducted during the Seder. They can also be utilized at the Seder to elicit responses from the participants as a way of stimulating discussion.

OZERI HAS also introduced a technological tool into the Seder experience by including QR codes throughout the Haggadah that provide links to study sheets on the Sefaria website. This wonderful tool enhances the Seder experience and can be used in preparation for Seder night. Those who use technological devices during the Seder can take advantage of the added material, which provides additional information and can stimulate discussions among Seder participants.

Since it can often be a challenge to involve children and young adults in the Seder, these QR codes provide a way to interact with the text. The additional material ranges from pictures to texts to music, and is designed in a very inviting and thoughtful way.

Ozeri, along with the editors, has included contemporary contributors who share their ideas, thoughts, interpretations and responses regarding the meaning of Passover, the Haggadah, and the development of the Jewish people. It includes rabbis such as Joshua Berman, Ammiel Hirsch, David Wolpe and Sarah Hurwitz, among others; authors Yossi Klein Halevi and Daniel Gordis; and academics such as Jonathan Sarna and Deborah Lipstadt. 

They represent a pluralistic spectrum of American Jewry that includes the various religious denominations, as well as pluralistic perspectives of Jewish unity through diversity. The reader has an opportunity to have a dialogue with both the Haggadah text and these writers who address the themes of Passover and the Seder night. 

I would be remiss if I did not comment on the layout of the Haggadah, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also very user-friendly. Both the Hebrew and English print are presented in a comfortable size and are pleasing to the eye. The text is not crowded, and the Hebrew is in black and the English is in a soft red color. There is one picture on a page, and many images have questions appearing underneath them. These can be an educational aid in preparation for the Seder or to encourage discussion during the Seder.

Pictures Tell can enhance any Seder and would make a most appropriate holiday gift and a valuable contribution to anyone’s Haggadah collection. 

The writer is a retired faculty member of the Hebrew University School of Social Work’s program in management of nonprofit organizations.

PICTURES TELL: A PASSOVER HAGGADAHBy Zion Ozeri Edited by Joshua A. Feinberg and Sara WolkenfeldGefen Publishing House152 pages; $24.95