Choose your own Haggadah

A new website allows users to mix and match writings and graphics to create their own Seder experience.

Afikomen 521 (photo credit: Will Deutsch)
Afikomen 521
(photo credit: Will Deutsch)
Thanks to the Internet, Jews in Israel and the Diaspora can update and personalize their Haggadot with new commentaries, transliterations, translations and artwork., a website created by Los Angeles-based artist and designer Eileen Levinson, allows users to borrow writings and graphics from others and put together their own Haggadot. The site is free, but users must create accounts and sign in before making submissions.’s materials come from a variety of contributors, including author Anita Diamant (The Red Tent and other books), artist Tobi Kahn,, Barry Louis Polisar (a songwriter who contributed a song to the soundtrack of the film Juno), Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion’s Kalsman Institute and Valley Beth Shalom (a Conservative synagogue in Encino, California).
Another contributor, Andrea Smith, shared instructions on how to play a Seder board game. Place a board with squares corresponding to different questions in the center of the table, and have each player roll a die. The spaces where game pieces land can correspond to questions such as “Which character in the Haggada do you identify with and why?” and “What was your earliest Passover memory?” There’s also a dramatic alternative: “Act out something from the Haggada.”’s graphics include images of Moses and the Burning Bush and Aaron’s staff swallowing those of the magicians from the Sarajevo Haggada, one of the oldest Sephardi Haggadot, now on permanent display at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. Cartoons from various artists are also displayed, including a charming piece with family members looking for the afikoman, drawn by Judaica artist Will Deutsch (the cartoon comes complete with family memories of afikoman quests provided by Deutsch).
Users can create new Haggadot in PDF format that include different languages and combine Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions.
Once the Haggadot are saved, the compilers can print as many copies as they want without having to pay for the content. The site allows contributors to publicize their submissions, as well as their biographies and information about their organizations, on Facebook and Twitter.
Besides English and Hebrew, includes contributions in Yiddish, Ladino, German and Italian.
Kulanu, a nonprofit which assists isolated Jewish communities, posted translations of the Four Questions into Ladino and Luganda, one of the languages spoken in Uganda.
LEVINSON, ART director at online video company Deca TV and a member of the Jewish Artist Initiative of Southern California, came up with the idea for in 2007 while working toward her MFA in graphic design at the California Institute of the Arts. She was given an assignment to imagine the future of the publishing industry and create a product from that sector.
“My idea for a publication was something that could be structured for people to participate and collaborate,” Levinson said. “I’ve always loved Passover. To me, Passover is the ultimate opportunity for Jews to engage in dialogue and creativity. I wanted to create a website for Jews to mix and match from Haggadot that they have and create works based on what they see from others.”
Seed funding from the ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators helped Levinson complete the site; the present version went online in time for last year’s Seder. On March 14, the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund announced that and eight other initiatives would receive grants and technical support. Levinson said the assistance would allow an updated version of to be launched by next Pessah.
She would like the new edition to have a Hebrew section to attract more Israeli contributors.
The current contributions are diverse.
Remy Ilona, a Igbo from Nigeria who founded the Igbo Israel Union, posted an Igbo version of the Pessah song “Had Gadya” which begins, “What happened to the tortoise?/The tortoise, the tortoise/A breadfruit fell on the tortoise.”
The site also includes more somber pieces.
MAZON, an American Jewish nonprofit that fights hunger, contributed its own commentary.
“In our own land of abundance, hunger exists in shocking proportions,” writes Barbara Berger, MAZON acting president. “The US Department of Agriculture tells us that 49 million of our fellow Americans are ‘food insecure’ – the official term for hunger. That number includes more than 17 million children. In a land of plenty, this is not merely a shame – it’s an outrage.”
Abe Katz (founding director of the Beurei Hatefila Institute), posted a prayer written by the American Jewish Congress’ Seder ritual committee to memorialize the six million “of our people of the European exile who perished at the hands of a tyrant more wicked than the pharaoh who enslaved our fathers in Egypt.”
Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth-El in Edison, New Jersey, and a communications professor at Yeshiva and Rutgers universities, posted passages from the Holocaust siddur he recently published.
“I’m trying desperately to preserve Holocaust memory, and one way is through the Haggada,” said Rosenberg, a child of Holocaust survivors. “I’m afraid that when Holocaust survivors are no longer here, the revisionists are going to come out. While museums and other establishments are great, I think the best thing that will keep the memory of the Holocaust alive is a connection to religion, through the siddur and Haggada.”