Reinforcing the Zionist narrative through a Passover Haggada

“We produced this as a family. Passover is a family holiday, and the Jewish people happen to be one big family. That’s why we chose to do it this way – something from our family to yours."

Eight gifts for Passover 2018 (photo credit: JWG)
Eight gifts for Passover 2018
(photo credit: JWG)
Since 1973, Yaakov Kirschen has been commenting on the situation concerning the Jewish people and Israel every day, both in the pages of The Jerusalem Post and on his own blog and Facebook page, and is syndicated in many major Jewish newspapers in the US and Canada. Kirschen was born in Brooklyn and made aliya to Israel in 1971. This month he’s celebrating his 80th birthday.
The beloved and veteran Jerusalem Post cartoonist wanted to leave a legacy for generations of Jews to come. He wanted to create a Passover Haggada that grandparents would pass on to their grandchildren. And so, the Dry Bones Passover Haggadah was born.
Kirschen self-published it in a paperback version in 2013, and he and his wife made a mom-and-pop store online to sell it out of their living room. The Haggada was such a hit that the Jerusalem-based Koren Publishing asked to take it over and so now the hardcover version is published and distributed by Koren.
This new hardcover printing of the 104-page book has innovative typology and layout designed by S. Kim Glassman, vivid colors, done by artist and colorist Sali Ariel, (who is also Kirschen’s wife and business partner, known to many as the LSW, for Long Suffering Wife). There is much love, care and thought that have gone into this Haggada.
“I realized that I do cartoons for people based on the news, but the news keeps changing and life goes on, and Dry Bones would like to talk not only to people today, but to comment on the Jewish experience of the past and to talk to generations coming after.
The only way to do that is to talk to them when they’re sitting down at the Passover Seder, because that’s the one time they’re all together.”
“Everyone knows that the Jews have survived as a people, and nobody really knows why. They think we have a secret book, and we do, but its identity is more obvious than most would think. The secret book of the Jews is the Passover Haggada. We have a guidebook for a ceremony that we do in our homes, every year, in order to teach the next generation.”
“It’s a book that is a script for a ritual, and every year at our spring festival, when everything is reborn, we sit down with our families and take out this secret book, which is really a guidebook on how to teach the next generation who we are, who we were and who we will be,” Kirschen says. “The Haggada is a real history of the Jewish people and a guide to the future. It is the one book that gets passed down from family to family, generation to generation,” says the father of three and grandfather of eight.
Each page of this Hebrew-English Haggada is framed by graphics and Dry Bones cartoons. Kirschen’s Haggada is a combination of the traditional and the innovative. It includes all  the Hebrew text, a modern English translation and clear directions. Also, to make it easier to follow and participate, the blessings are transliterated.Every page is bordered by Passover-related Dry Bones cartoons and relevant graphics by Kirschen. These often features his well-loved Uncle Shuldig character, and his dog, Doobie.
The structure of this Haggada, according to Kirschen, is modeled on the Talmud, with the main text appearing in the middle of the page and surrounded by commentary. It is a much more complex Haggada than is apparent at first glance as it is so easy to read. There are many hidden symbols that give rise to many interesting conversations.
It is fun for the children, and easy to follow. One can go through it really fast, or slow down reading and laughing over the cartoons of this grand master of satire and subtlety.
Kirschen says the readers of the Dry Bones Haggadah range from all the streams and traditions and from all the different ways that people relate to their Judaism. There’s no political or religious agenda in it – just the serious Yom Tov themes presented “in a light way.”
For Kirschen, his Haggada is “a way to speak to the future and to each other.” Describing the Haggada, he says, “It keeps tradition alive throughout all periods of Jewish history. It tells the real story of the Jewish generation.
It is a legacy of continuity. How many Jews read the Talmud or the Zohar or the Bible? But if you’re a Jew, whether you are religious or not you will find yourself at a Seder table with other Jews.”
“We produced this as a family. Passover is a family holiday, and the Jewish people happen to be one big family.
That’s why we chose to do it this way – something from our family to yours,” he says.
This Haggada is a must for Passover and makes a unique and easy to give, meaningful gift.
The Haggada is available from Amazon and directly from Koren Publishers and selected stores both in Israel, the US and England.
The author is an American immigrant from Tulsa, Oklahoma, that came to Israel in the 1970s. She is a writer and artist.