Passover in the Age of Twitter
As the frigid temperatures that have gripped much of thecountry this winter ebb into the warmth of spring, it is finally time to getexcited about Passover. For me, every year Passover is about an Exodus: from my home to what my parents have long thought to be the Promised Land – LosAngeles. It is also about strict family tradition.
For millions of Jews in North America, Passover is “the”home holiday. We all eat the same foods, plus or minus something new fromsome magazine. We stuff our familyand friends into a space built for about a third of the people who are at theseder and we read from the same, dog-eared Haggadot.
These traditions are extremely powerful and for millionsof years, my family has been using the same Haggadot, complete with the namesof my dad’s sisters inscribed on the inside covers. See these Haggadotwere used to study at Sunday school as well as to jot down a note that explainsthat my father is an idiot. Whoever gets the “Andy is an Idiot” Haggadahwins a special prize…I have yet to win in my many years reading these Haggadot.
But as we do with our food, we do try to do something neweach year to infuse just a bit of the modern with our “ancient”texts.
In the past I put together some quotes, wrote an essayabout a course I took with the American Jewish World Service down at HUC about the Exodus story serving as abasis for all liberation theology and wrote a longPassover-based Haiku. It would seem that many others are doing the same thing.
My friend and Editor of JewishBoston.com, David Levytells me that his site is the home to a very cool modern edition to theHaggadah and it is high tech: So tell your wife, tell your kids, tell yourhusband (and other members of your family) there is now an open source Haggadahonline. The entire concept of Open Source may seemanti-traditional, but it gives people a way to infuse their own traditions withsomething new. So I see it as a tradition builder more than anythingelse.
“The goal we had in creating this Haggadah was two-fold,”explained David. “First and foremost, we wanted to provide an option thatmade it as easy as possible for anyone who wanted to lead a seder to do so,whether they have a lot of Jewish knowledge or not, tons experience or none.At the same time, we’re offering a version in a Word document witha Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0) and encouraging those who want tocustomize it to do so and spread the wealth.” David is currently workingwith the Jewish Women’s Archive on a women’s history version and a slightly longer/more traditional version touse with his family. As of the writing of this post 1,580 peoplehave downloaded the Haggadah, he told me.
Haggadot.com also hosts a number of services, includingthe JewishBoston.com Haggadah, that you could utilize to spice up this year’sseder. Cantor Alane Katzew’s post on RJ.org last week is full of greatsuggestions as well as a simple seder outline that you can use while puttingtogether your family’s new (or newer) Haggadah. And the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has a listing of a variety of social-justice themed Haggadot.
The Open Source concept is huge right now because itspeaks to both our digital and human experience. As our lives are livedequally on and off line, asking if this is real life is no longer just a funnyYouTube clip. Fighting against Facebook or Twitter is akin to ludditessmashing weaving looms at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. This isa change that isn’t happening; it has happened. And as Reform Jews we mustcontinue to wrestle with modernity and find ways, both on and offline, tointegrate our reality into our religious experience. Additionally as weread in the introduction of Rabbi Rick Jacobs, we alsomust go to where Jews are today…this isn’t in our congregations (but they mightbe soon!) but online in forums like JewishBoston.com, Jewschool, Jewlicious,RJ.org (!) and others.
But we can’t sit down for the seder online. Westill need to eat, sing, drink and find out who has the “Andy is an Idiot”Haggadah.