Jerusalem Report reviews the JDC Haggadah

by Ralph Amelan

I suspect the publishers of In Every Generation: the JDC Haggadah are not going to thank me for writing that their book is what every Wicked Son needs, but bear with me on this. Firstly, I don’t see this somewhat misunderstood lad as being entirely bad. If he was really sunk in sin, then why would he be at the Seder anyway? But, for whatever reason, he cannot forge a connection with the festival. How can one get through to him?

Forget sweet reason and history lessons. The way to break through is using pictures, not words. Well-composed, emotionally powerful, strong photographs can get messages across very effectively, and this Haggadah has quite a fair selection of them, drawn from the archives of the Joint Distribution Committee, more popularly known as “The Joint,” and illustrating its relief work.

Unsurprisingly, this book is as much a celebration of the Joint as it is of the Seder: the Haggadah text is traditional and interspersed with accounts of the Joint’s endeavors. But it is the photographs that make this book something special. Families in distress clutch their gifts of matza at communal Seders. Refugees stumble on to Israel’s unfamiliar shores. Age-worn hands are clasped over eyes in prayer….

Yet, taken together, these pictures create a warm and attractive world of tradition, family, and the comforting embrace of Jewish concern and assistance at its best. The usual reply to the Wicked Son’s question is to tell him, in effect, to go away. This is wrong: he’s your son, right? Your reply should be to give him this Haggadah, so he can see what he is missing, and be drawn into the celebration. That way, this book will really have a happy ending.

Original review from the Jerusalem Report can be found here.


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