For Jewish Students, Field Trip Is Window on Death and Dying

This article is excerpted from the NY Times. A link to the full article can be found below.dignity6hiRes

By Samuel G. Freedman

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Two yellow buses pulled away from Yeshiva High School here with a couple of class periods still left and the 77 seniors aboard giddy with the words “field trip.” They texted. They posed for selfies. They sent up clouds of chatter about weekend plans.

Then, less than a half-hour later, they walked into a cool, tiled room at the Gutterman Warheit Memorial Chapel and stared at the pine coffins and the inclined metal table used for cleaning a corpse.

“I thought I was cool about death,” one girl whispered to a classmate. “But this ——”

“This” meant more than the contents of the room, which is used at the Jewish funeral home for the body-washing ritual called tahara. It connoted the entire mini-course that she, along with the rest of Yeshiva High School’s graduating class, is taking about the Judaic practices and traditions surrounding death, dying and grief. Continue reading “For Jewish Students, Field Trip Is Window on Death and Dying”

Why a Haggadah?

by Jonathan Safran Foer

I SPENT much of the last several years working on a new Haggadah — the guidebook for the prayers, rituals and songs of the Seder — and am often asked why I would want to take time away from my own writing to invest myself in such a project.

All my life, my parents have hosted the Seder on the first night of Passover. As our family expanded, and as our definition of family expanded, we moved the ritual dinner from our dining room to our more spacious, mildewed basement. One table became many table-like surfaces pushed awkwardly together. I always knew Passover was approaching when my father would ask me to take the net off the ping-pong table. All were covered in once matching, stained tablecloths.

At each setting was a Haggadah that my parents had assembled by photocopying favorite passages from other Haggadot and, when the Foers finally got Internet access, by printing online sources. Why is this night different from all others? Because on this night copyright doesn’t apply.

In the absence of a stable homeland, Jews have made their home in books, and the Haggadah — whose core is the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt — has been translated more widely, and revised more often, than any other Jewish book. Everywhere Jews have wandered, there have been Haggadot — from the 14th-century Sarajevo Haggadah (which is said to have survived World War II under the floorboards of a mosque, and the siege of Sarajevo in a bank vault), to those made by Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses.

But of the 7,000 known versions, not to mention the countless homemade editions, there is one that is used more than all others combined. Continue reading “Why a Haggadah?”