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The Passover Haggadah: Modern Art in Dialogue with an Ancient Text


The Passover Haggadah: Modern Art in Dialogue with an Ancient Text
Until June 27, 2008
Sterling Memorial Library
120 High Street, New Haven, Connecticut

The Passover Haggadah is a composite text made up of biblical, rabbinic and liturgical passages and ancient folk songs. Scholars believe that the earliest versions were assembled sometime in the first century of the Common Era, during the late Second Temple Period in Palestine. The Haggadah was--and still is--read on Passover eve during the Seder, a ceremony commemorating the Israelites’ delivery from Egyptian bondage.

The Haggadah text has been interpreted, embellished and enhanced over the centuries with illustrations that serve both aesthetic and instructional purposes. Some illustrations fill in details that the text does not emphasize, but that are important to Jewish tradition and belief.

The Haggadah’s message of redemption and freedom has inspired and captivated many modern artists, whose interpretations of the text serve to make personal statements as well as communal ones. Other themes that modern artists address in their illustrations are the absence of women in the traditional Haggadah and the devastation of European Jewry during World War II.