Perspectives by Deborah Corber, CEO
Edition 26, April 2017

The Centennial Haggadah and the infinite promise of community

Deborah CorberPassover holds many special associations for me. The anticipation of half-moon, multi-coloured jellied candies and chocolate-covered Matzot. The smell of my grandmothers’ Jewish cooking wafting through their respective homes. The envy of listening to my Talmud Torah-trained Schreiber cousins speed-read through the Haggadah in a Hebrew I could only dream of. The intense efforts to suppress a bad case of the giggles – typically caused by the antics of one Corber cousin – and inevitably earning the rest of us the disapproval of our elders.

And shoes: specifically, new patent leather shoes, tapping against the pavement, cleared (or nearly) of the detritus of winter. Passover was the occasion for a new outfit, which I would wear proudly to the Seders on each side of my family. But beyond the clothing, Passover provided the particular thrill of emerging from a long, snowy winter, the sound of my new shoes on the sidewalk offering proof that spring was just around the corner.

Today, I don’t need the excuse of Pesach to buy a new pair of shoes. But what still remains true, is that Passover holds a special place in my Jewish heart. Beyond the central theme of liberation, I associate Passover with the spirit of renewal, with feelings of hope and with love of family.

This year, Passover will take on a new significance for me as Federation CJA is launching an extraordinary Centennial Haggadah. And from this day forward, my Passover will represent unity – one hundred years, one community, one Centennial Haggadah.

It is a truly unique work, combining English, French, Hebrew and transliteration, celebrating Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions, and inspiring with glorious original artwork.

The Centennial Haggadah is the fruit of a very special, two-year collaboration among volunteer leaders, rabbis, artists and professionals. Volunteer leaders – Sephardi and Ashkenazi – brought their cherished customs to the Seder table, as it were, and infused the entire project with their own love of Jewish tradition and Jewish family. Rabbis and scholars brought their expertise to the Seder table, ensuring the narrative and religious integrity of the text. Local artists brought their talent to the Seder table, developing original art to animate and beautify every page. And last, but certainly not least, Federation CJA staff brought their dedication and professionalism to the Seder table to get the job done!

The Haggadah reflects the very best of Jewish Montreal’s rich traditions, gleaned from extensive research and community input. What’s more, it is a magnificent thing to behold. It proves, once again, that people with distinct backgrounds and perspectives can come together in service of a shared communal objective. It proves that the Montreal Jewish community is unparalleled in its vibrancy and diversity. And it proves that our community has the capacity, the desire and the vision to create magic and meaning for one and all.

When I held the finished product in my hands for the very first time, and even despite having seen various proofs along the way, I was moved – literally – to tears.

For you see, our Centennial Haggadah touched my soul with the infinite promise of community.

I am now preparing to stockpile my cupboards with the Federation CJA Centennial Haggadah: a treasure that I will gift to people, and that will guide my own Seders from this year forward. And, thanks to the vision and generous sponsorship of one of our donor families, every Jewish day school student will also receive her or his own copy of the Centennial Haggadah.

Looking out my window at today’s snowy mess, it is hard to imagine a new pair of shoes, tapping against dry pavement. Yet my heart is full of gratitude for the Centennial Haggadah, and excitement about the inspiration it will bring to this year’s Seder.

I wish all of you a Chag Pesach Sameach, and hope that you will consider adding the Centennial Haggadah to your own treasury of Passover associations.

Editor’s note: there’s still time to purchase your Centennial Haggadah for Passover! Simply order your copies here and pick them up at Federation CJA, 1 Cummings Square, today 9am-5pm, Friday 9am- 3pm, or Monday 9am-12pm. Chag Sameach!




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The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Federation CJA.

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