Passover Haggadot of the Kibbutz Movement, 1930s–1950s: An Exhibit

Passover Haggadot of the Kibbutz Movement, 1930s–1950s: An Exhibit

The themes of Passover resonated deeply with Zionist pioneers (chalutzim) of the first half of the 20th century. Though Jewish settlers in Palestine were predominantly secular in orientation, the events of the ancient Exodus and return to the Promised Land of Israel (Eretz Yisra'el) spoke to and for the pioneers in their current situation. In response to this association of the old with the new, early kibbutzim created Haggadot that resonated with their members' sensibilities and experiences.

This new exhibit draws from The Library's world-class collection of Haggadot. Items on display, from 1939 and later, are a touching testimony to the lives and ideas of Israel's builders. In the creative synthesis of these new Haggadot, biblical excerpts appear alongside contemporary Hebrew poems and songs; the Exodus narrative is refocused to highlight the position of Moses in his roles as shepherd and leader, absent from the traditional Haggadah; and traditional texts, such as Mah Nishtanah (the Four Questions) are changed to raise new questions. These Haggadot, above all, mirror the experiences of the specific kibbutzim that produced them. For participants in the annual communal seders, the text was brought to life with depictions of personal and community-wide events that had occurred over the previous year.

The early kibbutz Haggadot, while optimistic in tone, also communicate the atmosphere of external siege and conflict that was such a large part of the aliyah and settlement experience. Thus, these Haggadot introduce memorials to the fallen—and, by the 1940s, allude to both the despair of the Holocaust and the hope for an independent homeland for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. 

The exhibit was curated by Ellen Summer and Josh Jerusalmi, with the support of Library staff members Sarah Diamant, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Amy Armstrong, Amy Stecher, and Yevgeniya Dizenko. It may be seen on the fifth floor of The Library, just outside of the Rare Book Room during Library hours. The exhibit, already on display, is on view through August 29, 2013.