(Bund) Hagodeh Shel Peysekh With A Socialist Nusekh (1900/19)

Haggadah Socialist

‘There’s a lot of nostalgia going on at the anti-Zionist Jewish left for the heyday of Jewish socialism in East Europe. I wish I could read Yiddish or would love to see a complete translation of this Hogedeh with a Socialist nusekh. It’s appearance here is the 1919 version. As Seth Schwartz has noted on FB, the haggadah “was first printed in America in 1900 and then reprinted by “Sozialdemokrat”–the publisher of this 1919 edition–in 1910 with some slight changes to the first edition.” For now, I’ll settle for and share these snippets provided here at Jewish Currents. The whole thing in Yiddish is here.

Short of being able to read the entire text, I’ll only draw attention to the call for violent political action in the answer to the simple child’s question.

“Tam ma hu oimer, the simple honest person asks: “ma zois?” [What’s this?] What’s happening here between you? What are you fighting for? Over what are you struggling? Why don’t you just resolve this affair in good humour? V’amarto elav, to him you should answer: “B’chozek yad” [with a strong hand]. Only through violence were we liberated from Egypt, and so too only through violent struggle will we free ourselves today.”

And then the consummating conclusion to the Chad Oyvedo (a parody of the Chad Gadya):

“V’oso HaSocialism Borukh Hu—Then came socialism—blessed may it be—and ended the revolution that demolished the crisis that scorched the bankruptcy that annihilated the banker that wolfed down the loan shark that gobbled up the shopkeeper that displaced the bum that beat out the worker that my father bought for two pennies. Chad OyvedyoChad Oyvedyo.”

What was one to think in 1919, in Jewish Galicia? In historical retrospect, a critical reader might respond with sadness and horror. Some of you might find this thrilling. But there is something dispiriting about the Haggadah as an object, caught as it was between the advents of totalitarianism and fascism. As if innocent, although not quite, the violence of the rhetoric reflects the destructive political vortex at this historical moment that the ideological movement and its creators thought they would ride but which they could not and did not survive.

That’s my cynical political reading. Less cynical is the desire to pull this brand from the fierce fire that consumed it. Perhaps more interesting is a genre question, the way in which a left-political satire builds off the tradition whose authority it seeks to subvert. But again, a critical question intrudes, this one having to do with the shelf-life of this kind of satire.


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Israeli Black Panther Haggadah (1971)

Black Panther

You can find here a partial translation of the 1971 Israeli Black Panther Haggadah. There are 7 pages of the Hebrew original co-authored by Reuven Abergel and an English translation. Contents include the compilers’ introduction as well as political satirical variants of old favorites such as Ha’Lachma Anya, Ehad Mi Yodea, Arba’ah Banim, and Dayeinu. It was originally issued as part of a hunger strike held at the Western Wall during Pesach of that year. Thanks to Rebecca Pierce for sharing on Twitter the post from Unruly, which is self-described as “a social and racial justice blog by the Jews of Color and Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus organized in partnership with Jewish Voice for Peace.”

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(Brooklyn) Lamb (Paschal)


(photo credit; Marta Braiterman Tanenbaum)

Marta also posts:

“Inside The Market Place, a huge, bustling new supermarket on East New York A,enue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Lubo<itch Hassidic, near “770 Eastern Parkway.” It’s really Schneerson-influenced here. Satmar, Bobo< and other Hassidim are in other neighborhoods of Brooklyn, like Williamsburg, or Borough Park. I can shop here wearing bluejeans with no hat, and the Luba<itch still treat me like a ba-al-ah- ha-bayiS. One young man saw me take some raw horseradish, and rushed to show me the stuff the workers had ground that day, for customers. I thanked him, exchanged products, and told him he sa<ed me many tears. Super friendly.”

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A Woman’s Voice & Nocturnal Judaism (Victoria Hannah)

22 letters

Victoria Hanna performed a piece at the Text Unbound: (Re-)Imagining the Talmud workshop at Bard College organized by Shai Secunda. Some of the performance was taken from Ani Yeshena (I Sleep), drawn from Song of Songs, which you can find here. She performed immediately after a lecture by Galit Hasan-Rokem in which Babylonian rabbis (in tractate Moed Katan) give voice to the strong poetry of women’s keening laments for the dead. Hannah’s performance reversed the voice. Shai recommended that I watch 22 Letters, taken from the Book of Creation (Sefer Yetzirah) which you can find here. (If you can’t follow the Hebrew, google search, for instance, “Victoria Hannah 22 Letters lyrics” and you’ll find translations.) Striking is the power of a woman’s voice and its visualization as that voice takes over, embodies, and transforms the nocturnal poesis of a patriarchal and mystical tradition. The frame is Mizrachi and (ex)religious. I would like very much to use the word “bewitching,” except that perhaps the term is too loaded.

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Text Unbound (Re-)Imagining the Talmud (Bard College)

Bard conference

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(Boom T’rach) Tale of 5 Balloons (An Israeli Political Parable)


There is no happy end to this. Just when you thought that maybe their luck will turn, you know it won’t. In the classical Israeli children’s story from 1974, The Tale of 5 Balloons, the children are so sad that it’s funny.

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The Zionist Idea (Then & Now)


One lovely, the other quite unlovely, compare the cover art of the two editions of Arthur Hertzberg’s classical anthology of ideological writing contained in The Zionist Idea. Once upon a time, one could say, Zionism understood itself as amalgamating culture and nature. We can see this in the cover art of the 1959 edition. In contrast, the cover art of the current edition, published by the Jewish Publication Society in 2004 (?), the one that young people and students have more readily available, is the cold and hard official emblem of a nation-state, binary in appearance. The new cover carries none of the revolutionary vitality conveyed in the historical sources, which have long since calcified into an establishment form, increasingly ethnocentric.

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