Canadian Haggadah Canadienne, the first made-in-Canada Haggadah, is being published just in time for Passover.
The Haggadah features text in English, French and Hebrew, and includes commentaries from rabbis from across Canada and across the denominational spectrum – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Chabad.
Among the commentators published in the Haggadah are Ottawa-based Rabbis Reuven Bulka, Steven Garten and Menachem Blum.
“It’s not a coffee table book; it’s to be used,” co-editor Richard Marceau told the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.
Marceau, a former member of Parliament who is now general counsel and senior political adviser at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Ottawa, created the Haggadah with Rabbi Adam Scheier of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal.
In 2011, Marceau published A Quebec Jew: From Bloc Québécois MP to Jewish Activist, detailing his spiritual journey to Judaism and involvement in the Jewish community.
“The project started around a seder table five years ago when I had French and English guests,” Marceau said. “It made for an uncomfortable seder because half the time each group was having difficulty following. I thought I should do something about it. I was in touch with Rabbi Scheier who had had a similar experience and we decided to make it trilingual as well as Canadian.”
While the Haggadah uses the traditional text, some of the commentaries talk about Canadian Jewish experiences, such as the immigration of Holocaust survivors to Canada, he said.
“We mention that Lower Canada – Quebec – was first [in the British Empire] to give total rights to the Jewish community in 1832.”
The Haggadah has been published by Shaar Hashomayim and is being sold for $20 per copy. All proceeds from its sale will be donated to charities chosen by the editors.
The illustrations in the Haggadah all come from various Canadian Jewish archives, including the Ottawa Jewish Archives. Among them, said Marceau, are pictures of Soviet Jewry demonstrations in Ottawa, a solidarity rally for Syrian Jewry, a pro-Israel rally on Parliament Hill during the Second Intifada, as well as great pictures of Israeli and Canadian prime ministers in Ottawa: David Ben Gurion and John Diefenbaker; Menachem Begin and Pierre Trudeau; Yitzhak Rabin and Jean Chrétien; and Benjamin Netanyahu and Stephen Harper.
The 168-page Haggadah is “very Canadian but at the same time proudly Zionist,” Marceau said. “We wanted the text to breathe, and we wanted good pictures. It’s basically the size of a tablet, big enough to be read comfortably, but not too big to be cumbersome. It can be used when you’re sitting between Uncle Moishe and Auntie Selma.”
“The Haggadah is a community-building project,” said Marceau, who grew up in Quebec City. “I don’t know of any other project that’s similar. We’re the fourth biggest Jewish community in the world after the U.S., Israel and France. We should be able to have our own books and tools that reflect who we are and where we’re from.”
The Haggadah will be available through Amazon.ca, and Marceau hopes that synagogues in Ottawa will want to sell it as well.
“It shows that Jews can work together across their denominational divides. It shows that, when we put the noun ‘Jew’ above the Reform, Conservative, whatever, it works. We should do more that unites us than divides us,” he said.
Copies of the Canadian Haggadah Canadienne will be available when it is launched in Ottawa on Thursday, March 19, 7:30 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.
For information, contact Roslyn Wollock at email@example.com or 613-798-9818, ext. 254.