Alef Betty: Modern Hebrew Arts

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A Modern Haggadah

A peek of The Urban Family Passover Haggadah

It all started with a ketubah. In 2008, when my business was just getting off the ground, Arielle and Talal Mir–an interfaith couple who live in Washington, DC–found my website and asked me to make their wedding contract. We stayed in touch, and finally met in person a year and a half later, when they came to Portland for a vacation. My husband and I joined them for dinner and we connected over our love of food and travel. I felt so lucky that a Jewish ritual had brought us together over such a great distance–four people who otherwise would never have met.

Unbeknownst to me, Arielle had been working on a Jewish ritual of her own. Soon after our dinner, she sent me a draft of a Haggadah she had developed for the Passover seders she celebrated with a group of friends, her "urban family." Her project began as a few pages of supplemental readings at the first urban family seder and in time grew into a full-fledged Haggadah. She wanted to turn it from a computer print-out into a proper book, and she asked me if I wanted to collaborate with her on the project.

Designing the Urban Family Passover Haggadah

Having developed a ketubah collection, I had only just started thinking about addressing other objects of Jewish expression from the perspective of modern design. The object I started with, a Hebrew alphabet poster, was humble in scope, and a project of this size scared me.

So of course I had to do it.

Arielle's Haggadah was different than the books I had grown up with, the canonized texts my family read at our seders. Her manuscript was tailored to someone like me–a mostly secular, yet culturally-identified Jew, a Berkeley-raised kid with a pluralistic group of friends that were like family. The Haggadah, aptly named The Urban Family Passover Haggadah, was just the kind of book I wanted to use at a seder of my own.

Designing the book has been an education for me. The process made me start really looking at other haggadot for the first time, and trying to figure out how they worked. We weren't starting from the kosher Hebrew text, so it took some time to consider what portions of the Hebrew would best complement Arielle's text, and how to present it alongside the English. It was an adventure, and I felt engaged with this yearly ritual in a whole new way.

Because we're so excited about our labor of love, we're going to have a month-long celebration here. We're going to share stories from our families, glimpses into the haggadot we collected as part of our research, and sneak peaks behind the scenes.

Let the festivities begin!

Order the Urban Family Passover Haggadah

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