These are three pages from a non-traditional addition to the Passover Haggadah written in the pioneering community of Kfar Shmaryahu for use in their Seder in 1948. The Haggadah was published to celebrate Kfar Shmaryahu’s tenth year and the State of Israel’s imminent independence.
The text embodies the spirit of the times and the desire to update religious traditions with new values. It starts by telling of the life of Jews in Germany in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and their detachment from Zionism, Judaism, and Jewish culture. The text then goes on to describe the rise of the Nazi party and the tragic events of the Holocaust. It concludes with the words:
And we are here! We did not wander to the Diaspora but have returned to our homeland. It is our obligation to tell of the People of Israel who came out of slavery and who will build our freedom.
As an addition to the Passover Haggadah, the text uses references from the traditional story of the slavery and redemption from Egypt and associates them to modern times. For example, it refers to Germany instead of Egypt as the place of the Jewish exile. Herzl takes the place of Moses in leading his people out of slavery and exile, and the oppressor is Hitler rather than Pharaoh. Another section of this Haggadah tells of the founding of Kfar Shmaryahu, its growth, and the difficulties faced by the pioneers, including the limitations of the British White Paper and the struggle against the Arabs.
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Kfar Shmaryahu – Kfar Shmaryahu is a situated in central Israel, close to Herzliya. The village was founded by German immigrants in May 1937 as an agricultural settlement. Within a year, close to 60 families were living in Kfar Shmaryahu, and German was the most common language. Over the years, the village grew and its agricultural nature gave way to a more suburban and professional way of life. Today, around 2000 people live in Kfar Shmaryahu which has become a very affluent suburb of Tel Aviv.
Non-Traditional Haggadot – The story of the Exodus is one of the greatest sources of inspiration in the history of the Israeli nation. The Exodus, a story of the redemption from slavery to freedom, has been constantly told and rewritten in the Haggadah throughout history. The styles and wording of modern Haggadot expand on the traditional versions, adding various levels of interpretation and innovation. Many Haggadot include additions, especially at the end, while others are seen as a platform for the expression of certain ideas and include informative and humorous anecdotes. The additions are varied, ranging from well-known Hebrew songs and melodies to original independent pieces. Many Haggadot have also been illustrated and include illustrations by some of Israel’s greatest artists. The Haggadot collection at the National Library is the largest in the world and includes handwritten Haggadot, Haggadot in rare and new print, Haggadot in a wide variety of languages, and photocopies of handwritten, traditional, and non-traditional Haggadot of various types.
The Jewish Community of Germany – The first evidence of Jews living in Germany is from the early Middle Ages. As in other European countries, the Jews in Germany prospered in trade, industry, agriculture, and money lending but were also victims of persecution, false accusations, and massacres. The cities of Mainz, Speyer, and Worms were great centres of Jewish learning, but at the time of the Crusades, entire communities were murdered there. In the fourteenth century, Jews were blamed for the outbreak of the Black Death, and following mass slaughter, many fled to Poland. In the following centuries the persecution of German Jews continued, despite the changes of the renaissance period. Change came towards the end of the eighteenth century with new ideas of religious equality and Moses Mendelssohn’s steps to promote integration and a Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala) and to create bonds with the Christian society. The nineteenth century brought pogroms known as the Hep-Hep riots but also gradual emancipation. Jews became increasingly integrated into the German society, and many became part of the intellectual, financial, and political elite of the country. In 1933 more than half a million Jews lived in Germany. However, anti-Semitism was on the rise, and the Nazi party grew in strength. More than 300,000 German Jews fled the country in the early years of the Nazi regime, while the Jews who stayed were victim to pogroms such as the November Pogrom (named by the Nazis Kristallnacht), anti-Jewish laws, and ultimately deportation to ghettos and death camps in Eastern Europe. During the Holocaust more than 130,000 German Jews were murdered. After the war, the Jewish community of Germany slowly began to rebuild itself, and in the 1990s many Jews from the former Soviet Union arrived in the country, such that today the majority of Jews in Germany are of Russian origin. The estimated number of Jews in Germany today is approximately 250,000.