Passover Across Jewish Time and Space

Passover is the most celebrated holiday for American Jews. Yet, few appreciate the historical evolution and diversity of its key themes and messages.

Illustration of two men, the simple son and the son who does not know to ask. From The Haggadah (London: Beaconsfield Press, 1940). Reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society,

Curated by Deborah Dash Moore and Noam Pianko

Exile and Homecoming: The Enduring Impact of the Exodus Narrative

The Exodus narrative following the Israelites’ journey from slavery to freedom and exile to homecoming has shaped Western culture, politics, and religion. Starting with the biblical source itself, these examples illustrate how the biblical themes serve for Jews and non-Jews alike as a primary lens for interpreting everything from personal journeys to national liberation movements.

The Spinx of Tanis
Tooltip info icon

Oppression and Exodus

From movies to civil-rights movements, the Exodus stands at the center of Western thought and culture. You will still be surprised by what is, and what isn’t, in the account.
Heine portrait
Tooltip info icon

A Seder Night

A medieval rabbi barely escapes from a blood libel accusation at his own Seder table in this prescient nineteenth-century story by the famous German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine.
Israel Ezra and Hamama Sasson
Tooltip info icon

Out of Egypt

Egyptian Jewish American author André Aciman describes celebrating his last Seder in Egypt with his bags packed to leave his homeland for good.
Exodus from Egypt
Tooltip info icon

Exodus and Revolution

The Exodus story serves as more than a religious or moral narrative. Its influence has shaped the fundamental paradigms of Western political thought to this day.

One Little Goat

A beloved song at the end of the Passover Seder ritual has inspired many artistic illustrations that comment on the relationship between themes of Passover and contemporary events.  These powerful twentieth-century depictions reveal the enduring relevance, and changing interpretations, of the Passover story.

Image of four panels with man in each panel: one in moustache and riding outfit; one wearing sidelocks, kippah, and suit; one muscled in boots; and one with short sidelocks, hat, and wide stance, all surrounded by decorated border and labeled in Yiddish.
Tooltip info icon

The Four Sons

This 1934 illustration of the Passover story of the four sons features a caricature of the “wicked” son dressed as Hitler.

Grappling with Passover’s Message during the Civil War

Today, the popular Passover story of Jewish freedom from slavery underscores a fundamental belief among many American Jews that there is a Jewish moral commitment to fight for justice and equity. Yet, the connection between overcoming the oppression of the ancient Israelites and fighting for the rights of other enslaved people was a central topic of debate during the American Civil War. We see the very different ways Jews have read and interpreted the moral lessons from the Passover story in these texts.

Civil War Public Domain IMage

A Union Soldier’s Passover

Passover preparations for a Civil War–era Union soldier included importing seven barrels of matzot and collecting weeds to substitute for the symbolic bitterness of horseradish.

Passover, Feminism, and Religious Innovation

The Exodus story and Passover rituals have provided many opportunities for challenging traditionally gendered narratives and ritual practices of the Jewish past. Passover’s central place in the Jewish calendar and collective memory makes it an important site for innovations that reflect changing norms about gender and sexuality. These examples extend back to the early nineteenth century and illuminate efforts to raise the visibility of women and women’s experiences in Judaism.

Tooltip info icon

Miriam HaNeviah

Miriam, one of the few women in the Bible to be called a prophet, provides an important opportunity for contemporary liturgists to expand the male-dominated framework of traditional Jewish prayer.

Miriam’s Song

What if Miriam were remembered just as a person rescuing her brother Moses rather than as the heroine responsible for saving the man who would redeem the Jewish people from bondage?

Haggadot From Around the World

Facing-page manuscript with Judeo-Persian text.
Tooltip info icon

Judeo-Persian Haggadah from Kaifeng

. . . and caused us to reach this appointed time.On the first night, one should recite the blessing “who has kept us alive . . .” But on the second night, one should not read it.Blessed are…
Facing-page of printed Hebrew text on right side and illustration on left side of Hebrew text surrounded by four full-length figures, decorative border, and two animal-human hybrids on the bottom of page on either side of shield with lion.
Tooltip info icon

Haggadah from Prague, 1526

This Haggadah from Prague, printed by Gershom and Grunim Katz with illustrations that are thought to be by Ḥayyim ben David Shaḥor, is one of the earliest Haggadahs ever printed. It was the first…
Facing-page print with left-hand page of Hebrew text with decorative border and woodcut illustration on bottom of man riding ox next to brick building and man playing horn, and right-hand page with Hebrew text surrounded by decorative border including cherubs playing instruments.
Tooltip info icon

Haggadah from Mantua, 1560

This Haggadah from Mantua, published by the Christian printer Giacomo Rufinelli under the supervision of Isaac ben Solomon Bassan, relies heavily on the Prague Haggadah of 1526, with the addition of…

Other Curated Collections