Pitts Launches Exhibit on Passover Haggadah
Candler’s Pitts Theology Library launched its spring exhibit on March 7, highlighting the Haggadah (pl. Haggadot), a compilation of biblical passages, prayers, hymns and rabbinic literature that is read each year during the Jewish Passover Seder. “Reading the Telling: The Passover Haggadah Across Time and Place” will run until June 30, 2016, in the Pitts Exhibit Gallery. The exhibit is open during regular library hours, with a lecture event on April 3 and opportunities for guided tours in April and May. Learn more.
The exhibit, a collaboration between Pitts and Emory University’s Tam Institute of Jewish Studies, is curated by Adam T. Strater, a Wexner Graduate Fellow and PhD student in Hebrew Bible in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. It includes various Haggadot from 1695 to the present, acquired from the collections of Pitts, Emory’s Rose Library, and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.
Literally translated as “the telling,” the Haggadah recounts the story of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and structures the Seder service on the eve of Passover. The ritual reading of the Haggadah at Passover is based on Exodus 13:8: “You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” (NRSV)
There are thousands of versions of the Haggadah throughout the world, as each “telling” can be customized to reflect the context of the community observing the Seder. The Pitts exhibit highlights this variety: Featured items include the first three editions of the illustrated Amsterdam Haggadah from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; L ’Haggadá Illustrata (1864), hailed as the most distinguished illustrated European Haggadah of the nineteenth century; The Rainbow Haggadah (1945), published for the 42nd Infantry Division’s Passover Seder in Dahn, Germany; and The Freedom Seder (1969), which reached out to African-Americans after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
With nearly 700 volumes, Pitts boasts one of the largest collections of Haggadot in the southern United States. The bulk of the collection formed in 2007 and 2008, with gifts from the personal libraries of Jewish social worker Richard K. Goldstein, who donated 579 volumes, and Rabbi David Geffen 59C, author of American Heritage Haggadah, who donated 99 volumes.
M. Patrick Graham, Librarian and Margaret A. Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography, acknowledges that some may ask why the library at a Christian seminary would assemble such an extensive collection of a text associated with a Jewish ritual—and he says that the answer is really quite simple: “The Jewish Passover has been celebrated for millennia, and the Haggadah tradition has come to embody this important religious practice. A collection of Haggadot at Emory enables faculty and their students from across the university—and with this exhibit, visitors from across the nation—to explore this religious observance and how it has been adapted for and nourished faith communities throughout the globe.”
Short educational videos on different elements of the Passover Seder and Haggadot are available to watch here.
Admission to the exhibit is free. Guided tours will be offered on April 1, 15, and 29 and May 13. Register for a tour. The public is also invited to an opening reception and lecture by curator Adam Strater on Sunday, April 3 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Pitts Theology Library is located on the campus of Emory University, at 1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322.