Every year, millions of men, women and children gather at the seder table and read from the haggadah in what seem to be a million different ways.
Some use the familiar Maxwell House version; others find the Four Questions in “The Family Haggadah.” Recent years have offered updates with modern twists, such as 2012’s “New American Haggadah,” which features commentary from contemporary writers and thinkers in the Jewish world; and the “2010 Facebook Haggadah,” a satirical Web site with humorous status updates from Joseph, Moses, Pharaoh and the rest of the story’s key players.
This year, Melissa Berg, a Toronto resident, released “Pop Haggadah,” which draws its inspiration from modern art.
“The title refers to pop culture and art,” she said. “The images and the colors pop. You can make your Passover really stand out and pop.”
“Pop Haggadah” is full of bright, lively colors and a variety of fonts on every page. Separately, each page is a piece of artwork in and of itself. It’s meant to keep kids focused and adult readers intrigued throughout the several hours it usually takes to get through it.
The book also contains cartoon-esque visuals drawn by Berg, a hobbyist illustrator. The pictures — which include a plane with large bird wings (after “Next Year in Jerusalem”) and a ram falling into a swirling vortex — were inspired by art from the 1960s and ’70s.
“I like Warhol, and I looked at album covers from the 1970s for this,” she said.
Along with the drawings, the 156-page text consists of blessings, instructions and Hebrew translations found in a traditional haggadah, as well as fun facts. After a “l’chaim,” for example, Berg adds that resveratrol is “an antioxidant found in grapes, believed to have many health benefits.”
Although “Pop Haggadah” is meant for an Orthodox seder, Berg believes that everybody can find something they like in it.
“I wanted it to appeal to all different sects of Judaism and make Passover fun,” she said. “It’s my favorite holiday because I’m able to get together with my whole family.”
Berg, 30, grew up Conservative, but became Modern Orthodox as she grew older. She works for Raphael Shore, a film writer and producer who has made movies about Jewish issues and national security, including “Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in Israel” and “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.”
When she’s not working at Shore’s production company, she’s taking on artistic and Jewish-themed endeavors like “Pop Haggadah.” Her next project, which she is currently working on, is going to be a biblical comic book.
“I’ve always been interested in writing, and it’s something I wanted to do,” she said. “I like to create. … I really enjoy doing things that are artistic.”
“Pop Haggadah,” which Berg self-published and sells for $25.95 on ModernTribe.com, took her a year to write. To compile the seder instructions and blessings, she sought inspiration and found text from other haggadot. Her sister helped by translating the Hebrew sections.
Because Passover is a crucial time for the Jewish people, and a period in which it’s imperative to be joyous, Berg wanted to help that happiness come to fruition for others.
“It’s such an exciting holiday,” she said. “Sometimes during the seder you have people slipping and not knowing where they are in the haggadah. I wanted to do something that was fun. Passover should be about celebrating. It’s important to celebrate and have things that are happy and lively.”