Famed 'New Hagaddah' Included Lifted Passages

Jonathan Safran Foer Apologizes for Failing To Credit

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 01, 2012, issue of October 05, 2012.
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Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling, star-studded New American Haggadah failed to credit original Hebrew text lifted from another prominent Haggadah, the novelist has acknowledged to the Forward.

Future printings of the New American Haggadah will credit the older text, Foer said.

little, brown and co.

The lifted Hebrew text came from “The Feast of Freedom,” a Passover Haggadah published in 1982 by the Rabbinical Assembly, Conservative Judaism’s rabbinical association. Foer told the Forward that he thought the text that he took for his New American Haggadah was “traditional and part of the public domain.”

“Every Haggadah is made the same way: by cobbling together a liturgy from other Haggadot,” Foer wrote in an email to the Forward. “We… looked to Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Haggadot in forming our Hebrew liturgy. While virtually all of this material is ancient, there are rare exceptions when it isn’t.”

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the R.A., brought the issue to Foer’s attention. “There was [a] pretty simple, straightforward misunderstanding,” Schonfeld told the Forward. “It’s completely resolved, and that’s really it.”

Published earlier this year, the $29.99 New American Haggadah reached No. 9 on The Wall Street Journal’s nonfiction best-seller list in April. It’s currently the top-selling Haggadah on Amazon.com. The book includes contributions from Atlantic magazine blogger Jeffrey Goldberg and Lemony Snicket, the pseudonymous author of a top-selling children’s book series. Nathan Englander, a writer of novels and short stories, wrote the English translation of the Haggadah’s Hebrew text.

The book received plenty of publicity in both the Jewish and the secular press, helped in no small part by the high profile of its authors. Foer and Englander were the subject of a feature in The New York Times in connection with the Haggadah’s publication. Foer wrote an op-ed about the book on the Times’ opinion page, and Goldberg wrote a much-cited blog post about showing the book to President Obama.

Neither Foer nor the R.A. would specify exactly which passages will receive new acknowledgements in forthcoming printings of Foer’s Haggadah. Foer said that that he would attribute “some kavvanot [meditations] before the cups of wine” and “some material in the Arami Oved Ami midrash” to the R.A.’s Haggadah.


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