Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

First Canada Haggadah Takes Passover North of Border

(JTA) — In this rendition of the Passover story, the Children of Israel do not play ice hockey or drink kosher l’Pesach maple syrup.

But the first-ever Canadian Haggadah does have a distinctly Canuck vibe.

For one thing the Canadian Haggadah Canadienne is in three languages – English, French and Hebrew. And instead of the standard illustrations of the Israelites building the pyramids or Moses parting the Red Sea, it features archival photographs that trace the history of Canada’s Jewish community, the world’s fourth largest.

The volume offers “a Canadian perspective on our timeless story of freedom – our Jewish history as seen through Canadian eyes,” states its introduction.

Compiled by Rabbi Adam Scheier of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal and Richard Marceau, general counsel and political adviser at the Ottawa-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the hefty (168-page) Haggadah aims “to deepen the Canadian Jewish identity by presenting something that’s uniquely Canadian,” Scheir told JTA. “It’s never been done.”

A unique Canadian gestalt has been brought into sharper focus for Scheier since he’s an American who came north 11 years ago. Marceau, a French Quebecer who converted to Judaism in 2004, claims a similar cultural awareness, because he was raised “on the border” between English-speaking and Francophone Canada.

“When you have people around the table who speak different languages, even though they understand the other, they are not comfortable enough.”

The two talked and concluded, “Maybe we’re the ones who should be on that bridge, making sure that Canadian Jews can celebrate together,” Marceau said.

Interspersed with commentary from 20 rabbis across Canada, spanning all denominations, are some 100 archival pictures of Jewish life from every region of the country: William Goldbloom stands proudly before his fur-and-hide store in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, in 1921; Grizzled Jewish prospector Marco Zimmerman stakes his claim in the Yukon Territory circa 1920; a doe-eyed immigrant boy arrives from Lisbon just days before Passover 1944; visiting Israeli dignitaries are all smiles in a meeting with Canadian leaders; Canadian Jews demonstrate on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the 1970s.

The Haggadah cover shows a gaggle of children munching on matzah at the 1948 opening of a matzah factory in Montreal.

And, of course, there’s an obligatory hockey moment among the book’s photos: Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper hoists a Team Israel jersey on his visit there last year.

“There so much flavor and so much that should start a conversation about what it means to live as a Jew in Canada and how deep our roots are,” Scheier said.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.