1936. Lodz. The Szyk Haggadah, The Family at the Seder.
The Szyk Haggadah Reminds Us of Struggles Past and Present
By Molly Dubin, Jewish Museum Milwaukee Curator
Passover and politics. It seems rather fitting that as we find ourselves entrenched in the political campaign season, navigating the obstacle course of platforms, promises and pundits vying for prime real estate in our psyches, the holiday of Passover is just around the corner.
Passover – the commemoration of Hebrew slaves being released from bondage in Egypt and founding their own nation – is the quintessential story of the pursuit of freedom. So while feeling inundated by ads and pulled in a multitude of directions can feel frustrating and daunting, in deference to our Jewish ancestors and all people of diverse backgrounds who have and continue to fight for the right to their convictions, it’s crucial to remember that the ability to live and practice one’s beliefs freely and the freedom to choose what those beliefs are, is something that should never be taken for granted.
Born and raised in Eastern Europe, Arthur Szyk witnessed the persecution of his fellow Jews and felt a responsibility to use his artistic talents to oppose injustice and provide them with a means of hope as the Nazi regime was rising to power. In 1933 Szyk created his now world renowned Haggadah. The Haggadah guides the set order of the Seder feast, a meal centered on symbolic foods which represents and recalls the Israelites exodus from ancient Egypt. The rich, detailed illustrations which comprise ‘The Szyk Haggadah’ are symbolic as well. The artist- activist infused the traditional Haggadah framework with powerful visual commentary on the theme of the universal struggle for human freedom.
Many works from ‘The Szyk Haggadah’ and several versions of the celebrated publication are on display as part of the original exhibit, Arthur Szyk: The Art of Illumination. This distinguished and exquisitely rendered book serves not only as a reminder of past struggles, but also of those we continue to grapple with today and the importance of fighting for justice and freedom for all.