Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, by Jordan B. Gorfinkel

Reviewed by Lisa Silverman, Library Director

It’s best to let Jordan Gorfinkel, the creator and writer of this graphic-novel approach to the haggadah, explain his intent through the words of his narrators, a family of human-like goats from the “Had Gadya” song: “We’re connecting a new generation to our living history, by illustrating the fully unabridged, authentic text in the sequential storytelling style of comics — a Jewish innovation, you know. Everything you need to conduct your seder is right here — the Hebrew and transliteration of the text pages and the English translation in the word balloons on the art pages. It’s all kosher … for Passover.  Any time there’s a seder ritual to perform, we’ll pop in and provide instructions.” 

And thus, it begins — a highly engaging and truly instructive text that zips in and out of depictions of modern, multicultural families celebrating seders mingled together with fabulous artistic scenes of the Hebrews’ struggle in ancient Egypt. There’s a lot happening on each page, but the flow is impressive and well thought-out.

The narration is serious, but little jokes of familiarity aimed toward children are scattered throughout the illustrations. For example, in a drawing of the first of the four questions asking why we eat only matzo tonight instead of bread, we see a boy spreading Nutella on his matzo only to throw his hands up in frustration when it breaks easily. When his sister then asks why we eat bitter vegetables, a cousin snickers at the exaggerated disgust she displays upon tasting maror.

Even the staid recitation of quotes from Rabbi Eleazar ben Azarya and Ben Zoma take on new and relevant meanings through illustrations of other historical rescues of Jews throughout our long history. The “Four Sons” are translated as the “Four Types of Children”: Astute, Rebellious, Innocent and “One Who Cannot Even Put Thoughts Into Words,” demonstrating how the graphic-novel format can deliver a striking emotional effect. Ditto the Ten Plagues, where a picture is surely what’s needed to convey the heft of this part of the story. 

Erez Zadok, the talented illustrator, provides gems on almost every page that reflect the universality of the text throughout the ages. Whether it’s a small panel of the “Four Mothers” from the “Echad Mi Yode’ah” song appearing as four heads on Mount Rushmore, or Jews from history crossing the Red Sea. This full-page spread depicts that scene as reflected in a sort of FaceTime iPhone app that serves to amplify the well-known words: “In every generation, we must imagine that we ourselves actually left Egypt.” Young people will be particularly engaged by this graphic-novel version of the haggadah and surely be enticed to read it on “all other nights.” -- Lisa Silverman, April 10th, 2019, Jewish Journal, retrieved from https://jewishjournal.com/culture/books/296795/a-graphic-novel-haggadah-three-picture-books-and-two-award-winners-for-kids/