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One (or two) of these Hagadot should be at your Seder table

Updated: Apr 1

By Daniel Santacruz


Passover, Pesaj, Pesach, Pesah, Pascua judía, or whatever you call the holiday in your language, is here. And at the center of it is the Seder. Besides traditional and symbolic foods, another important part of the Seder is the Haggadah.

Here are 10 hagadot from my personal collection. I suggest one these should be at your Seder to enhance your Sefardic experience.

Hagadah Shel PesajLivorno, Italy (shown at right).

This is one of my most precious books. Printed entirely in Ladino and Hebrew in the 1850s, it’s decorated with dozens of woodcuts.

As far as I know, this is one of the few copies available in the market.

I bring it to the table to show guests, but I don’t read from it be for fear it may get damaged with food or, as is usually the case, someone spills wine on it. I know some people who only use cheap, stained hagadot at the Seder and, like me, show the expensive ones only to brag about them, never to read from them.

Known in English as Leghorn, Livorno, on the Western coast of Tuscany, on the Ligurian Sea, is considered one of the most important ports in the country. It had a thriving Jewish community and a prolific Hebrew-publishing industry.


Hagadah Shel PesajLivorno, Italy (above left).

Printed in 1877 in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, this hagadah will familiarize you with the customs and prayers of Baghdadi Jews.

Few copies of these two rare book exist today.

The Sarajevo Haggadah. Prosveta-Svjetlost. Beograd, Sarajevo, 1988.

I am not talking here about the illuminated manuscript codex from medieval Spain, kept at the National Museum in Sarajevo. I am referring to a reproduction published by those two companies, complemented with a study written by Eugen Werber, that you can bring to the table.

The study looks at the fascinating history of this manuscript, one of the oldest Sefardic hagadot in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350, which professor Cecil Roth called “a priceless specimen of book illumination,” and analyzes all its folios.

Passover Agada/Agada de Pesah. According to the Custom of the Seattle Sephardic Community. Edited by Isaac Azose and Isaac Maimon, 1995.

Written in Hebrew, with Ladino and English translation, this attractive hagadah includes the prayers and customs of one of the most traditional Sefardic communities in the United States.

If you have difficulty reading Hebrew, the transliteration of several prayers will be helpful. A six-page glossary of Ladino words, with English translation, found at the end of the book, will help you understand the text of the Haggadah and the songs.

It features Ehad Mi Yodea, according to the Turkish custom, and Had Gadya,  according to the Rhodes custom, as well as a transliteration of Ki Lo Na-e, Ki Lo Ya-e.

La Agada de Luz/Agada de Pesah, kon traduksion al ladino. Erez, Yerushalayim., 1989.

This large-format hagadah, written in Ladino and Hebrew and illustrated with vignettes of medieval hagadot, is dedicated to the millions of Jews, “among them most of the Jews from the Balkans, who were exterminated in the Shoa by the Nazis and their helpers.”

Unfortunately, writes editor Abraham Cohen, many of the Sefardic customs observed at the Seder disappeared with the annihilation of those communities. “If the publication of this volume contributes even a bit to the continuation of that culture, that will be our reward,” he added.

La Hagada Sefaradí y leyes de Pesaj. Edited by Yeshivat Nahalat Moshe. Jerusalem, 1989.

The practical guidelines for measurements of foods eaten at the Seder and for cleaning utensils for the holiday make this hagadah a useful resource. No commentators are cited. 

It includes Shir Hashirim (The Song of Songs), which is said by some communities after the conclusion of the Seder, as well as Ehad Mi Yodea and Had Gadya. It also features a four-page glossary of Passover-related terms.

The Sephardic Heritage Hagadah. Edited by Rabbi Eli Mansour and Rabbi David Sutton. Artscroll, Brooklyn, NY., 2006

Geared mostly for the English-speaking Syrian community, this large-format hagadah features commentaries by historic luminaries such fas Ramban, Rambam, Rabbi Ben Ish Hai and contemporary rabbis as Ben Zion Abba Shaul and Ovadia Yosef.

Beautifully designed, it blends traditional stories, parables, and laws and customs. Its Arabic version of Ehad Mi Yodea will be a hit if you like exotic haggadot.

The Scholar’s Haggadah: Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Oriental Versions. With a Historical-Literary Commentary by Heinrich Guggenheimer. Jason Aronson, Northvale, NJ, 1995.

At 414 pages, this monumental work delves into the history and the rituals of Ashkenazi, Sefardic and Yemenite communities, and treats them on equal footing. The text of the hagadah is translated into English.

The Sefardic text is that of the Benamozegh Livorno Machzor, the standard for European, North African and Oriental Sefardic communities. The Ashkenazi text follows the consensus from seventeenth- and eighteen-centuries hagadot from Amsterdam, Germany and Austria.

The Yemenite text follows the printed sidur Tiklal, printed in Jerusalem in 1960. In some Yemenite families, poems in honor of the festival are sung.

A Sephardic Passover Haggadah.Translated with commentary by Rabbi Marc D. Angel. KTAV Publishing House. Hoboken, NJ, 1980.

Rabbi Angel, former spiritual leader of Congregation Shearith Israel, in New York City, and author of several books of Sefardic history, says in the introduction that the purpose of his book is to bring Sefardic insights and practices to the Seder tables “of our generation.”

The commentators cited in the book are a Who’s Who of the Sefardic world from different generations and different parts of the world. From the pre-Expulsion period are rabbis Bahia ibn Pakuda, Simon ben Zemah Duran and David Abdudraham. Among the moderns are rabbis Benzion Uziel and Eliezer Papo. It features Ehad Mi Yodea and Had Gadya in Ladino.

La Hagadá con el comentario Meam LoezEdiciones Hanoj Wagfal. Jerusalén, 1980.

This one-of-a-kind edition was translated from Ladino into Spanish, and incorporates the commentaries of the Meam Loez, written in Ladino by Rabbi Yaakov Huli and published in 1730, two years before his death.

The text of the hagadah is in Hebrew. Numerous footnotes, some several pages long, will help the readers understand it. This softcover edition is a welcome addition to your library and a great companion at the seder.

Istanbul Haggadah, Matan Arts Publishers, Kfar HaOranim, Israel, 2013.

Published in collaboration with the Turkish Community in Israel, this hagadah stands out for its attractive design, which incorporates photos of Jewish life in Turkey and ceremonial artifacts, courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Turkey and the Bill Gross Judaica Collection of Tel Aviv. Included also are photos of the Israel Government Press Office.

The Hebrew/English introduction, written by Dr. Yaron Ben-Naeh, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, gives an overview of the history of the Jewish community in Turkey, whose roots go back to the Hellenistic period. Thousands of Sefardic Jews from Spain and Portugal gradually settled in the commercial centers and ports of Turkey in the 15th and 16th centuries, becoming the most dominant group in the country.

In the last two pages of the book those who like to keep records can enter the names of people who attended the seders.


© Daniel Santacruz

March 2021

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