In the Exodus story, Moses decides to rescue his people after he hears God speak to him through the burning bush. But when New York City-based artist Jan Aronson imagined the famous episode in which Moses must decide which path to take in life, she didn’t see a magic fire, but rather the broiling sun rising and shining on the desert brush. In that moment of meditation, Moses heard the voice within that told him to confront Pharaoh.
That is just one inspiration behind the illustrations that Aronson included in “The Bronfman Haggadah,” a collaboration with her recently deceased husband, the renowned Jewish philanthropist Bronfman. The original hardcover book was released as an app for the iPhone and iPad last month.
The app version, which can be used for pre-Seder preparation or at the Seder table, takes the themes of the book to a digital level. It includes video interviews with Bronfman and Aronson, narration, animation and actors singing the Passover songs. The Exodus story does not appear in traditional Haggadahs, but it is told in “The Bronfman Hagaddah.” The story is narrated in the app; using animation, it shows the basket with baby Moses moving down the river.
Dana Raucher, executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, says Edgar Bronfman and Aronson particularly wanted to get the app out to younger audiences, “people who are transient in their lives, living in college dorms, moving from city to city, and not necessarily lugging heavy books with them. However, they are curious about the Jewish tradition, redefining certain rituals, and in general just taking an open and expansive look at what the Jewish tradition tells us that is relevant in the modern day.”
Bronfman and Aronson worked on the hardcover Haggadah over many Seders, after Bronfman had felt dissatisfied with the texts of traditional Haggadahs.
Along with the Passover story, says Aronson, Bronfman “talked about lessons of justice, equality and ethics in his Haggadah.”
“This Haggadah is written for a post-denominational world, a post-gender world. I think what Edgar would say is that he is trying to appeal to the Jew who is not affiliated with any particular branch of Judaism. I would like to appeal to all Jews,” she says, although she acknowledges that the Haggadah probably does not appeal to strictly observant Jews.