by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, Kar-Ben author and guest blogger
Can you name the first Jewish children's book? My guess is that it's the Haggadah. It educates. It deals with four different types of children. It contains supernatural elements that wow the reader, and even includes some fun songs at the back of the book. It has all the ingredients of a best seller (which it is), but, yawn, it needs something to keep kids' attention until the very end.
What to do? Incorporate customs from Jewish communities across the globe into your Seder, plus create a few of your own and you'll have a page turner.
Jews coming from Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan jump start the Haggadah with a quick one-act play. It goes like this: While the Seder leader breaks the middle matzah in half, a designated participant leaves the table to dress up as one of the Children of Israel (home-made costume, of course). S/he knocks on the door, the Seder leader opens it and the play begins. “Who are you?” asks the Seder leader. Answer: “I'm one of the Children of Israel.” Next question: “But I thought you're a slave in Egypt.” Reply: “I was. Now I am free.” Question: “Where are you going?” Answer: “To Eretz Yisrael – The Land of Israel.” “Welcome,” says the Seder leader. “Come sit at our table before you continue your journey.”
Everyone applauds, but the play doesn't have to end here. Remember the section dealing with the five rabbis staying up all night? How about writing a contemporary dialog that will be easy for kids to say? Next act: The four sons. Don't be gender specific. Have a configuration of boys and girls dress up as the four different types of children, each explaining who s/he is. This leads nicely into a home-made 10 plagues bag, which can then segue into a wonderful Persian custom – hitting your neighbor with the long hollow leaves of a scallion at each repetition of the word Dayenu. The reason behind this “madness”? To remind us of the whips that hit our ancestors when they were slaves.
Aha! Now we're into props. Here are two more suggestions. Decorate your seder table with gold and silver jewelry as a way of recalling the precious metals Egyptians gave the Israelites before the 10th plague. That's what Hungarian Jews do. Next, forget about your gorgeous dining room set. Tunisian Jews use mattresses instead to create an authentic experience by “comfortably” sitting on the floor. Don't like that idea? Try what Jews in Casablanca do. Place a large ornamented chair with brocaded pillows next to the table for the Prophet Elijah.
Getting the picture? Like all good playwrights you decide how much drama your audience can take. The authors of the Haggadah have already supplied you with the cast of characters and the backdrop. Now it's your turn to get a handle on how to make it fun, relevant and compelling -- the reason why this children's book is different from all other children's books.
About author Tami Lehman-Wilzig
Born in the United States, Tami Lehman-Wilzig now lives in Israel. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and an M.A. in Communications from Boston University. She is one of Israel's leading English language copywriters. Her children's books include Tasty Bible Stories, Keeping the Promise, Passover Around the World, Hanukkah Around the World and Zvuvi’s Israel. She lives in Petach Tikvah, Israel.
Visit Tami's website.
Read Tami's Jewish Holiday Customs Blog
Read Zuvuvi's Blog (Zvuvi is the star of Tami's book Zvuvi's Israel.)
Get all kinds of great Passover ideas from Tami's book: Passover Around the World