Censoring Jerusalem at American Seders

March 29 2023

In its opening section, the Passover Haggadah contains the words, “this year we are here; next year may we be in Jerusalem.” More famously, it ends—as does the Yom Kippur liturgy—with the exultant “Next year in Jerusalem!” Jonathan Sarna relates why and how many 19th-century American versions of the text omitted this coda:

“Next year in Jerusalem” could be construed (at least by enemies of the Jewish people) as a statement of disloyalty. It implied that Jews weren’t truly “at home” in the Diaspora and couldn’t wait to scurry back to Jerusalem. “Next year in Jerusalem” thus became taboo, because it courted danger.

In the mid-1800s, some in the American Jewish community explicitly addressed this fear. One such was Gustavus Poznanski, the Reform-minded minister of Charleston’s Temple Beth Elohim. Speaking at the dedication of his flock’s new house of worship on March 19, 1841, just five days prior to Passover, he emphatically declared that “this synagogue is our temple, this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine.” The Orthodox Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia, in the Haggadah he printed and translated within his Passover maḥzor (prayer book), omitted [the Hebrew phrase] L’shanah ha-ba’ah bi-Yrushalayim altogether.

More commonly, though, 19th-century American Haggadahs (like earlier German versions and David Levi’s British one) did include L’shanah ha-ba’ah bi-Yrushalayim in Hebrew—in big, bold letters, no less. However, they left those words conspicuously untranslated. Those who knew Hebrew thus understood the intent, while those who might have objected remained blissfully oblivious.

Read more at Segula

More about: American Judaism, Haggadah, Jerusalem, Seder


In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan