The 1904 Version of the Seder Service Credited with Reviving Passover Observance in the U.S.

Many American Jews today have distinct memories of using the Maxwell House Haggadah, which has remained in print since 1932, at family seders. Before that, writes Jenna Weissman Joselit, there was The Seder Service, “arranged”—as its cover states—by Mrs. Philip Cowen and first published in 1904.

Easy to read and handle, this version was used by schoolchildren and their families; by patrons of the State Bank of New York, among whom it was distributed as a gift; and by American Jewish servicemen during World War I, who received a free copy along with a ration of matzah, courtesy of the Jewish Welfare Board.

The Seder Service also found favor among both Orthodox and Reform Jews at the grass roots, bridging what many believed to be an uncomfortable divide between the two. Giving new meaning to the old adage about reading the fine print, The Seder Service made it possible for an Orthodox Jew and a Reform Jew to sit side by side at the same seder table by signaling through means of typeface and layout which aspects of the seder were not to be skipped (see: large type, full lines) and which could be passed over (see: small print, indented lines). In that way, Mrs. Cowen acknowledged, “no fault should be found with the suggestion it conveys, as he who wishes may read every line of the older service, for not a word has been here omitted.”

The Mrs. of the book’s title—a/k/a Lillie Goldsmith Cowen—was the wife of Philip Cowen, the longtime publisher of The American Hebrew, and the mother of Elfrida, who married M. Leon Solis-Cohen. A skilled typesetter in her own right as well as a deft editor who wielded a “relentless pencil,” or so boasted her proud husband, Mrs. Cowen turned her talents to modernizing the haggadah. . . . If contemporaneous accounts are to be believed, the celebration of Passover received quite a boost from the release of Mrs. Cowen’s haggadah, experiencing a momentary surge in popularity.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, Haggadah, Passover

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security