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

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law