Continuing a tradition he started more than 15 years ago, a Mount Airy philanthropist presented copies of the elaborately decorated Moss Haggadahs to enthusiastic sixth-graders at Barrack Hebrew Academy.
You won’t hear “the seder is boring” line from the sixth-graders at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy — at least not after they each received their very own copy of the Moss Haggadah.
The students oohed and aahed with intermittent exclamations of “cool!” as Jake Kriger led the 56 new owners of the Haggadah through a tour of the book’s inner workings at an assembly at the school on April 7. (New seventh- and eighth-graders to the school also received a Haggadah.)
“It is really original and different — the artwork was mind-blowing,” said Cayla Brint, 13, from Merion Station. “I’m definitely bringing it to my family’s seder.”
The original Moss Haggadah was handmade by artist David Moss over a span of three years between 1980 and 1983. It featured cut-out paper carvings and intricate pictures, along with several other expressions of artistic creativity.
Five hundred lithograph copies of the original were subsequently made by precision laser. Since 1990, the book has been published by Bet Alpha — the same version that countless sixth-graders who attended either Barrack or the Perelman Jewish Day School have received from Kriger over the last 15-plus years. It is currently in its fourth edition.
Kriger, a philanthropist who lives in Mount Airy, hands out the Haggadahs as part of a book endowment fund he founded in 1991 at both Perelman Jewish Day School and Barrack to honor the memory of his parents, Hannah and William Kriger.
He owns one of the exclusive lithograph copies, which he used as a reference while teaching students about the Haggadah.
“Moss is engaging you in his artwork,” Kriger told the students as he showed them a page filled with pictures and mirrors that artistically represent the concept of Jews reading the Exodus story from Egypt as if they were there themselves.
His biggest hope for the students, said the father of five Barrack graduates, is that they will use the Moss Haggadah to further involve themselves in their families’ seders.
“I really love the idea that kids at Bar/Bat Mitzvah age will mature from cute ‘Mah Nishtanah kids’ to having something to contribute to their seders as maturing young teenagers and promote Jewish education at Perelman and Barrack because family at the seder will ask them, ‘Where did you get that Haggadah?’ ” Kriger said.
To the students, he added: “You can stand in front of your family and share this the way I’m sharing this with you.”
As they learned about interactive features such as an afikomen treasure hunt involving riddles, the sixth-graders’ enthusiasm for the Haggadah was apparent. The students asked so many excited questions about the elaborate Haggadah that Kriger ran out of time trying to answer them all.
Luckily for the students, and for Kriger, Moss included a reference guide in the back of the book to explain the art and to help anyone unfamiliar with his work navigate the Haggadah.
“I went home and already showed my parents,” 12-year-old Matan Dolev from Elkins Park said the day after receiving the Haggadah. “I plan on showing it to my whole family at the seder. I loved the micrography. I really appreciated getting it, and I will definitely pay more attention at the seder this year!”