In an alternative universe of alternative facts, the story of Passover was not the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, but that of the zombies.
At least that is the story told in The Zombie Haggadah, a new not-to-be-taken-seriously twist on the Exodus story written by Elisha Simkovich and illustrated by Avi Litwack, both of Silver Spring, Md. It is the tale of the brain-eating creatures’ survival against the Egyptian mummies and their mummy pharaoh.
The Zombie Haggadah follows the script of the traditional Haggadah, including the 10 Plagues and the Four Questions, but there’s a twist. Instead of asking why we eat matzo on Passover, the question is, “Why is it, on all other nights we will eat any type of animal brains, but on this night we only eat human?” And instead of wine, seder participants are instructed to drink cerebrospinal fluid.
The Zombie Haggadah is colored in bloody shades of red throughout and contains drawings of the zombies and mummies, along with the humans who were said to be alive at the time the Haggadah’s events took place. It has an almost a cartoonish feel.
Portions of The Zombie Haggadah are graphic and not for the faint of heart. Simkovich and Litwack noted that this Haggadah should not be read seriously, but as a lighthearted version of a serious story.
“Anyone who has a background in the zombie genre would be interested in this,” said Simkovich, 33. “That is part of the graphic nature in the illustration, and the description is very funny if you take a step back.”
Litwack, 37, said that while intended to be comical, The Zombie Haggadah is probably inappropriate for anyone younger than a teenager. He said the target audience is young Jewish adults who are familiar with the Passover seder and are able to take a joke.
The idea came four years ago when Simkovich was returning from morning services on the second day of Passover and discussed “weird-themed seders” with his two brothers and brother-in-law.
“We hit on ‘These are the brains of our affliction …’ and thought it was a pretty funny concept,” he said.
Simkovich was determined to make the idea a reality and began by writing a passage called “Aaaah Lachma Anya” that states, “This year we are zombie prisoners; next year we will be free zombies feasting on the brains of the Leviathan.”
“I sent the passage along with the explanation to the rest of my family,” he said. “They thought it was funny, but they also thought I was insane. Fortunately, they encouraged the insanity, and I kept plugging away at the thing for a few years until I finished writing the entire Maggid [Passover story].”
Simkovich said that after growing up in a family that had long, complex discussions around the Passover table about the meaning of different parts in the Haggadah, it was time for him to apply those critical-thinking skills to a creative endeavor.
“We’ve done this for so many years that it’s now second-nature for me to jump into a hard-to-understand concept in the Haggadah and try to solve it,” he said. “This is also how the Talmud is written. It’s all just question then answer, a question on that answer and then a final answer. So it was natural for me to dive into The Zombie Haggadah in a similar fashion.”
Litwack, a former Washington Jewish Week intern who has a background in graphic design, said when Simkovich approached him last year about illustrating the book he knew he wanted to be involved in the project.
“My first impression was that it was hilarious,” he said.
The two spent a good bit of their late nights and weekends writing The Zombie Haggadah. They raised nearly $2,500 on Kickstarter for the project to cover self-publishing costs. They emphasized that this is a “passion project,” so they are not aiming to make a profit from sales.
“We wanted it to be accessible to everyone,” Simkovich said. “We didn’t want it to be overpriced.” (The Zombie Haggadah is available on BookBaby.com for $18.)
Like every good Haggadah, this one ends by expressing hope in a better future — at least one that will be appreciated by zombies:
“Next year, may we be feasting on the brains of the Leviathan in the land of Zion.”
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Dan Schere is a reporter with Washington Jewish Week, an affiliated publication of the Jewish Exponent.