|Throughout the many generations the Passover Haggadah has probably been the most popular form of Jewish religious literature. The Passover Haggadah itself is a set form of prayers, stories, comments, excerpts, benedictions, and psalms, recited at the Seder on the eve of Passover. It recounts the story describing the events that led the Jews to freedom. The journey from slavery to liberation as explained in the Haggadah has enduring meaning that transcends time and place.
As a separate liturgical work the Haggadah made its appearance in the late 13th or early 14th century. Since then forty-seven medieval illuminated Haggadah manuscripts have survived the passage of time.
One of the most outstanding of these rare Haggadah manuscripts is the First Cincinnati Haggadah, housed in the Dalsheimer Rare Book Building of the Klau Library at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. The splendor of the work, the creation of the scribe Meir Jaffe ben Israel of Heidelberg, Germany, comes from the superb quality of the lettering and illustrations found within its pages.
The First Cincinnati Haggadah was obviously used. Its pages are stained with wine and ritual foods. But given its great age and fragility it has been necessary to keep the First Cincinnati Haggadah in a protected environment.
Fortunately, with the recent release of an interactive CD facsimile edition of the manuscript cooperatively produced by the HUC-JIR's Klau Library in Cincinnati and the Department of Distance Education in Los Angeles the manuscript is now available to all. The CD contains, besides the entire beautiful manuscript (text and illustrations both) , a tutorial, resources for educational and synagogue programing and other references. It offers ideas and suggestions such as the creation of family Haggadah by printing pages directly off the CD.
In celebration of HUC-JIR's 125th anniversary the CD-ROM has been sent as a gift to all Reform Movement congregations, HUC-JIR alumni and students. Copies are available for a freewill donation (a minimum of $10 is suggested) . For information please contact Laurel Wolfson, Deputy Librarian, by fax at 513-221-0519 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail at Klau Library, HUC-JIR, 3101 Clifton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220-2488.
The Klau Library, Cincinnati, contains 430,000 printed volumes and many thousands of items in non-book format. It houses important collections of incunabula, Jewish Americana, Inquisition records, miniature books, and Hebrew manuscripts. The HUC-JIR Library network also includes the Frances-Henry Library in Los Angeles, the Klau Library in New York and the Abramov Library in Jerusalem. In quantity and quality of holdings the Library ranks among the world's greatest collections of Hebraic and Judaica.