Project Kesher, the venerable institution that has supported grassroots advocacy for Jewish identity and renewal in post-Soviet states since 1989, has launched a first-of-its-kind Ukrainian-language Haggadah. Purposely designed to help Ukrainian Jews honor their heritage as they observe the forthcoming Passover holiday, the Haggadah includes contemporary commentaries and original sketches inspired by Ukraine’s ongoing fight against the Russian invasion, bringing new meaning and relevance to the Passover story.
The entirety of the Haggadah, including its text, illustrations and accompanying music, is currently available digitally at haggadot.com and is set to be released in printed form next year. It has been designed to be customized and/or abbreviated for seders taking place in regions of Ukraine affected by the war, refugee communities, and households throughout the United States and globally where individuals have ties to Ukraine and/or support the revolution.
“As the Ukrainian people continue their fight to live in a free, democratic and safe society, it has become increasingly clear that Ukrainian Jews require access to Jewish liturgy in their own language,” said Karyn Gershon, CEO of Project Kesher. “This Haggadah is the embodiment of that cultural imperative, offering a translated and adapted work of significant religious and symbolic importance. What’s more, it places the current war for both Ukrainian land and cultural identity in the context of the Passover theme of moving from slavery to freedom.”
Project Kesher designed the Ukrainian-language Haggadah to be intellectually compelling and egalitarian, and offer numerous opportunities for highly creative participation. They used the popular Haggadah, A Different Night, published in 1997, as a model and brought in the work’s creator, Noam Zion, to contribute readings and serve as an advisor, along with Rabbi Mauricio Balter, Executive Director of Masorti and MERCAZ Olami. They also engaged Rabbi Carole Bailin, Professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Michal Stamova, director of NOAM Ukraine, to provide commentaries that directly reference Ukrainians’ ongoing struggle to preserve their heritage. A special prayer for those who lost their lives fighting for Ukraine’s freedom is prominently featured.
In addition, the Haggadah includes five original sketches by renowned Kyiv-born artist Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi, who immigrated to Israel just weeks before the fall of the Soviet Union. Her works depicting childhood in Soviet-controlled Ukraine have been displayed in museums and galleries throughout the world, and have received increased attention as she adds new pieces reflecting the war’s impact on her native country.
“At its essence, the Haggadah tells a story of hope, expressing the idea that people at the lowest position imaginable can find their way to the promised land,” said Cherkassky-Nnadi. “This sense of hope is what keeps Ukraine as a country and its people together and holding on.”
In 2024, Project Kesher will release a printed version of the Ukrainian-language Haggadah, featuring more original sketches by Cherkassky-Nnadi, in partnership with the publishing house Duhi Litery.
To learn more, see: www.projectkesher.org.