At Stephen Durchslag's Seder, selecting a Haggadah might take a while. That's because the Chicago resident owns over 4,500 Haggadot. An avid collector of Haggadot, Durchslag has amassed copies from Jewish communities past and present throughout the world. The books not only tell of the Exodus from Egypt, but also reflect the historical periods in which they were printed.
"Every community that existed published its own Haggadah," Durchslag explains. "It's like having, on your shelves, the whole Jewish experience since the late 1400s."
One Haggadah, printed in Venice in 1545, includes a commentary by famed commentator Don Isaac Abarbanel, with a derogatory statement about the King of Portugal fearfully inked out by Jewish censors. Another Haggadah, published by a community in Holland in 1941, includes scenes of their homes being destroyed by Germans, as well as pictures of places where they dreamed of living in Israel. Durchslag also has a Haggadah used in the Soviet Union during the 1970s that is bent in half because it was hidden deep inside someone's pocket to prevent detection.
Which Haggadah will Durchslag use at his own Seder? Interestingly, he prefers to leave his vast collection in its place. "My wife wrote her own commentary to the Haggadah," he explains. "That's the one I like to use the most, because it's closest to our family."