Religious Institute has BIG Plans for the Gateways Haggadah

Written by Guest Blogger, 17 of March, 2015

By: Meredith Hirschberg, Director of Education at Temple Beth Torah, Wellington, FL

When I received my first copy of the Gateways Haggadah I realized that this was a special gift that I needed to share - immediately - with my Rabbi and Cantor. It was the most unusual Haggadah I had ever seen and looking at it through the lens of an educator first and a mom who leads a Seder second, it seemed that much more impressive. I knew that this would be a Haggadah that would not only serve the needs of all our students, but do it in a way that would equalize not only the learning process but the pleasure of sharing a Seder.

We will be using this Haggadah in many different ways during our “all school and parent Passover program.” I have purchased enough Haggadot for each student to have their own to use during their model Seders. We will begin the morning with classes divided into 3 grade levels: K/1/2, 3 and 4, and 5 and 6. Each grade level will have their own hour long “model” Seder utilizing this Haggadah. The teachers will be choosing some of the questions that are posed throughout the Haggadah for discussion during the Seder. Each section of the Haggadah is almost its own lesson plan! Simultaneously, there will be a parent program, “How to Have a Family Friendly Seder.” Again, the Gateways Haggadah will be the basis of this presentation. Both activities will end at the same time, and will then be followed by interactive activities with parents joining their children. There will be 3 stations that the students will rotate through: (1) the four children, (2) the ten plagues, and (3) a Passover song session.

Our Cantor, immediately, was thrilled to see how the songs were presented in this Haggadah. We would NOT have to print out separate song sheets; the songs that are included in the Haggadah are presented so beautifully - but most importantly - accessible for a “teachable moment!” The Rabbis teaching the other two segments will also be using those specific parts of the Haggadah. The ten plagues section will also include “edible plagues.”

As some students require repetition, it will be interesting to see how much the students remember the plagues and the different types of children once they are in the rotated activities. They will have just experienced their model Seder and will then continue in these more interactive sessions.  

I truly believe that when material is presented using all modalities that it benefits ALL students. Each student has their own individual strengths and weaknesses in an educational environment and it’s our responsibility, as educators, to be sure that material is presented that is accessible to all.

The language used in this Haggadah is exceptional in its simplicity of words to teach high level concepts. As educators (adults) we can absolutely appreciate that we have been exposed to explanation of holidays we do not completely understand, and have even gone through the movements of tradition that could have even been experiential still without a true understanding of what we were doing. I see this Gateways Haggadah experience as a way to embrace both students and adults and leave them with a sense of understanding of the importance of what a Seder is, the meaning of the story, the ability to share in the music…all with the beautiful goal of inclusion.

I know my clergy, my staff and I now truly have a reason to look forward to Passover. This is what creating exceptional Jewish memories is within a religious school. I wish you all a wonder, inclusive, Passover holiday and urge you to explore this Gateways Haggadah. 

About The Gateways Haggadah

Welcome families with children of all abilities and disabilities to a Passover celebration that is accessible for the whole family. Step-by-step directions for every element of the Passover seder are clearly illustrated with more than 70 vibrant photographs. Each prayer’s meaning is illuminated by the use of over 150 picture communication symbols developed by Mayer-Johnson,™ the leading creator of symbol-adapted special education materials to assist individuals in overcoming their speech, language, and learning challenges. In this way, seder participants can experience Passover through clear, direct language and through rich and varied images.

This easy-to-hold, concise Haggadah is respectful to all participants, whatever their abilities, and ensures that all can take part meaningfully in a complete Passover seder that lasts about 30 minutes. 

Purchase your copy now!

About Gateways: Access to Jewish Education

Gateways provides high quality special education services to enable children with diverse learning needs to participate meaningfully in Jewish life.

Gateways has been selected as one of North America's top 82 innovative Jewish organizations in the tenth annual Slingshot Guide and in the Women and Girls Supplement.

For more information on Gateways, visit their site at