The Pesach seder centers around a communal recitation of the Haggadah where we retell our ancestors’ story of triumph and liberation from the entrapment of slavery in ancient Egypt, as is described throughout Sefer Shemos.
Individuals with various medical challenges and disabilities lack accessible options to partake in the recountal, relying solely on the narration ultimately being prevented from full participation. All too often feelings of neglect cloud the minds of friends and loved ones who are visually impaired, blind, or print disabled and are unfortunately unable to join in reading aloud the Haggadah.
The annual JBI Library, established as The Jewish Braille Institute on April 22, 1931 in Manhattan, happily provides large print and braille Haggados to those challenged by reading standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, or print disability free of charge. These Haggados have become a vital resource for the senior community and particularly for the grandfathers hoping to lead a Seder for their families in the same fashion they have for decades prior. JBI’s Haggados have also eased the process for those experiencing their first seder, or for children making their seder memories as they take upon themselves the tradition of reading the four questions of the Ma Nishtanah. The essence of the mission at JBI remains to ensure that anyone desiring to read along and participate in our beloved traditions feels welcomed at the seder table as the trials of biblical Jews are reminisced.
As the president of JBI, Livia Thompson is privileged to hear firsthand accounts from friends and supporters whose Pesach experiences have been given renewed vigor with the enhancement of a JBI Haggadah at their Yom Tov table. “We received a thank you note from a patron that read, in part, “This was the first time in many years that I was able to fully follow the Seder and read along. It was very lonely to sit at the Seder unable to participate in the reading.”
JBI offers a variety of Haggados in various languages, styles, and even a Haggadah “digest” for communal sedarim, such as in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Three relatively new options for accessible Haggados stem from JBI partnering with Kehot Press on the Chabad Haggadah, PJ Library, and CCAR Press to produce braille and large print editions of their new Haggados. “We are pleased that JBI has made our popular Annotated Haggadah available for the blind and visually impaired. Available in eight languages, this Haggadah has been widely distributed and used in Jewish communities all around the world. Now an overlooked segment of the community will benefit from this clearly structured Haggadah,” said Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman, Director of Kehot Publication Society.
“We are pleased that the unique translation, poetry, and commentary in Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah will now have fully accessible formats in braille and large print for blind and visually impaired readers,” said Rafael Chaiken, Director of CCAR Press.
Unique to the PJ Library collaboration, in addition to large print and braille editions, is an audio version made available by JBI for families who want to study the text and songs in advance of the chag. “We designed the PJ Library Haggadah to help families create fun, kid-friendly Passover seders. We are proud to have shared this Haggadah with more than 40,000 families who did not previously own one and have published the Haggadah in five languages to serve Jewish families around the world. This year, we are thrilled that JBI International is offering the PJ Library Haggadah in brand-new accessible formats, so even more families can feel welcome at the Passover seder table,” stated Alex Zablotsky, Managing Director of PJ Library.
To learn more, or request a free large print, braille, or audio Haggadah, please visit JBI’s website at jbilibrary.org/haggadah-order, or call JBI at 1-800-999-6476 before Friday, March 24.
There are so many more members of the community who are unable to read standard print, but do not yet know about JBI. “This is why our annual Haggadah Outreach Campaign is so critically important,” says Livia Thompson. “We try to get the word out to as many people as possible. While many first discover our free library services at Passover time, the unique JBI library opens those struggling to read with new opportunities to request at no charge varied Jewish oriented reading materials throughout the year delivered to their doorsteps.”
In addition to a variety of liturgical texts in accessible formats, JBI’s collection of 13,000 talking books encompass a broad spectrum of Jewish-interest fiction, history, biographies, short stories, humor, memoirs, cookbooks, poetry, Jewish studies, magazines, cultural programs, and more are continuously added to the library. JBI’s library can help individuals with visual impairments stay connected to their heritage and community.
JBI produces free customized materials related to Jewish life and learning in braille, audio, and large print formats. Parents and educators turn to JBI to produce textbooks, educational materials, Torah and Haftorah portions, and more on an as-requested basis for students who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled. JBI also pilots different kinds of enjoyable programming while providing accessible materials and facilitators.
Note: To download or purchase a standard printed copy of the Chabad Haggadah, visit https://www.chabad.org/generic_cdo/aid/5075231/jewish/The-Chabadorg-Haggadah.htm. The standard edition of “Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah,” including full-color art by Tobi Kahn, is available from CCAR Press (https://www.ccarpress.org/shopping_product_detail.asp?pid=50544). To download or purchase a standard printed copy of the PJ Library Family Haggadah, visit https://pjlibrary.org/haggadah.