Kids’ Haggadah Emphasizes Diversity and Empathy

Pearl and Maxie Richman/
Photo by Arthur Mola

‘Hug-It-Out, A Lil Haggadah for Kids’ is a new haggadah for children, written by Toronto mother and daughter Pearl and Maxie Richman, that emphasizes kindness and inclusivity. Pearl, a teacher for more than 30 years, and Maxie, a master’s student in Child Study and Education, were inspired to create a vibrant companion haggadah to complement ‘The Haggadah Collective’ for adults they published in 2019.

“Hug-It-Out is a love letter to children,” said Pearl. “Anchored by tradition, it explores ideas of diversity and empathy.”

Working with illustrator Erin Siegel, the 47-page full-colour haggadah is written in English with prayers in Hebrew. The story follows the adventures of Annie and her brother Arnie as they prepare for and experience their Passover seder. ‘Hug-It-Out’ is infused with humour and teaches children vital life messages. The haggadah even includes kid-friendly recipes.

‘Hug-It-Out’ introduces new concepts and provides opportunities to explore those ideas. The authors’ family matriarch, Lil Brown, Pearl’s mother, is the inspiration behind the project.

“Growing up, my mom brought to the table, the fifth child, the child of the Holocaust who didn’t survive to ask a question,” said Pearl. “We illustrate this as Annie and Arnie holding hands, gazing at the stars that represent the million bright lights lost during that terrible time.”

The orange on the seder plate, a modern addition to symbolize feminism, is illustrated with a rainbow that represents equal rights for all Jewish people.

“It was important to us to have a voice for women and for people of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Pearl.

Maxie explained, “I identify as gay. I came out when I was 20. I’m now 30 and, every year since, my mom has included an orange on the seder plate as a symbol to represent anyone who has felt marginalized from the Jewish community.”

Moses’s sister Miriam, illustrated as a superhero, represents important roles strong women play in Jewish history.

In the traditional haggadah, there are four cups of wine. In ‘Hug-It-Out’ there are five. The fifth cup honours refugees and displaced people.

“We wanted it to be reflective of what exists in this world today,” said Pearl.

In the haggadah, the first cup of wine reminds kids how lucky they are to have the love of their family. The second cup is the cup of challenge.

Pearl explained. “It’s empty and helps kids understand that there is poverty and pain in the world, and is meaningfully illustrated with Annie and Arnie offering food to the homeless.”

The third cup overflows with positive thoughts, love and gratitude.

“This cup encourages kids to act in a way that will give meaning to their lives and the lives of other people,” said Pearl.

The fourth cup is broken, representing the broken lives caused by the Holocaust.

Readers also meet Elijah, described as a prophet who delivers important messages from God. “He’s so special he even has his own cup,” said Pearl. “He reminds us to have hope and keep working towards equality and justice.”

In the passage of the four children who ask a question, the wicked child is now a challenging child and the simple child is an innocent child.

“No child is innately wicked,” said Pearl. “Challenging feels a lot more comfortable and we felt that the simple child connotes negative thoughts.”

The seder ends with the singing of “Hatikvah” as a reminder of the children’s love for Israel.

Hug-It-Out and The Haggadah Collective can be purchased at https://www.thehaggadahcollective.com/shop.

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