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Martha Shelley


Martha Shelley, a longtime feminist and gay activist, was raised in a Jewish home. As a child at Passover, she “always wanted to ask the Four Questions, but I wasn’t a youngest son or any kind of son at all.” As an adult, her response was to write Haggadah: A Celebration of Freedom. Immediately after the Stonewall riot she organized the first gay protest march, which morphed into the gay pride marches that now take place around the world. She has authored three books of poetry, Crossing the DMZ, Lovers and Mother, and Released From the Wheel, as well as a trilogy about Jezebel, Queen of Israel in the 9th Century BCE. Her short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her most recent book is a memoir, We Set the Night on Fire. She now lives in Portland OR.

You can read her blog updates here or follow her on Facebook here



A Celebration of Freedom

Haggadah means "the telling." The escape from Egypt is the defining legend, the central drama of the Jews. Every nation coalesces around such an epic; its people project themselves into the story, aspire to the virtues of its heroes, and through periodic retelling or dramatization, transmit their values to the next generation. The traditional Haggadah offers a set of instructions for conducting the Passover service, interspersed with readings from the Bible, rabbinical commentaries, legends, prayers, hymns and children's songs. Written by men and addressing men, the traditional text has not historically offered much space for women to see themselves as fully involved in or spoken to by the powerful drama of human freedom articulated by the Haggadah. In Haggadah: A Celebration of Freedom, Martha Shelley brings a new vision to the traditional text.


Martha Shelley’s feminist Haggadah is a model of clarity infused with poetry and beautiful language. Jewish women who have felt shut out of the traditional ceremony will savor this fresh, exquisitely sensitive interpretation of the Passover seder.

—Susan Brownmiller

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