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Martha Shelley


Martha Shelley, a self-described “red-diaper baby” and longtime feminist 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.” She has authored two books of poetry, Crossing the DMZ and Lovers and Mothers. Her short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies. She has conducted extensive research on the lives of women in the ancient and modern Middle East. She now lives in Portland. 



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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