The Passover seder is about telling our story, which is often done by communally reading the Haggadah, a written collection of stories, rituals, and commentary. Without accessible options, people with various disabilities are prevented from fully participating in the seder. All too often, friends and loved ones who are visually impaired, blind, or print disabled feel left out of the seder because they are unable to join in reading aloud the Haggadah.
Once again this year, the JBI Library (originally known as The Jewish Braille Institute) is providing free large print or braille Haggadot to anyone who is unable to read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, or print disability. Whether these Haggadot help a grandparent hoping to lead a seder as they have for decades, a child who hopes to read the four questions for the first time, or a friend experiencing their first ever seder, JBI's mission is to make sure that every person who chooses to can access the written word (braille is considered to be a tactile writing system), participate in our beloved traditions, and know that they belong at the table.
As the president of JBI, I often hear from patrons who wish they had known about JBI sooner. Last year, we received a thank you note from a patron that read, in part, "it was very lonely to be sitting at the Seder and not to be able to participate in the readings…this was the first time in many years I was able to fully follow the Seder and read [along]."
JBI offers a variety of Haggadot for patrons to choose from, including Haggadot in various languages, styles, and even a Haggadah "digest" for communal seders, such as in nursing homes. This year, patrons will have three new options for accessible Haggadot. JBI is partnering with CCAR Press, PJ Library, and Chabad to produce braille and large-print editions of their new Haggadot.
"We are pleased that the unique translation, poetry, and commentary in 'Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah' will now have fully accessible formats for blind and visually impaired readers," said Rafael Chaiken, director of CCAR Press. "We are honored to partner with JBI to create braille and large-print editions of our new Haggadah."
Unique to the PJ Library collaboration is that, in addition to large print and braille editions, JBI has made an audio version available for families who want to study the text and songs in advance of the holiday. "We designed the PJ Library Haggadah to help families create fun, kid-friendly Passover seders. We're 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," said Alex Zablotsky, PJ Library's managing director.
All JBI library materials are completely free and delivered to patrons' 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. 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.
If you or someone you know could benefit from any of JBI's free services, contact JBI's librarians at 1-800-433-1531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The standard edition of "Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah," including full-color art by Tobi Kahn, is available from CCAR Press. You can also download or purchase a standard printed copy of the PJ Library Family Haggadah.