Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Next Coffee Break in Jerusalem
March 30, 2010 4:23 PM   Subscribe

Good to the Last Seder: "The Jews are known as the people of the Book, and that book, which has sustained them is... the Maxwell House Haggadah." The brainchild of the Joseph Jacobs Advertising firm, Maxwell House Coffee has provided copies of the haggadah for Jewish-American coffee purchasers celebrating the Passover Seder since 1934, a fact that led one rabbi to claim that the coffee company "did more to codify Jewish liturgy than any force in history." Although the Maxwell House Haggadah has received criticism from both secular and religious Jews, the haggadah is still so ubiquitous that it has even surfaced at the official Obama seder at the White House
posted by jonp72 (25 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Speaking as another member of the tribe, I'm happy to learn that all this arose out of a successful effort to persuade companies to reach out to Jews, at the time a very oppressed minority:

Over 90 years ago, Mr. Joseph Jacobs was the advertising manager of the then thriving Jewish Daily Forward . . . he opened Joseph Jacobs Advertising in 1919, with offices on the Lower Eastside selling advertising space for a variety of Jewish publications.. . . .JJA soon moved to a prestigious Madison Avenue address where it serviced such prestigious clients like Colgate-Palmolive Co., Maxwell House and Quaker Oats Co. In fact, JJA still publishes the Maxwell House Hagaddah, a promotion Mr. Jacobs created for the coffee maker generations ago.

Also, this is a great post -- really well constructed and enlightening.
posted by bearwife at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2010


Awesome.

We had these growing up, and I had always wondered what the deal was with it, but never really looked into it. Thanks for the info!
posted by rosswald at 5:02 PM on March 30, 2010


(unfortunately for MH, our after-seder coffee for the Grandparents was always Folger's Decaf)
posted by rosswald at 5:04 PM on March 30, 2010


Today I learned something!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:23 PM on March 30, 2010


Neat post! I'm Jewish, but I had never heard of this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:23 PM on March 30, 2010


Had one growing up, used one last night at the slapdash Seder I put together with the roomie and the SO. It's serviceable but definitely does not play to a Reform audience. Of course, my own religious convictions regarding God aside, I still made sure to neutralize all the divine "He's" In retrospect I wish I had a better Hagadah because the SO isn't Jewish and Maxwell house doesn't do a very good job of explaining the rituals.

That said, we put together a Seder in under an hour and managed to stuff ourselves silly.

Damn matzoh balls expand in your stomach...
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 5:27 PM on March 30, 2010


My grandparents totally had one. Printed in purple and white. Brought it up at the seder we went to last night, and I'm really glad to hear the story behind it now.
posted by piratebowling at 5:30 PM on March 30, 2010


My family never, ever used any other Haggadahs. Most of them looked like they'd been printed in the 1970s and we reused the same ones every year.

In fact, about five years ago, the year after my grandfather died, I opened mine on Passover only to find a huge wad of gum pressed between the pages. Seems Pop-pop needed a place to stow it the year before. It was like a Passover miracle from beyond the grave!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:56 PM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


My mom collects pop-up books.

My family has a set of pop-up Haggadahs we use. I'm totally not kidding.
posted by sourwookie at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fascinating post in so many ways, and all news to me!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:06 PM on March 30, 2010


Wow--I think we used these at the seders hosted by my great-aunt and uncle. That brings back memories...
posted by thomas j wise at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010


My family has a set of pop-up Haggadahs we use. I'm totally not kidding.

That is AWESOME.
posted by pinky at 6:13 PM on March 30, 2010


sourwookie, c'mon... links? pictures? something?
posted by canine epigram at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2010


We only stopped using the Maxwell House a couple of years ago. My Jewish friends and I still reminisce about it; the exact phrasing of things like the lame story about the Rabbis in B'nei Barak is basically a punchline.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:14 PM on March 30, 2010


Last night we used the Haggadahs my family has used for decades. They're published by Maxwell House. The copyright is 1921.

I personally love the legalistic arguments among rabbis (Rabbi Jose's name always gets a laugh) over exactly how many plagues there really were. And the paragraph with the mention of breasts always gets a response from around the table.

By the way, I'm an atheist.
posted by netdpb at 7:37 PM on March 30, 2010


I personally love the legalistic arguments among rabbis (Rabbi Jose's name always gets a laugh) over exactly how many plagues there really were. And the paragraph with the mention of breasts always gets a response from around the table.

Heh, Rabbi Jose got extra laughs the year my sister was dating a dude named Jose Torres.

We also always giggled at the part where it suddenly breaks into verse--"The mountains skipped like rams! The hills like lambs! What aileth thee, o sea, that thou didst flee?" Seems that's a psalm or something. Sure couldn't tell from the context.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:09 PM on March 30, 2010


It's brilliant marketing, when you think about it. The preferred coffee among most of my Jewish relatives -- at least the older ones -- is Maxwell House.
posted by elmwood at 8:22 PM on March 30, 2010


Oy vey. My mother used to chide my father for his families use of the Maxwell House haggadah. "Its a coffee house not a religious house. They are just trying to sell you more coffee. Just because Max is a jewish name does not mean we should use their haggadah!" she would whine. My father would wonder why the big deal and say, "They can't sell us any more coffee. We already buy all we drink." My mother would just shake her head. Us kids never did understand. We would always have the who can eat the most horseradish at one time contest followed by the try to sneak a sip of wine challenge.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:43 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I might know this intimately, but my Jewish grandfather married a goy and got kicked out of his family and ostracized forever, continuing until today.

I'm looking at you, certain asswipe Philadelphia Jewish families.
posted by Trapped Vector at 9:22 PM on March 30, 2010


The closest we ever came to having a matched set of haggadahs was Maxwell House. I found this popup haggadah, but no inside images.
posted by anshuman at 10:22 PM on March 30, 2010


This reminds me of Cecil DeMille's 10 Commandments monuments, seeded around the US to promote his movie, only to explode decades later in a new way of thinking of religion and the public sphere.
posted by grobstein at 12:15 AM on March 31, 2010


Maxwell House saved this guys life!
posted by hortense at 1:34 AM on March 31, 2010


Brilliant post. Thank you! :)
posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on March 31, 2010


I'm not sure how I missed it, but I wish I could favorite this thread's title.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:07 PM on March 31, 2010


sourwookie, c'mon... links? pictures? something?
posted by sourwookie at 2:13 PM on April 1, 2010


« Older "We are two reporters living with a family from Me...  |  James Lovelock, 90, says we're... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments