Based on our collections, we show a Seder table and magnificent miniature illustrations to Haggadah made by Józef Budka before the war. The artist was born in Płońsk, then he studied in Berlin and in the 1930 he moved to Israel, where he became the director of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. He successfully practised etching and woodcutting; religious subject matter dominated in his works. He is famous for his illustrations to books by Chaim Nahman Bialik and Szmuel Josef Agnon.
The exhibition is accompanied by an album „Haggadah for Pesach” with Józef Budka’s etchings. The exhibition was open on the 3rd floor from Monday to Friday from 11am to 6pm and on Sundays from 11am to 6pm (on a Sunday admission was free for individual visitors).
Pesach commences on the 14th day of Nisan, in the first month of the Jewish calendar and lasts for eight days (in the diaspora) and begins with removing and then burning of chametz, crumbs of fermented flour. Throughout the next days of the holiday, one is allowed to eat only bread of poverty — matza. In the evening, all Jews gather around the table for supper called Seder — order and read the narrative of the exodus from Egypt, or Haggadah. The believers by the table have to feel like their brothers and sisters in a rush leaving their house of bondage, Egypt. It is written in the Exodus how one shall celebrate the holiday: „with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand.” (12,11)
On this day, the Jews are supposed to find in themselves impatience, tiredness, anxiety, uncertainty and travails of the journey that accompanied the Israelites escaping the house of bondage. Pesach depicts the new beginning in life of the descendants of Jacob, it shows the longing for the promised land. The most important, however, is freedom, because only a free man can worship God.
Paweł Śpiewak, Director of the Jewish Historical Institute
Haggadah for Pesach
In Jewish tradition, Pesach is a holiday celebrating freedom and commemorating liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. It lasts seven days (eight days in the diaspora) from the evening of the 14th day of Nisan (March/April). It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, during which the Jews visited the Temple in Jerusalem. Being an agricultural holiday, in Palestine, it meant the beginning of harvesting barely and the end of the rainy season. The name Pesach (from Hebrew to omit) refers to the last of the ten plagues of Egypt, namely the death of firstborn in Egypt, which „missed” Jewish houses. It is also called Chag haMacot, meaning the holiday of unleavened bread.
Haggadah for Pesach is a narrative of the exodus of Jews from Egypt. Haggadah’s texts are read during Seder — a solemn meal commencing the holiday of Pesach. Every Jewish home should have this book and even each adult member of the family should have their own copy. The oldest fragments of Haggadah are Biblical verses, the others come from the 5th century BC — early period of the Second Temple. These texts are accompanied by commentaries, blessings, hymns, ritual explanations. In the beginning, Haggadah for Pesach was included in the praying books but in the late Middle Ages people began to write it down separately. A lot of beautifully illuminated manuscripts were created, today being part of the most priceless items of Jewish art.
The earliest known printed edition of Haggadah was published around 1482 in Guadalajara and it has twelve pages. It is estimated that at least three thousand editions had been published till our times (A. Yaari in:
„Bibliography of the...” mentions two thousand seven hundred and seventeen different editions). The first illustrated edition was published in Prague in 1526 in the publishing house of Gerszon Szlomo Kohena Katz and his brother Gronem. It is one of the most beautiful Jewish books printed in the 16th century. This edition was then copied many times. Another important edition, which introduced new illustrations, was published in Mantua in 1560. This edition also served as a model for many future editions, including Venice ones from 1599, 1601, 1603 and 1604, which implemented a set of seventeen etchings placed at the bottom of the page. On the other hand, in 1609, also in Venice, Israel Zifroni designed an edition, printed in the publishing house of Zoan di Gara, with new illustrations and a new idea — on the title page he placed a set of small pictures depicting a woman and a man wearing clothes in accordance with contemporary fashion who are participating in the stages of the Pesach celebrations. The ten plagues of Egypt were presented in the similar way, which was copied in many future editions. However, the Amsterdam edition from 1695, based on the Venice ones, improved the illustrations, adding copperplate. The artist who did it was Awraham ben Jaakow, a former Protestant preacher, who was inspired by Biblical depictions by Matthew Merian the older. At the end of the book, also for the first time in Jewish publications, a map of Palestine was added. The Venice editions were often copied in the south of Europe, whereas the Amsterdam ones had a great influence on Haggadah published by Ashkenazi Jews. The oldest Haggadah from the collections of the Jewish Historical Institute is the one published in Sulzbach in 1731, described in a book by Magdalena Bendowska and prof. dr hab. Jan Doktór titled „The world hidden in books” as number 32.
Józef Budko (1888 Płońsk – 1940 Jerusalem) was a painter and graphics artist, he practised etching and woodcutting. He graduated from Drawing School in Vilnius and Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, where he studied under supervision of Herman Struck. He lived in Berlin until 1933 and then emigrated to Palestine. In 1935, he became the director of newly-opened Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Religious subject matter including Biblical scenes and depictions of Jewish holidays dominated in his artistic work.
Hagada Józefa Budki
In the years 1916–1917, Józef Budko made a series of prints for the Passover Haggadah. Printed in sepia on blotting paper, the etchings are characterized by precise drawing, with light, flexible lines. The motif of vines that appears in most of the etchings symbolizes the people of Israel, and the grapes – the Promised Land. Among the figures, there were numerous decorative initials of the Hebrew words starting individual segments of the story about the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt.
A series of etchings for Pesach comprises twenty-six drawings. It was made for the R. Löwit–Verlag publishing house. In total ten copies were made. The folder being part of the collections of the JHI is number 10. In the form of a book, Haggadah with illustrations by Budko was published by this publishing in 1921 in Berlin.