March 4, 2011 Szyk Haggadah Is Subject of April 4 Program at the Library of Congress

New Facsimile Edition Now Available

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Peggy Pearlstein (202) 707-3779
Contact: Abrams contact: Gabby Fisher (212) 519-1202

After the Bible, the haggadah is the most widely read classic text in the Jewish tradition. Read during Passover, this religious text tells each new generation the story of Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt.

In the mid-1930s, Polish-Jewish artist Arthur Szyk created his haggadah in the stunning style of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Housed in the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division, the original Szyk Haggadah will be on display at the Library at an April 4 program marking the publication by Abrams of a new facsimile edition with translation and commentary by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin and Irvin Ungar.

Ungar will deliver a lecture titled “Arthur Szyk and His Passover Haggadah: A Library of Congress Treasure” at noon on Monday April 4 in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, located in Room 220 of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division, the Rare Book and Special Collections Division and the Prints and Photographs Division. Tickets are not required but seating is limited.

Arthur Szyk (1894–1951) was an acclaimed artist, activist, illuminator and political illustrator. During World War II, his anti-Nazi caricatures were widely published in the United States, most memorably as covers for news magazines such as Time and Collier’s. For almost a decade, Szyk labored to create an elaborately illustrated haggadah that attacked the Nazis, but he could not find anyone willing to take the risk to publish his version of the Passover story. Szyk retold the ancient narrative as if it were an event unfolding in his own time, imagining the Hebrews as Eastern European Jews in need of a modern Exodus to the Land of Israel. His masterpiece was finally published in England in 1940, stripped of its anti-Nazi iconography.

In 2000, the Library of Congress celebrated the acquisition of several important original works by Szyk with an exhibition in the Swann Gallery titled “Arthur Szyk: Artist for Freedom.” The display, which can be viewed online at, featured 17 representative works, from caricatures of Axis leaders to masterpieces of illumination such as the Szyk Haggadah.

Ungar is the CEO of the noted firm of antiquarian booksellers Historicana, which he founded in 1987. A former pulpit rabbi, Ungar has led the renaissance of interest in Arthur Szyk. In addition to recovering many original works, Ungar has curated major museum shows, written and edited several books, and lectured internationally on Szyk’s life and art.

Sherwin, a Jewish scholar and ethicist, is the author or editor of 28 books and more than 150 articles and monographs. An authority on Arthur Szyk, Sherwin has served since 1970 on the faculty of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, where he currently serves as distinguished service professor and director of doctoral studies.

“The Szyk Haggadah,” a 128-page volume with 48 color illustrations, is available from Abrams and in bookstores nationwide and online for $40 (hardcover) and $16.95 (paperback). Copies signed by Ungar will be sold at the April 4 event.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at


PR 11-049
ISSN 0731-3527