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A Conversation With the Author of a Zionist Haggadah

I recently had the good fortune to talk with Dr. Marvin Chinitz MD, the author of a new Haggadah which was released in January 2024. His Haggadah is called TheChinitz Zion Haggadah. Dr. Chinitz has not changed the classic text of the Haggadah, but rather, with the utilization of selected commentaries and personal essays, he has transformed the way a person can use it. Dr. Chinitz's intention is for people to celebrate Passover as the major Zionist holiday of the Jewish calendar. Passover celebrates the going out of Jewish people from Egypt to become a free independent nation in their own homeland, the land of Israel.

Professionally, Dr. Chinitz is a gastroenterologist with 44 years of experience. He is a Clinical Associate Professor in Gastroenterology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. He teaches and practices at the Montefiore Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of Albert Einstein, located in The Bronx, New York. He also had a private practice in Mount Kisco a village in New York state for 38 years. When I spoke to him, Dr. Chinitz was volunteering at Hadassah Ein Kerem, replacing four other G.I. doctors who were in Miluim.

Dr. Chinitz told me that his real full-time job for the past two years has been writing this Haggadah: "I thought about it for forty years and have been writing it for two." Dr. Chinitz firmly believes that the message of the Pesach is the Zionist ideal. He said to me: "Pesach is the most Zionistic holiday of the Jewish calendar. Pesach is the holiday of the Jewish redemption." He also stated: "Zionism began with our redemption from Egypt; when God took us out of Egypt to bring us to the Promised Land." He then added: "The theme of Pesach is a modern one of the creation of a Jewish homeland."

When I asked Dr. Chinitz what his background was, he answered; "My background is Zionism." Dr Chinitz comes to Israel every year, sometimes more than two or three times a year. His daughter lived in the Tel Aviv area for ten years. He has a weekly phone conversation with a Hebrew Ulpan teacher based in Raanana. Ten years ago, Dr. Chinitz participated in a charity bicycle ride from Jerusalem to Eilat. A year and a half ago, Dr. Chinitz hiked the Shvil Yisrael (the Israel National Trail) for two weeks from Eilat up to Sde Boker. He is an active supporter of the JNF and, more so, the FIDF (Friends of the Israel Defense Force). He also supports MDA, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), and his local synagogue.

Dr. Chinitz told me that his love for the Zionist ideal started when he went to a Jewish summer camp called Camp Cejwin. He attended a Hebrew High School afternoon program after his Bar Mitzvah. He was active in his college's Hillel when he attended university. Dr. Chinitz also said: "I married a very Zionist woman and I give her a lot of credit."

When Dr. Chinitz was leading his own family Seders, he realized that the theme of the Seder should be Zionism. As the children were growing up, he asked them to prepare discussions for the Seder: "I picked a theme for my children to prepare to discuss at the Seder. I gave them homework to do."

Dr. Chinitz thinks that the Seder is composed of basically three sections the past, the past and the future. The first half of the Haggadah, before the meal, is the first section and addresses the redemption from Egypt. The second half of the Haggadah which is recited after the meal, is a celebration of the Messianic Era. The third section, which, according to Dr. Chinitz, most people do not utilize is the Seder meal itself. Dr. Chinitz told me that "during the meal is when we discuss the current." The meal itself should be used for discussions about Zionism, Jewish identity, knowing how to respond to antisemitism, etc.

To this effect, Dr Chinitz wrote thirteen essays about the Zionist idea, which he placed at the back of his Haggadah. He designed these essays to be springboards for the dinner conversations – the third section of the Seder. "Each of the thirteen topics has the potential to be controversial. What I have done in the essays is to give the basic facts. A discussion should start out with facts and not emotions. After most of the essays, I have written open-ended questions which are a springboard for the discussions. One needs to start with facts."

Then Dr Chinitz added: "While I have not changed a word of the Haggadah. I have included the Hatikvah, the prayer for Israel, the prayer for the IDF, and in the comments, I have discussed a fifth cup of wine and increasing the length of the Dayenu to bring the prayer up to date. The commentaries I have used, almost all relate to Modern Israel; making the Haggadah a modern text without changing it." The last page of the commentary was written a week after the current war in Gaza began.

Dr. Chinitz concluded our conversation by saying that the focus of the Passover holiday should be on Zionism. "The message is to be proud of being Jewish. To be active in one's Zionism. To defend Zionism. To understand Zionism. To teach Zionism. To never be neutral."

For more information about the Haggadah, please go to its website - chinitzzionhaggadah.com. One can purchase The Chinitz Zion Haggadah through Amazon ($29.95) or through the website of the publisher which is Gefen Publishing (special offer $23.96).

 

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Thursday, 25 July 2024

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