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New Maxwell House Haggadah out for Passover

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By LEANNE ITALIE
The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 22, 2011; 1:31 PM

NEW YORK -- From the White House to the Schein house, Passover is good to the last drop thanks to the Maxwell House Haggadah, lovingly passed down through generations, red wine splotches and gravy smears marking nearly 80 years of service at American Seder tables.

The coffee company's version of the text used at the holiday meal has been offered free at supermarkets with a Maxwell House purchase since the early 1930s. Now, more than 50 million copies are in print.

They even turned up when President Obama hosted his first Seder in the family dining room of the White House two years ago.

The company is issuing a new edition this year in time for the start of Passover, which begins the night of April 18.

"I feel like I'm passing on a piece of my childhood. They're familiar and comfortable," said Lisa Zwick, 44, of Laguna Hills, Calif. Her family, starting with her parents, has used the Maxwell House books for 37 years to tell the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt.

For that, Maxwell House owes a debt to Joseph Jacobs Advertising and the Orthodox rabbi it hired back in 1923. The rabbi confirmed that the coffee bean is not a legume but a berry instead, so OK under the dietary rules observed by some Jews during the holiday.

The Haggadah giveaway began about a decade after the rabbi decreed that coffee was kosher for Passover as a way to clear up lingering consumer confusion and end the dip in coffee sales that had been observed each year around the eight-day celebration, said Elie Rosenfeld, who works on the Haggadah account at Joseph Jacobs.

The books have been distributed nearly continuously ever since. The company took two years off when paper was scarce during World War II.

A Haggadah includes special instructions, prayers, hymns and commentary unique to Passover. The manuals are given out to family and friends at the Seder table so all can participate in the retelling of Moses' deliverance of the Jews from slavery more than 3,000 years ago.

The term Passover refers to the Jewish homes that were "passed over" by God's angel of death, sent to snatch the Egyptians' firstborn as punishment for the pharaoh's refusal to free the slaves.

Susan Schein's 30 copies of the Maxwell House Haggadah hold precious memories of her late dad, Philadelphia shoe salesman Ray Kaplan. His contribution to the Seder meal was - you guessed it - Maxwell House coffee, still a strong seller today but king to many coffee-drinkers back in the pre-Starbucks `60s when he was collecting the guides.

"Every year he would bring another one or two," said Schein in Sunny Isles, Fla., near Miami, as she hauled out her dad's books once again in preparation for this year's Seder, with more than 20 guests expected.


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© 2011 The Associated Press

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