Your probably asking what does coffee have to do with Passover and why are you writing about the Maxwell House Haggadah? (The Haggadah is the book used during the Passover Seder service). Well, I came across a very intersting story that I wanted to share. First, did you know that the Maxwell House Haggadah is the most widely used Haggadah in history? It has been in distribution for 75 years with over 50 million copies distributed. In 2006 more than one million homes used it. In fact it was used at the 2009 White House Seder! The Maxwell House Haggadah has been handed out for free for this long period of time. Here’s the history – it first appeared in 1934 as a promotional gimmick for the coffee company, offered for free with the purchase of a can of certified kosher-for-Passover coffee.
But there’s more to the story. I’ve always thought coffee comes from a bean, right, the coffee bean. Not to get into too much “Jewish” stuff, but there are two classifications of Jews based on their geographic origins. We have the Ashkenazic Jews (from Eastern Europe – which is most of what is here in the US) and the Sephardic Jews (from Spain, Africa, and the Middle East). They have slightly different “rules” around what you can and can not eat – and don’t ask me why, although I have my opinions! The Ashkenazic Jews do not eat legumes on Passover. A bean is a legume. So, that would mean no coffee – if you are playing along with the rules. So, in 1923 Rabbi Bezalel Rosen (no relation) determined that the coffee bean counted as a berry, not a bean or legume. so coffee was now allowed on Passover! Quite the story!
So what better way to promote coffee than a free Haggadah!