1932 — the classic Maxwell House Haggadah was published for the first time by the Joseph Jacobs Advertising Agency of New York City, the latter at that time owned by the founder, Joseph Jacobs. The story begins with Jewish people of Ashkenazi descent (Ashkenazi Jews are Jews whose ancestors came from either Central, Northwestern, and/or Eastern Europe) following a traditional custom not to drink coffee during the Passover festival on the mistaken belief that the coffee bean was an actual bean that therefore fell into the category of legumes, and any food which fell into this category was religiously forbidden to be consumed during Passover. In 1923, Joseph Jacobs, an advertising genius of New York City, consulted an Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Hersch Kohn, to determine if the Maxwell House coffee bean was, in a technical sense, more similiar to a berry — a fruit — than a bean and therefore, kosher for Passover, meaning it would be permitted by the Orthodox rabbi to be consumed during Passover. After the Orthodox rabbi issued his approval and certification that the Maxwell House coffee bean was in fact, kosher for Passover, General Foods, with the help of the Joseph Jacobs Advertising Agency, started to market Maxwell House coffee for Passover to Jews in New York City in 1923 Sales of Maxwell House coffee during Passover among the Jewish population rose dramatically. The success of this strategy led Joseph Jacobs to reinforce the kosher-for-Passover message by developing a Haggadah for Maxwell House in 1932 which, while marketing Maxwell House coffee as kosher-for-Passover to the Jewish population of New York City, was to be printed and then distributed for free to supermarkets across the United States, with free copies of the Maxwell House Haggadah being offered with the purchase of any Maxwell House coffee product, in a clever and successful effort to become a household name among American Jewry. Orthodox rabbis were again consulted to ensure the accuracy of the Haggadah. Since the Maxwell House Haggadah, noted for its simplicity, was given away at no cost, it became one of the most popular Haggadahs not only among American Jewry, but also among Canadian-Jewry. In fact, the Joseph Jacobs Advertising Agency still produces the Maxwell House Haggadah as of this writing in 2008 and as such, it is now the longest running sales promotion in advertising history, with over 50 million Maxwell House Haggadahs having been printed, making it the most widely used Haggadah in the world, and the most widely circulated Judaica item in the world. The result of this advertising campaign was that Maxwell House coffee became the preferred coffee in Jewish households. In the mid-1960’s, the Haggadah used a more modern English-language translation, and in 1997, the color scheme, traditionally a blue color, was changed to a multicolor scheme. Today (2008 as of this writing), Maxwell House is owned by Kraft Foods.

Happy Passover

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