Ben Shahn grew up in a family of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. Although raised in the Orthodox tradition, he adopted a more secular Jewish identity as he grew older and became more politically aware. After studying art in Paris in the 1920s, he came to prominence during the 1930s; and his work reflects his concern with the intense social and political problems of that decade.
Despite his distance from religious practice and preoccupation with poverty and labor, Shahn incorporated Jewish themes and images into his work. One of the most famous of his religious works is the limited edition Haggadah, published in 1966. Like generations of artists before him, Shahn took advantage of the evocative text and rendered a unique series of illustrations. When compared to the facsimile manuscript Haggadot, Shahn's artistic innovation is clearly evident. The Haggadot in the Sondheim collection demonstrate the tremendous variation between veneration of tradition and potential for radical reimagining offered by the text.
Shahn was trained as a lithographer and the variety of artistic techniques within the Haggadah attest to his skill and appreciation for the potential of the print medium. The frontispiece of the work, signed by the artist, was later reissued as an individual print.