Two Mimouna Gatherings in DC Offer Distinctive Takes on the Moroccan Tradition

Written by Michele Amira Pinczuk and Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community Spotlights

Although the Mimouna celebration marking the end of Passover originated in Jewish communities in Morocco, North African Jews eventually brought this unique tradition with them to new communities around the world — including, of course, the United States.

Two events in DC each offered their own spin on this old and cherished tradition.

Mimouna at the Smithsonian

On April 28 — the day after Passover ended for everyone outside of Israel — the National Museum of African Art collaborated with Sephardic Heritage International DC (SHIN DC) and the Embassy of Morocco to host “Mimouna at the Smithsonian.”

Speakers highlighted the narrative of goodwill and trust between Moroccan Jews and Muslims that has been a hallmark of Mimouna for centuries. The 400 to 500 visitors throughout the program also had a chance to sample traditional Mimouna food, such as moufletta flat bread with honey, and examine an exhibit of historical postcards depicting Moroccan Jewry from the private collection of Dr. Kenneth X. Robbins.

Rabbi Yaacov Benamou of JewishROC, a Jewish outreach center in Rockville, Maryland, provided insights for the crowd into the origins of the Mimouna tradition.

One explanation was that word mimouna is a cognate form of the Hebrew word emunah (faith). The Jewish month of Nisan is characterized as the month of redemption; and at the end of Passover, when the redeemer still has not come, Moroccan Jews celebrated Mimouna to strengthen belief in the coming redemption.

Additionally, “[t]here was a beautiful relationship between the Jewish and Muslim communities that took expression during Mimouna,” he said. Jews sold all their grain and leaven to non-Jews, who helped them to fulfill their biblical obligation not to own it and then returned it after the holiday. This established trust because even though the non-Jews “held the keys to the grain economy of that year,” they returned it after Passover.

“Growing up in Morocco, I will never forget how beautiful it was right after the holiday was over,” he said. “The Muslims would bring all the leaven, flour, and whatever the Jewish people needed for Mimouna.”

Rachid Zein from the Embassy of Morocco said the embassy was extremely happy to honor the important values of Mimouna, where Moroccan Jewish families opened their homes to different neighbors and friends.

“It is with great pride that we see this longstanding tradition continue within our Moroccan diaspora and in particular here in the United States,” said Zein. “The values of coexistence, mutual respect, and openness that Mimouna celebrates are even more important today.”

“Mimouna has become a symbol across the world of how communities of different faiths can live together in peace and harmony. It is an important message that you all express strongly by your presence here today.

Mimouna at the Club

Coming at Mimouna from another angle, young professionals’ organization Sephardic Jews in DC partnered with EntryPoint DC (EPDC), Israel Policy Forum (IPF ATID), Israeli American Council (IAC) Young Professionals, JScreen, and Israeli House for a Mimouna-themed dance party. Mimouna is traditionally celebrated immediately after Passover ends, and this sold-out gathering drew 150 people to U Street club Local 16 for a night of food, music, and dancing on the evening of April 27.

“Our Mimouna was a modern twist on a classic Mimouna party, specifically designed for a younger generation of Jews who don’t have that much familiarity with the traditional North African Mimouna holiday,” said Sephardic Jews in DC Founder Jackie Feldman. “Our party featured a DJ, who played a mixture of classic Sephardic and Moroccan Jewish tunes followed by some popular Israeli dance music, along with lots of delicious pastries to mark the end of Passover.” It also boasted belly dancers, a henna artist, and drink specials all night.

“It was a wonderful way to celebrate the end of Passover, and we can’t wait until we can celebrate again next year,” she said.

By Michele Amira Pinczuk
and Kol HaBirah Staff


 

Michele Amira Pinczuk writes for publications including Bethesda Magazine, Washington Jewish Week, and The Source Magazine. When she is not writing, she can be found doing Israeli dance, jamming to hip hop, and enjoying margaritas.