A joyous north African tradition is celebrated by many in Israel, on the day after Passover, and this year, Milwaukeeans can get a taste of the Jewish-Muslim celebration known as Mimouna.
The origins of Mimouna, a tradition dating back to the mid-18th century, are unknown. Some say that the Jews of North African descent, namely Moroccans, welcomed Muslim neighbors to their homes to herald the beginning of spring and to thank them for keeping their chametz (leaven) during the Passover holiday. The neighbors would bring the flour, which was forbidden in Jewish homes over Passover, and the Jewish hosts would prepare the treats.
On the day after Passover this year – 2 p.m. Sunday, April 24 – Congregation Shalom will host a band led by bassist/composer Omer Avital. His critically acclaimed music is described as a fusion of jazz, classical and Middle Eastern. Afterwards, the community is invited to enjoy leavened treats.
The free event, for which an RSVP is encouraged, is co-sponsored by the Israel Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Congregation Shalom and the Jewish Community Relations Council, which is reaching out to the Muslim community to join in the celebration.
“The Mimouna tradition demonstrates that the Jewish world is diverse, that Jews come from all backgrounds,” said Uria Roth, the Milwaukee community shaliach at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. He hopes attendees will “feel connected to people from our community and other communities.”
The word “mimouna” is a combination of two words, one Hebrew and the other Arabic, meaning faith and luck, Roth said.
The Mimouna celebration welcomes the forbidden food back. “People used to stay awake all night and make these delicious, yummy foods and then celebrate the next morning and throughout the day,” he said.
“It’s not a big deal in the United States because most of the community descends from Ashkenazi or eastern European Jews,” Roth said.
Tehila Cohen, event committee co-chair, experienced the Mimouna celebration when she lived in Jerusalem. “My family is not from North Africa, so I celebrated it with friends.”
Today in Israel, Mimouna is an annual celebration with Israelis of all backgrounds coming together in homes, at city parks and on Tel Aviv’s beaches.
“It’s just a different way to experience Jewish tradition than the way I grew up, said Cohen, a member of Beth Israel Ner Tamid, who moved to Milwaukee from Israel six months ago.
“Our traditions are so diverse because we are coming from so many places. You can experience all the traditions in Israel because it’s kind of like a melting pot, Jews from all over the world.”
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How to go
What: Mimouna celebration, with band led by Omer Avital
When: Sunday, April 24, 2 p.m.
Where: Congregation Shalom, Fox Point
More info: Uriar@MilwaukeeJewish.org or 414-390-5705.