Enlightenment

Ahavat Tzion Presents These Songs of Freedom

Joint musical collaboration CD between BAI, Zion Baptist Church and Main Line Reform Temple.

“Contrary to the belief of some, the Jews are a multiracial, multi-ethnic group. But it should not be surprising that Judaism’s 4,000-year-old creed spans geography as well as time, or that its message appeals to members of all races, on all continents.” ~Karen Primrack, Author, Under One Canopy

The Seder Table – Artist Lynne Feldman

The scattering of the Jews around the world over thousands of years, to nearly every continent, has meant that these traditions have evolved and been adapted to different cultures and settings. Here are some Passover traditions from around the world.

Black Jews Relate to Slave Narrative: The yearly reminder of freedom is what many black Jews appreciate most about Passover by Patrice Worthy

Tarece Johnson attends Temple Sinai with children Hannah and Nile.

Passover is a reminder that G-d prefers his children to be free from spiritual, emotional, physical and mental bondage. But for black Jews the weeklong holiday holds special meaning, often enriching their experience as part of the Jewish people.

The Haggadah reading often is combined with reflections on the history of slavery in America and the present circumstances of black people.

“We celebrate this holiday every year, and how many times are we reminded that ‘I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of Egypt’?” said Sandra Lawson, a rabbinical student who belongs to Congregation Bet Haverim.

The yearly reminder of freedom is what many black Jews appreciate most about Passover.

Nadiya Boyce-Rosen said Passover is a reminder that slavery should never happen again.

“You have people trying to say slaves are the new immigrant. When it’s posed that way, you need a reminder,” Boyce-Rosen said. “It’s very important to ensure your culture lives on when you have people who try to water it down. History is important.”

The Passover seder gives Lawson the opportunity to relate the story to her black heritage and tradition of standing up against oppression. “That’s why so many Jews are involved in social justice,” she said, “because we have this holiday.”

The rabbinical student said it’s fascinating to see how blacks and others relate differently to the story.

“A lot of people don’t realize it’s a slave narrative. They are looking at it from an Ashkenazi Jewish point of view, and then when we talk about it, they realize,” Lawson said.

She uses the example of Exodus 16:3, when the Hebrews complain about starving in the wilderness as free people after having plenty to eat as slaves, to point out characteristics of people with a slave mentality.

“It’s a slave narrative and trauma story,” Lawson said. “All the kvetching they were doing about having more fish as slaves is trauma.”

There are deep connections between African-American history and the Exodus from Egypt, Tarece Johnson said, including similar struggles and oppression.

“I celebrate it from a Jewish perspective, but as an African-American I see the fight and struggles just like ours,” Johnson said. “It’s that spirit to fight and survive.”

The story has relevance today.

Boyce-Rosen said it’s like a life lesson baked into her calendar. Passover is a story about a particular group, but what applies to the group also applies to the individual.

“You look at the story and see the fight that had to occur and the work that needed to be done. It’s something that galvanizes me, and you say, ‘This is why we need to be educated,’ ” Boyce-Rosen said.

For Reuben Formey, a black Hasidic rapper who performs as Prodezra, talking to his children about slavery is important at the seder while also discussing the history of blacks in America.

“At my table in particular there’s always us speaking about freedom and slavery and the connection to it,” he said. “We compare and contrast and talk about how it is to be African-American in society and the idea of the slave mentality.”

But the relationship is complex, Formey said. Judaism allots black Jews the freedoms that come with Jewish spirituality and culture.

“Obviously, we value the skin which is African-American and the spirituality which is Jewish, so we bring those together, and it does hold special meaning to have a certain level of freedom,” he said.

There are stark differences between the Jewish and black slave narratives, Deanna (Dvora) Windham said. Jews kept their language, names and clothes — three elements essential to identity that were denied to African slaves and their descendants.

That makes a huge difference. During Passover, Windham can’t help but think about the experience of her African ancestors.

“I’m extra-careful in remembering that they were slaves, but they were stolen and robbed of being able to have families, so it became a different experience,” Windham said. “Anything I learned about it, I learned on my own, except the small paragraph in history books in public school.”

Hearing the slave narrative every year is not an option, Windham said. Even after the seder, when the story is dissected for hours, Jews reflect for a week on why we deprive ourselves of certain foods.

In that respect, she said, the story of slavery is something you just can’t walk away from.

“I wish it was something black Americans had where you sit down, tell stories and have a liturgy. There’s meaning to that,” Windham said. “It’s not optional if you’re Conservative, Reform or Orthodox; everyone is doing it. However, you’re doing it first seder; you’re talking about the Passover. I wish my cousins had that, my sisters had that or my brothers had that. It’s disheartening, but in some ways I feel lucky.” Originally posted here: http://atlantajewishtimes.timesofisrael.com/black-jews-relate-to-slave-narrative/

PASSOVER CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD

Ethiopian Jewish women making Matzoh

Destroying Earthenware Dishes: The Jews of Ethiopia strongly identify with the story of Exodus — and indeed, the first of the famous airlifts that delivered them to Israel was actually called Operation Moses. In some Ethiopian families, the matriarch would destroy all of her earthenware dishes and make a new set to mark a true break with the past. Ethiopian Jews had no Haggadahs, and read about Exodus directly from the Bible. Matzahs were homemade, often from chickpea flour, and on the morning of the seder, a lamb would be slaughtered. They also refrained from eating fermented dairy like yogurt, butter, or cheese

Whipping Each Other with Scallions

Jews living in Afghanistan developed the tradition of using scallions or leeks to stand for the Egyptian slavedrivers’ whips, using them to lightly “whip” each others’ backs. Jews have lived in Afghanistan at least since the Babylonian conquest 2,000 years ago, but in 2004 only two Jews were left in the country. It is now estimated that only a single Jew lives in Afghanistan, as the other died in 2005. The largest group of Afghan Jews in the world is comprised of 200 families in Queens, New York.

Re-enacting Crossing the Red Sea

Moses Parts the Red Sea. Ethiopian Jewish Embroidery Project: NACOEJ

Hasidic Jews from the Polish town of Góra Kalwaria, known as Gerer Hasids, re-enact the crossing of the Red Sea on the seventh day of Passover by pouring water on the floor, lifting up their coats, and naming the towns that they would cross in their region of Poland. They raise a glass at each “town” and then thank God for helping them reach their destination.

Every Passover, Jews prepare charoset, a sweet paste that can be made with fruits like dates, figs, and apples. The result is meant to remind sedergoers of the mortar in the bricks that Jewish slaves in Egypt used in their labor. In the British territory of Gibraltar, a tiny peninsula off Spain where Jews have lived for about 650 years, there’s a special recipe for charoset: the dust of real bricks, ground up and mixed in.

Tapping Guests on the Head: In a custom that began in Spain in the fourteenth century, the seder leader walks around the table three times with the seder plate in hand, tapping it on the head of each guest. Many Moroccan, Turkish, and Tunisian Jews adopted this tradition, which is said to bless those whose heads are tapped. This is sometimes connected to the Talmudic custom of “uprooting” the seder plate so that guests might ask questions about the Jews in Egypt.

Telling the Exodus Story in Costume: In many Sephardic traditions, (a term used to describe Jews originally hailing from the Iberian peninsula and North Africa), an elder member of the family enacts a skit in costume, posing as an ancient Jew who experienced the exodus from Egypt and describing the miracles he saw. In the countries of the Caucasus region, Iraq, Kurdistan, Yemen, and others, the seder (usually the head of household), would put the afikoman matzah in a bag, throw it over his shoulder, and use a cane to support himself. Sometimes a child participated, and there was a call and response with the table: “Where are you coming from?” “Egypt,” was the reply, followed by the story of the Israelites following Moses out of slavery. “And where are you going?” someone at the table would ask. “Jerusalem!”

 In the Syrian community, the custom of breaking the middle matzah on the seder table into pieces (known as yachatz) can sometimes take on Kabbalistic meaning. Matzah broken into the shape of the Hebrew letters “daled” and “vav” correspond to numbers, which in turn add up to 10, representing the 10 holy emanations of God. Jews from North Africa, including from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya, break the matzoh into the shape of the Hebrew letter “hey,” which corresponds to the number five.

Inspecting Rice for Defects:  Jews have lived in Cochin, in the Indian state of Kerala, for 2,000 years. In the tiny community that remains, Passover preparation begins immediately after Hanukkah, about 100 days beforehand. After Purim, Cochin’s Jews scrub their house of chametz (bread and any fermented grain) and repaint them, keeping special Passover dishes in a separate room. Wells are drained and cleaned for fear of chametz, and every grain of rice is inspected for defects that might let impure chametz in. Jews usually maintain warm relations with the larger community, but during Passover and the preceding months, they keep entirely to themselves.

 

Many different customs surround the welcoming of the prophet Elijah, who is said to visit every seder. While Ashkenazi Jews (whose families came from Germany and later Eastern Europe) commonly leave a goblet of wine for the prophet, in Casablanca, Morocco, Jews would set up an elaborate chair with cushions and ornaments and leave it empty for Elijah’s arrival. And in Marrakesh, dishes are prepared using the wine from Elijah’s cup. Ashkenazi Jews often open the door to allow Elijah in, a tradition that wasn’t historically a part of the Sephardic practice.

Wearing White: Both Hasidic Jews and Moroccan Jews have the custom of wearing white to seder, possibly to signify joyfulness. Some Jews wear white on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, or on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, although this varies.

Displaying Gold and Silver Jewelry: Three passages in Exodus say that the Israelites received gold and silver from the Egyptians (for example, 12:35: “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing”). Accordingly, Hungarian Jews had a tradition of putting all of their gold and silver jewelry on the seder table.

Tossing Pebbles in the Ocean

Among Moroccan Jews, Mimouna is celebrated the day after Passover with a generous feast of baked goods. Some say it marks Maimonides’ birthday, while others link it to the Arabic word for luck. A table is heaped with items symbolizing luck or fertility, many repeating the number 5, such as dough with five fingerprint marks or five silver coins. Fig leaves, live fish, stalks of wheat, and honey might also be included. In some parts of the Moroccan Jewish community, Jews entered the ocean and tossed pebbles behind their backs to ward off evil spirits.  Original article here.

The Inside Story on Passover

In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.

Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, “Why change? How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Don’t you know who you are?”

Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds. But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.

Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world, with unbounded light!

EXODUS by Bob Marley

Open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?
Exodus! Movement of Jah’s people

GET A GUIDED MEDITATION FOR YOUR PASSOVER SEDER HERE:

Guided visualization actually is reported not to work with about 10% of people, some of us are simply hard wired for different forms of spirituality. I mention this so those who have this difference won’t wear themselves out trying.
For those who can benefit from guided visualization it is a very powerful spiritual tool. Several major medical research centers have discovered that it can even be a tool for active healing (called psycho-neuro-immunology), although this meditation is primarily designed for shifting consciousness.
Be sure to read slowly, with feeling and honor all the pauses fully, they are very important elements…like rests between the notes of a score.

SING-A-LONG!
Go down Moses, Way down in Egypt land.
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!
Now when Israel was in Egypt land..Let My People Go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand…Let My People Go!
So the Lord said: ‘Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt land,
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!’
So Moses went to Egypt land…Let My People Go!
He made ole Pharaoh understand… Let My People Go!
Yes, the Lord said ‘Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt land
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!
Thus spoke the Lord, bold Moses said: Let My People Go!
‘If not I’ll smite your firstborn’s dead’ Let My People Go!
Thus the Lord said ‘Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt land
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!’
Tell ole Pharaoh To Let My People Go

Moses in the Bulrushes by Mary Auld, Illustrated by Diana Mayo
Lavishly illustrated retelling of the Biblical story. Includes background information about the story, a useful word section and a section of questions to encourage further thought.

 

Ethiopian Jewish Embroidery-Making Matzoh for Passover – NACOEJ

~ May All Of Us Be Listened To & Embraced & Welcomed & Supported ~ 

Recognized in Israel as the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) marks the date on which Israel was declared a nation by the Israeli Knesset in 1948. For many North Americans, Yom Ha’atzmaut is a time for showing solidarity with Israel’s right to exist and its importance as a Jewish state. Celebrations are common in North American cities with large Jewish communities like New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver Canada where the day takes on a festive air and is often marked by parades musical events and fairs.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) 2016 begins the evening of Wednesday, May 4 and ends in the evening of Thursday, May 5.

Yom_Hashoah_candleAt the rising of the sun and at its going down,
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer,
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.

Ani Ma’amin
Also known as the ‘Varshever geto-lid fun frumer yidn’ (Song of religious Jews in the Warsaw ghetto), the song ‘Ani M’amin’ (I believe) takes its words from a prayer written in the 12th century by the great Judaic philosopher Moses ben Maimon (Maimonedes’/ acronymed Rambam for “Rabbeinu Moshe Ben Maimon“). It is a declaration of faith and certainty that redemption will come in the form of the Messiah, even though he may delay. The song was sung by Jews as they rode on boxcars to the camps during the Holocaust. In the face 0f the most unspeakable horror, there was this majestic affirmation of hope.

Ani Ma’amin by Lynette, Ben Sidran: Life’s a Lesson
Ani maamin beemuna shlemah

B’viat hamashiach
V’af al pi sheyitmameha
Im kol zeh achake lo
B’chol yom sheyavo

I believe with a complete belief
In the coming of the Messiah
And even though he may tarry
I will wait for him whenever he comes.

 Personal photos from family visit to Dachau

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Blacks During the Holocaust

We Remember the Afro-German Rhineland Children

agThere, but for the grace of God, go I… ~MochaJuden

Underscoring Hitler’s obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilized, in order to prevent further “race polluting”, as Hitler termed it.

The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder.

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Above: Two survivors prepare food outside the barracks. On the right is presumably Jean (Johnny) Voste, born in Belgian Congo, was the only black prisoner in Dachau.

 

Gert Schramm, born: November 28, 1928, Erfurt, Germany, Died: April 18, 2016, Erfurt, Germany, was a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was the only black prisoner. He was the son of a German woman and an African-American father and was arrested in violation of Nazi racial purity laws.

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Interview in German. In a nutshell, he is saying he was born in 1928, illegitimate son of an African-American and a white German woman. His father perished probably in Auschwitz, while he himself survived the Concentration Camp of Buchenwald.

Blacks During the Holocaust

bwAbove: Nazi propaganda photo depicts friendship between an “Aryan” and a black woman. The caption states: “The result! A loss of racial pride.” Germany, prewar. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Article: In Germany’s extermination program for black Africans, a template for the Holocaust

l_d16c9f116563b85d875af487dd128c32Germany’s Black Holocaust: 1890-1945. In the 1890s Blacks were tortured in German concentration camps in Southwest Africa (now called Namibia) when Adolph Hitler was only a child. Colonial German doctors conducted unspeakable medical experiments on these emaciated helpless Africans. Thousands of Africans were massacred. Regrettably, historians neglected to properly register the slaughter—that is, to lift it from the footnote in history that it had been relegated to— until now.

NEVER AGAIN must remain more than a mere slogan!

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Jews of Color is a pan-ethnic term that is used to identify Jews whose family origins are originally in African, Asian or Latin-American countries. Jews of Color may identify as Black, Latino/a, Asian-American or of mixed heritage such as biracial or multi-racial.

Due to several factors, Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews from North African and Arab lands vary in whether or not they self-identify as “Jews of Color.”

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“The Jewish experience is built upon foundations of diversity as old as the Jewish people, a reality that may be lost to many Jews who tend to think of other Jews as being only like themselves. The historical home of the Jews lies at the geographic crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Jews are an amalgam of many peoples and Jewish origins include a multitude of languages, nations, tribes, and skin colors.” ~The History of Jewish Diversity/ Be’chol Lashon

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The first show of its kind, Jews of Color explores the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Jewish community, sharing the unique perspectives of Jews from African-American, Asian, Hispanic and other non-”white” backgrounds. Defying our collective assumptions about what it means to be a Jew, and shedding light on perspectives that are too often ignored by the broader Jewish community, Jews of Color is not to be missed.

Featuring: host Joel Sanchez (Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services), Aliza Hausman (Blogger, “Memoirs of a Jewminicana”), Akira Ohiso (Author, “Survivor”), Yitz Jordan a.k.a. Y-Love (Rapper, Writer, Activist), and Yavilah McCoy (Jewish educator, Diversity Practitioner, and Founder of Ayecha Jewish Diversity Resources).

“The most powerful thing I want to happen in the Jewish community is that we gain more space of love for one another…”~Yavilah McCoy

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Olam echad, Hashem echad, ha’am echad” (One world, one God, one people)

“Ani Yehudi”, I am a Jew.
Artwork & products by Yosef’s Dreams/ Zazzle


JEWS AROUND THE WORLD by Ruth Brin

Who Are These Jews?

There were women who sat in the market
selling beets and cabbages so their men could study:
They were Jews.

There were men of Yemen, great swordsmen,
guards of the king: they were Jews.

There are dark women of India, wearing saris,
Black farmers from Ethiopia, Children with slanted eyes:
All Jews.

There are dressmakers and sculptors, thieves
and philanthropists, scholars and nurses,
beggars and generals.

There are women who follow every rule of Kashrut and
men who know none of the rules, yet all of us are Jews.

Though we are not alike in mind or body,
somewhere in the depths of our souls
we know we are the children of one people.

We share history, a hope, and some prayers:
We speak many languages:
We have heard one Voice:

All of us stood together at Sinai
When our past and our future
Exploded in thunder and flame before us.

Faces of Israel

All over the world, Am Yisrael Chai,
All over the world, Am Yisrael Chai,
All over the world, is where we live
and Israel lives in every Jewish heart.
From North and South and East and
West to you we say Shalom, yet
always we know Israel is our home
away from home.

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Jet Magazine Mar 31, 1955
Ethiopian jews israel-jet-magazine-mar-31-1955Photo courtesy of Vieilles_annonces of Flickr

For 1500 years, Beta Israel held onto their Jewish traditions in Ethiopia, praying on the Sigd holiday to one day return to Jerusalem.

Tzvat (Safed) is one of the oldest towns in Israel, situated on mountain tops in the Upper Gallile, since the era of the 2nd Temple. It the center for Kabbalah scholars.

The history of the exile of the lost tribe of Menashe dates back over 2500 years. Hundreds of descendants believe they have found their ancient home in Samaria.
“He (Menashe) also will become a people, and he also will be great. However, his younger brother (Ephraim) will be greater than he, and his descendants (B’nei Efrayim) will become a multitude of nations. He blessed them that day, saying, ‘In you will Israel bless, saying, ‘G-d make you as Ephraim and as Menashe.’ He set Ephraim before Menashe” (Bereishit 48:19-20).

Israelis Wear Loks

Just near the Carmel Market on the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian walk. Arts & Crafts Fair on Tuesdays and Fridays when the artists themselves are offering their creations. Chantal, Nahalat Binymin Art & Crafts Fair. Tel Aviv

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Hanging Hand painted Glass by Chantal

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Update your calendars. We DO have a holiday during the month Cheshvan!

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SIGD CELEBRATION , SUNDAY NOVEMBER 3rd @1pm.St. Nicholas Park 135th Street HARLEM, NYC. Join the Beta Israel Community as we celebrate the SIGD Festival.

The National Holiday of the Ethiopian Jewish Sigd

The Knesset legislated the Sigd Law-2008, declaring the 29th of Heshvan as a national holiday. Sigd is a holiday of Ethiopian Jewry, the community named “Beta Israel.” The name of the holiday is derived from the Hebrew word for bowing or prostration, “sgida”.

Sigd is celebrated on the 29th of Heshvan – 50 days following Yom Kippur (similar to the holiday of Shavuot, celebrated 50 days after Passover), and the community rejoices for the renewal of the alliance between the people, God, and His Torah.

In Ethiopia, the community used to gather from all distant villages to celebrate communally. The day prior to the holiday was used for carrying out special prayers to welcome the following day and for washing their festive clothing. The Kes (spiritual leader) would prepare cow and sheep meat for the feast to be held to end the holiday, during which the community fasted.

The Sigd ceremony was held on a high mountain, considered to be pure due to its resemblance to Mt. Sinai on which Moses was given the Torah. Elder members of the community would climb up to the place of prayer and ensure its purity and strengthen its surrounding fence, in front of which they would prepare the area to place the Torah scroll. Early in the morning, the community would bathe in the river and gather at the prayer house. The Kes would then extract the Torah to the sounds of singing and cries of happiness and lead the crowd up the mountain. Some of those present would carry with them a rock symbolizing their surrender before God and as a sign of regret for their sins.

The ceremony opens with the Kes reading excerpts from the Bible, spoken in Ge’ez and translated to Amharic. The excerpts included: Receiving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (Exodus, 19-20), Nehemiah’s ceremony for renewal of the alliance with those returning from the Babylonian exile (Nehemiah, 8-9), and excerpts from the books of Leviticus, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Psalms. Furthermore, the Kes would pray and accompany their service with sermons and preaching.

During the ceremony the members of the community would kneel, bow and direct their hands at the sky. This was followed by an interval of trumpets, while saying: “As we have had the fortune to celebrate the holiday this year, we shall have the fortune to hold it in Jerusalem in the next year.” The prayers following these words expressed joy, comfort and their hope for the return to Zion and the building of Jerusalem. The participants would return to the prayer house in the afternoon to hold a festive meal, accompanied with songs and dance.

Ethiopian Sigd Festival – a religious worship in Jerusalem: Slideshow


Today, as the majority of the Ethiopian Jewish community has made Aliyah to the State of Israel, members of the community make their way to Jerusalem, to the Wailing Wall and to the promenade at the “Armon Hanatziv” neighborhood in the city. The holiday serves as an annual gathering of the entire Ethiopian community and they see it as a chance to strengthen their affinity to their history and culture.

The Kessim carry the Bible holding colorful umbrellas. They stand on top of a stage to read the excerpts and prayers before the community. Many officials come and greet the audience, while the crowd continues to observe their fast until late in the afternoon.

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The Jewish Multiracial Network

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16th Annual Retreat!

June 7-9, 2013

The Capital Retreat Center in Waynesboro, PA www.capitalretreat.org

(Dining is under strict Star-K Kashrut Supervision, with glatt kosher meat and cholov yisrael dairy products.)

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Register HERE!

“You are not alone. Just pull up a mental vision of a Jews of Color (JOC) version of the Verizon [network] commercial where all those people are standing behind the technician – You in front and all of the rest of us standing behind you ready to assist – the days of any of us fighting alone are over – keep the image present in your mind as you encounter people’s ignorance…” ~Yavilah McCoy

 Jewish unity is possible – really! It begins with acting decently toward one another; it follows with tolerating others as they pursue lives of goodness; it culminates with many different Jews, but just one heart. We are allowed to think and observe differently than one another, but we must always act decently toward one another.~Asher, Lev Echad

To love your neighbor as yourself is the major principle of the Torah.
~ Rabbi Akiva

“May It Be Your Will That Our Merits Increase Like The Black-Eyed Peas.”

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Quentin Bacon, Photographer: ‘Aromas of Aleppo’

New Year’s Table: A tradition for Syrian Jews and those from the American South.

At Rosh Hashanah, Black-eyed Peas for Good Fortune by Devra Ferst, The Jewish Daily Forward

A Google search linking black-eyed peas and Jews reveals a wide discussion about the Jewish roots of the popular hip-hop band (sadly, none) and a riff on Lenny Bruce’s Jewish vs. goyish shtick that peas are Jewish while black-eyed ones are goyish.

But black-eyed peas are Jewish. Jews from both Syria and the American South eat them as part of a celebratory meal on Rosh Hashanah.

One tradition dates back to a 2,500-year-old text and the other crops up in the mid 20th century. Could the two be connected?

The peas — actually beans from the cowpea family — are white with a small black circle, or “eye,” near the base. Indigenous to West Africa, Ethiopia or the Far East (depending on your source), they made their way to Judea at least 500 years before the Common Era and were brought to America by slaves in the 17th century. When cooked alone they are relatively bland; however, being easy to grow and high in protein and carbohydrates makes them an inexpensive staple in Southern states and in the Middle East, though not much of a holiday treat.

Poopa Dweck, author of “Aromas of Aleppo” (HarperCollins, 2007), explains in her book that Syrian Jewish families begin the New Year with a Seder, a ceremony before a Rosh Hashanah meal. “The foods of the New Year holiday symbolize a wish for a sweet year. Aleppian Jews eat several symbolic foods during the Rosh Hashanah dinner… that correspond to the wishes of the Jewish people for the coming year,” she writes.

The tradition comes from the Babylonian Talmud, which states, “Abaye said, ‘Now that you have said that an omen is significant, at the beginning of each year, each person should accustom himself to eat gourds, black-eyed peas, fenugreek….” Each of the foods (nine in total) represents something different for the year ahead; the black-eyed peas symbolize good fortune. For a Syrian meal, they’re traditionally prepared in a simple recipe with garlic, onions and veal. The dish can be spiced up with cinnamon and allspice or flavored with tomatoes or tomato paste.

The dish symbolizes prosperity in ways: A single serving contains so many of the small beans and the dish’s name pays homage to abundance. Black-eyed peas are rubiyah (in Aramaic and Hebrew) or lubiya (in Arabic), which are cognates of the Hebrew words harbeh, meaning many, and l’harabot, to increase. The idea is to take in prosperity at the start of the year, with the hope that it will serve as a good omen for the year ahead. While the Syrian Jewish community is the only one to eat the beans in a Seder Rosh Hashanah, other Sephardic communities have adopted the tradition of the Rosh Hashanah beans.

This culinary tradition likely arrived in America with Sephardic Jews who moved to the South in the 18th century. Many Jews of the South had black cooks, who prepared a combination of what their Jewish owners or bosses requested and dishes from their own culinary traditions. In the case of black-eyed peas, those traditions overlapped, both groups having their own preparations of the beans. Though the two black-eyed pea traditions intersected in the early South, they didn’t meld into one; nor did one seem to rub off on the other.

Around the same time, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas January 1, still widely popular in the American South, was crystallizing in the surrounding non-Jewish communities. Hoppin’ John, a dish made with black-eyed peas, rice and pork, is eaten to obtain a prosperous year. It’s served in a meal alongside greens whose leaves symbolize paper money, thus wealth.

The sources of both the dish’s name and its symbolism have become the province of legend and lore. Some argue that the beans represent coins, while others argue that because they expand while cooking, they represent abundance. Southern food historian John Taylor explains that the combination of rice and beans in the dish came “with the enslaved” from Africa, while the tradition of eating them on “New Year’s probably came from the Caribbean, where they prepare a similar dish called Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians).”

The first recipe on record for the dish in the South is in “The Carolina Housewife,” from 1847, one of the nation’s earliest cookbooks. It’s likely, however, that the dish was prepared much earlier, particularly since its roots are in slave culinary traditions, which were maintained orally. Over time, the dish was adopted by white Southerners for whom the slaves cooked, and was incorporated into the greater Southern culinary canon, particularly of the low country in the Carolinas and parts of Virginia and Georgia.

More than 150 years later, the dish not only appears in households on secular New Year’s Day, but also in kosher variations on tables of Jewish families in the South celebrating the Jewish New Year. Jewish recipes (found in Sisterhood cookbooks from the South) often replace the pork with a smoked turkey leg, but there are also vegetarian preparations.

Marcie Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo” (University of North Carolina Press, 2005), explains that the tradition started in the 1960s: “On holidays, people cook traditionally, but there’s a group of people who like to add in regional flavors to give it a signature of place. What could be more of a symbolic dish than to grab that dish from the secular New Year’s and claim it for Rosh Hashanah?”

Ironically, it is by adopting this African-Caribbean-Southern-Christian tradition (possibly inflected by local Sephardim) that the Jews of the South are reclaiming and reconnecting to a Jewish tradition that dates back more than 2,000 years. Devra Ferst is the Forward’s editorial assistant. Original article can be read HERE.

Rosh Hashanah Egyptian Black-Eyed Peas by Diane Kaufman-Tobin

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed in a press

1.5 lb (750g) lamb or veal, cubed

1 lb (500g) tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 lb (500g) dried black-eyed peas, soaked for 1 hour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Salt and pepper

1-2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

Fry the onion in the oil till golden. Add the garlic, and when aroma rises add the meat. Stir to brown it all over. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Drain the black-eyed peas, and simmer on fresh water for 15 minutes, then drain and add them to the meat. Add cinnamon and allspice and cook for 2 hours, adding salt and pepper to taste and the sugar after about 1 hour.

L’shanah Tovah Tikatev V’taihatem!

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

shofarArtist: Lynn Feldman ~ Serigraph: She Blew the Shofar

L’shanah Tovah Tikatev V’taihatem!

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

shofar Avinu malkeinu sh’ma kolenu

Avinu malkeinu chatanu l’faneycha

Avinu malkeinu alkenu chamol aleynu

V’al olaleynu v’tapenu

Avinu malkeinu

Kaleh dever v’cherev v’raav mealeynu

Avinu malkeinu kalehchol tsar

Umastin mealeynu

Avinu malkeinu

Avinu malkeinu

Kotvenu b’sefer chayim tovim

Avinu malkeinu chadesh aleynu

Chadesh a leynu shanah tovah

Sh’ma kolenu

Sh’ma kolenu

Sh’ma kolenu

Avinu malkeinu

Avinu malkeinu

Chadesh a leynu

Shanah tovah

Avinu malkeinu

Sh’ma kolenu

Our Father Our King

Hear our prayer

We have sinned before thee

Have compassion upon us and upon our children

Help us bring an end to pestilence, war, and famine

Cause all hate and oppression to vanish from the earth

Inscribe us for blessing in the book of life

Let the new year be a good year for us

“Awake! Examine your deeds; repent and remember your Creator. Those of you who forget the truth and become involved only in vanity and emptiness, look into your souls; improve your ways and actions, forsake your evil path and negative thoughts.” (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance, Ch. 3)

Rosh Hashanah Talk on Multiculturalism by Bashari Rosenberg George

When I first got chosen to speak at Rosh Hashanah I was a little bit skeptical and unsure about whether I was asked for the right reasons. I thought it seemed a little too obvious for me to be the speaker. I am the “picture perfect” multicultural Jewish girl. Also, I’ve noticed a trend developing in the choice of speakers for Rosh Hashanah. The young person is always a girl, usually someone from JYCA (Jewish Youth for Community Action) and many have been participants in the FAITHS Youth

Leadership Initiative. Here I am, having just completed the FAITHS Initiative, a young black Jewish woman from JYCA! Everyone expected that I would speak. I felt I was being stereotyped, even though it was positive stereotype.

I thought about this dilemma and after having a long talk with my Mom I realized that I do have a lot to say about the subject of multiculturalism and Judaism. I shouldn’t let my discomfort or fear about being stereotyped stop me from using this opportunity to get the undivided attention of my community for seven whole minutes! PAUSE

I appreciate the honor of speaking at Rosh Hashanah. I am thankful to be part of a Jewish community that thinks that multiculturalism is so important and I am glad that Kehilla supports women and youth being up on the beema. But sometimes I think we try too hard to be “politically correct” and cover all the bases, so I feel that I’m expected to speak not only for youth and for women, but also for the “people of color” in our community. I think that often people take the visible things about me and only see what’s on the surface. Then, they act like they know me, but we’ve never actually formed a real relationship. They label me by what they may have heard -I’m a dancer, I’m a youth activist, I’m a Black Jew.

Even within JYCA, where I feel safe and completely loved, sometimes I am forced to be the representative of a group that I don’t feel I belong to. For example, on JYCA retreats sometimes we do different types of workshops. On one retreat TODOS Institute led a diversity training. We were divided into caucus groups of people who’ve been targets of oppression and oppressors. The goal was for the targeted people to speak about how they’ve been oppressed, to see how the other groups could ally with them. Some of the target groups were women, LGBTQ, youth and people of color. I felt forced to assume the identity of a “person of color” which is not actually how I identify myself. I felt I was being used as a token person so that the training could proceed, which is the opposite of what a diversity training should be. I felt artificially separated from my friends. I don’t especially feel oppressed as a Black person or as a bi-racial person – maybe more as a young person. Racism isn’t usually aimed at me so much as at people who have less money and opportunities than I do. There are many other factors that go into who is targeted, and this kind of approach oversimplifies the issue.

I don’t especially see myself as a Black Jew or even as Black and Jewish. In this country, people hear and see Black and think African American and fill in all the history of coming up from slavery in the United States. Culturally and ethnically that’s not what I am. It’s not that I am running away from that identity. If I pretended to be African American, I would be untrue to myself. When people ask me what I am, I say Trinidadian and Russian Jew, and that’s still a simplification of my background. My father is from Trinidad, the southernmost island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Trinidad is an extremely multicultural place – including Africans, Indians, Chinese, South Americans, Europeans and Arab Jews. My father’s background is very mixed – my great-grandparents on his side include French, Irish, and Huarahu Indian from Venezuela, a Ghanaian trader and Africans brought as slaves to work on the sugarcane plantations. My mother’s family are all Jews from Russia, even though I suspect there’s more mixture in there than we know. My Bubbie’s mother had Asian eyes, high prominent cheekbones and jet-black hair. My great uncle Israel, when he became old and bald, could easily have been mistaken for Chinese. Were we mixed with Asian Jews coming up through Mongolia into Georgia? Were we partly the result of violence and pogroms? We’ll probably never know.

We need to ask ourselves how the Jewish people, in our migration from North Africa, have become the varied mixture of people we see today. How did a brown skinned Semitic tribe miraculously become “white” with European features? And what about all the other Jews around the world – the Arab, African and Asian Jews? Look around this room at the variety of features, hair textures and skin tones. We are all multicultural Jews. I challenge each of you to take the time to look deep into your own heritage and background- farther back than the last few hundred years. Where does your identity end?

I’ve often challenged my mother when she says someone “looks Jewish”. Usually she means someone who is from New York of Eastern European descent. I say, “Look at me, do I look Jewish?” and she usually says, “Yes! You have very Jewish features.” But the world doesn’t look at me that way. It is not often assumed that I’m Jewish, even though I frequently wear one of the many beautiful Jewish stars my godmother, Hedy, has given to me. At school, sometimes people will say, “I love your necklace – what is it, a flower?” When I reply, “No, actually it’s a Jewish star,” their response is usually, “Oh! You’re Jewish?, or “You don’t look Jewish,” or some other expression of surprise. And I feel like, here we go again, I have to explain myself all over again. Where do I start… how much should I reveal of myself… does this person really care? It’s not just about looking Jewish, it’s about all the racial categories. People are so quick to say, “What are you?” expecting a one word racial definition. That’s not the answer I want to give. Race can’t substitute for taking the time to get to know who people really are. We need to challenge the whole way we see the world through racial eyes.

It’s interesting to me to have traveled to places in the world where nearly everyone seems mixed. For instance, I just came back from Toronto, where there are so many different kinds of people it was hard to even guess a person’s ethnicity, and after a while you stopped caring. Or, in Cuba, where people all think of themselves as Cuban and they’re proud of that identity. People there aren’t always separating themselves by their history. In lots of other places I have visited in the world I feel more comfortable than I do in America. I was more of the norm, and even when I wasn’t, people didn’t trip off of it. I think part of the problem in America is that it’s hard to find a common culture to belong to except for consumerism. There’s the old myth about “the American dream” but that hardly applies to everyone, so people feel the need to identify themselves some other way. Everyone wants to belong to something. Maybe that’s why we’re so divided. People construct racial categories as a way of distinguishing themselves. And that makes it easier for those in power to divide and conquer us. I want to especially call attention to the Arabs who in this day and time are being scapegoated, harassed and threatened. As Jews, who have so often been the subject of mistreatment, we should be able to relate to this. In the face of a violent world we need to find a way to stand together and overcome our differences. Within the human family the Arabs are definitely our cousins. Besides, it’s scientifically proven that race doesn’t even exist. The Human Genome project has shown that 99.9% of human genetic material is the same in every one of us. Underneath it all, we are all one species and our differences should be recognized and cherished instead of being used to categorize us.

Within this society that is so confused about race, I’ve found an interesting way to determine my self-identity and to deal with the identity crisis I am “supposed to” experience. In fact, I don’t feel torn or forced to choose. I don’t consider myself as half Black and half white, or part Trinidadian and part Jewish, or even as bi-racial. I consider myself a whole something else. Because I’m from the Bay Area I’ve been able to find close friends with similar backgrounds to mine who I can share my experiences with. We’ve created our own culture.

We consider ourselves SKITTLES – we represent all different colors, all different shades and flavors. The name “SKITTLES” originated when I was at a concert with a mixed group of friends, we were all wearing bright colors – pink, red, orange and blue, and I made a joke that we looked like SKITTLES – the rainbow candy. Then we realized that it actually went deeper than that. Over time we’ve had different chances to explore this idea – through Destiny Arts Center and the Hapa Club at Berkeley High. We recognize each other as SKITTLES – it’s a spicy attitude and a pride in who we are without being defined by how others see us. The name SKITTLES is starting to travel beyond our little clique. It’s even gotten into the broader culture of Berkeley High, and was included in a student-made slang dictionary. Whether or not people understand it, I prefer to define myself as a SKITTLE.

I guess if I were trying to put this all into one pretty little package about multiculturalism I would say, “Get to know each person as an individual.” Even though you’ll probably first judge someone by looking at them, don’t let that impression make you categorize them and don’t let it substitute for getting a closer look. And if by chance you want to get to know me as an individual, don’t just see the JYCA member, Destiny dancer and activist Bashari. Those activities and interests don’t define me, as those kinds of interests don’t define anyone. If you want to know me, come up and start a conversation. But as a personal favor, please don’t tell me that I am inspiring; tell me what I inspire in you. Don’t tell me what your perception of me is. Tell me your opinions, your interests and your ideas. Help me get to know you, not for who you represent but as an individual.

May all of us be listened to & embraced & welcomed & supported – in the coming year.

 

yom kippur

Shalom, Shalom!

NOA
“For a long time, it was out of style to sing beautifully,” says singer-songwriter Noa. “It was almost synonymous to lack of depth and creativity. Somehow, though, greats like Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell did it and survived unscathed. To me, that is the essence. I’m undoubtedly a fool for beauty.”

Achinoam Nini (Hebrew: אֲחִינוֹעַם נִינִי Aẖinóʻam Nini; known by her professional name, Noa, is a leading Israeli international concert and recording artist. Born in Tel Aviv to a Jewish family of Yemenite descent.

Noa’s strongest influences come from the singer-songwriters of the 60s. These musical and lyrical sensibilities, combined with Noa’s Yemenite roots and Gil Dor’s strong background in Jazz, Classical and Rock, have created Noa and Gil’s unique sound, manifested in hundreds of songs written and performed together. Noa plays percussion, guitar and piano.

 

Shalom, Shalom!

i’m here to say a word or two
in the name of love and innocence
it’s been a long time they’ve been out of style,
but i won’t live in illusion,
there’s not much chance that things will change on lonely planet earth.

all that is natural, all that is free
like me loving you, and you loving me,
like the sweet fruit growing on a tree,
like the blood-red choral in the sea,
like shaking hands and sharing food,
and a real creative attitude
and a big strong hug,yes, that feels good,
and the miracle of birth

shalom shalom,
shalom shalom shalom,
shalom shalom,
shalom shalom shalom

you really don’t need a diploma
from any university
to understand and to enjoy
this plentiful diversity
you only need to clean your mind of all those pre-conceptions
and use your mouth for laughing and for asking and to kiss
communicate, communicate,
don’t think: “oh lord, i’ve come too late!” you’re always welcome at love’s gate
to wash your feet of fear and hate
so when you come and when you go,
the words are peace, goodbye, hello,
in a language that I know it goes like this:

shalom shalom,shalom
shalom shalom,
shalom shalom,shalom
shalom shalom

so if our strategy is love
(don’t bite my head off, i said love)
and you say: “duuuh,
so simple!”
yeah, but easy to miss.

so when you come and when you go,
so when you come and when you go,
the words are peace, goodbye, hello,
in a language that I know it goes like this:

shalom shalom,shalom
shalom shalom,
shalom shalom,shalom
shalom shalom

 

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