Posts Tagged ‘diversity’
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
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.
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 ~
The Plight of the Non-White Jew
by Jacob Duprey
The Jewish public at large is in jeopardy. They risk becoming as closed minded as those they oppose. The fact is that Jews must expand their definition of what constitutes a Jew. Jews are not a race, they are not genetically distinct nor is their Judaism predicated upon the fact that they were born that way. Additionally not all Jews practice in the same manner and some practices are quite different from the public perception of synagogue. Judaism is in fact a faith, a set of beliefs and a group of people who are united because of what they believe in.
Traditionally a Jew is thought of as a person with dark curly hair, long sideburns, a big nose, a fat wallet and a funny hat. However the definition of a Jew is rapidly expanding. The Israeli and Ashkenazi Jews form only part of the greater whole that is the Jewish Faith. Communities in China have rediscovered their Jewish roots and have begun to practice again. The Black Ethiopian Jews have been around since the 1600’s when they fought for their survival. The Indian Jews, the Bene Israel (Son’s of Israel) claim to have been in existence since the 2nd Century BCE. All of these groups are Jewish, but if seen walking on the streets you would not assume they were Jewish. Thus the original definition of Jew must be expanded to encompass the new definition.
Closer to home, Asian Jews are not taken seriously. I, as a Korean Jew, must every year explain to teachers and friends why I will not be coming in on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Everyone I meet must first be introduced to the idea of an Asian Jew. The common response is:
“You’re Jewish?!? To which I must respond “Yes”.
My friend, an Aryan-German Jew, must calmly explain to people that race and religion are independent of each other. Many people seem to believe that Judaism is a race. A common exchange is as follows:
“But you’re German!”
“Yea, well they didn’t get all of us”.
A long explanation should not be required to convey one’s religion. This is why a change is in order.
More to the point, not all Jews are born Jewish; although the population of people who convert to Judaism is small. Within my immediate family alone: my Father converted from Catholicism and my brother, sister and I were all converted from the indigent religions of Peru, China and Korea respectively. Although my family does represent something of a racial bouillabaisse it still proves the point that Jews of all shapes and colors do indeed exist and they are asking for public opinions to change.
The school of Judaism that a person follows is another division within our sect. The divisions are as follows: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. The first two can be thought of as the traditional forms of Jewish study and prayer, the Orthodox representing the more strict and formal of the two and Conservative being the more colloquial of the two. Orthodox services are conducted in the traditional manner, in some cases even separating men from women. Conservative services are run much like a standard church service, except in Hebrew. The last two are rather different from what usually springs to mind; often prayers are said in English or members of the congregation may offer up their own suggestions. Reform Synagogues are not as formal, allowing for provocative thought and changing of customs and prayers. Reconstructionist, to which I belong, encourages challenging the old faith and improving it as an effect of time. All of these schools of thought are Jewish but the latter 2 would be thought of as less “Jewish”. This is simply not true and thus we must change our vision of what it is to be “Jewish”.
Judaism is a faith, a set of beliefs and values. It is not predicated on physical traits, genetic lineage or geographic heritage. Judaism is, in my belief, a set of values that gives us conscience and modesty. It is a way of life that gives you something to believe in; it is nothing but faith. A person is a Jew because they profess Judaism, not because they look “Jewish”. Obviously there will always be the stereotype of what construes a Jew but this author begs for a change in what you, the reader, believes to be a Jew. Public perception can change on the whim of a single person as long as the rest of the world believes them. You can be that one person.