Friday, April 13, 2001

Shabbat-O-Gram, April 12, 2001


A Meditation for Yizkor, Pesach and Israel, by Yehuda Amichai:

An Arab Shepherd is Searching for His Goat on Mount Zion

An Arab shepherd is searching for his goat on Mount Zion,
And on the opposite hill I am searching
for my little boy.
An Arab shepherd and a Jewish father
Both in their temporary failure.
Our two voices meet above
The Sultan’s Pool in the valley between us.
Neither of us wants the boy or the goat
To get caught in the wheels
of the “Chad Gadya” machine.

Afterward we found them in the bushes,
And our voices came back inside us
Laughing and crying.

Searching for a goat or for a child has
Always been
The beginning of a new religion in
these mountains.



This Sunday, the popular comic strip BC is scheduled to run a cartoon that has already stoked much controversy over the Internet.  To see it first-hand, click on, which, I promise, is the only time I will ever direct you to the Jewish Defense League web site.  While the cartoon could easily be seen as anti-Semitic, and it certainly makes me uncomfortable on a number of levels, I believe that there was no anti-Semitic intent here.  While most Jews see the 7-branch menorah as a purely Jewish symbol, most of the rest of the world does not.  The issue is ignorance and insensitivity more than anti-Semitism.  And that alone might be reason enough to protest.  I’d be interested in your impressions of this, both via e-mail and live, as at services on Sunday morning I plan to discuss it.  It might be worth bringing older children in on that discussion, especially if they happen to be bothered by the cartoon when they see it, live and in color, this weekend.

For the other side of the coin, check out this article at  I wonder how the creator of BC will feel when he finds out that there will be Kosher meals served in space.  Maybe he’ll change the name of the strip to BCE!


Shabbat/ Seventh night of Passover
Candles:  7:15 PM
Services: 8:00 PM

Shabbat Morning/ Seventh Day:
Family Service: 9:30 AM, followed by lunch. Naming of Kate Hollenberg, daughter of Julie and Jonathan Hollenberg.  Mazal tov to the family!  For a change of pace, we’ll be holding services in the lobby.
Children’s Services: 10:30
In addition to the Torah and haftarah for the day, we read the Song of Songs, “Shir Ha-shirim.”  Read this beautiful love poem and elegy to spring online at  Commentary can be found at, and, with real audio of the Sephardic chant at

Eighth Day:
Candles: 8:15 PM Saturday night
Services: 9:30 AM (9:15 Pesukey d’Zimra) Sunday morning
Yizkor prayers included.
Children’s Services: 10:30 AM
Torah Commentary:  See Chancellor Schorsch’s commentary, as well as the texts of the Torah and haftorah readings, at  It’s a fascinating look into the history and meaning of Yizkor.


Send in Your Surveys!

Should the direction of Temple Beth El be dictated by the opinions of 30 percent of the membership? That is the number of member surveys returned. While 200-plus surveys will certainly allow the strategic planners to draw conclusions about what the membership wants, will they be the best conclusions for the 700 members of Temple Beth El? Will they show a fair comparison to the 387 surveys returned five years ago? If you have not completed your membership survey, please do so within the next few weeks. It is important that all of our members’ voices be heard in this critical process of charting our course for the next ten years.

Beth El Baseball is Back

We have a nice group already signed up for our fabulous Jewish baseball league, representing all ages from pre-school to grade 7.  We still are looking for more kids for all our Beth El teams.  It’s a great way to express “shul spirit” and Jewish pride, and to deepen synagogue friendships, while developing athletic skills in a supportive, positive setting.  It also helps to minimize conflicts that inevitably arise regarding Shabbat service attendance and sports.  Both are important to your child’s emotional maturity.  Now you can have your hallah and eat it too!  Also WE NEED COACHES for each group.  Ken Temple has once again volunteered to help out in this effort, but we need other parents to join in.  Call Bonnie in our education office (322-6901 X307) to volunteer and for registration info.

Temple Beth El Seniors Trip to Ellis Island

: May 16, 2001- Wednesday 10:00-6:00
Cost: $30 per person (includes all transportation-bus and ferry ride, snacks, drinks, audio
tape, movie, Ranger talk, Tour of the facility, Ferry ride. There are wheelchairs available on the island and everything is handicapped accessible.
Open to Temple Beth El members who are AARP-qualified (age 50 and
over). We are taking reservations for the first 48 people who sign up. Checks must
be in by May 2, 2001. At bottom of check, indicate "for Ellis Island trip."

Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah Class: The Chai’s the Limit!

By popular demand, we are organizing an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah class, with the goal of completing the course in about a year and preparing for a service in May of 2002. The course of study will be taught by the Hazzan, Barb Moskow and myself, and include some synagogue skills and a basic overview of Jewish history, prayer, customs and ceremonies and sacred texts. We will gladly accommodate all levels of Hebrew proficiency. If you are at all interested, please contact the education office (322-6901 X306). There are 18 (chai) already signed up! An organizational meeting will be held on Tues., April 24, at 8:00 PM. Subsequent classes will likely be held on Thursday evenings.

Yom Ha-Shoah: The Legacy of the Generations  Next Thursday

This year's community-wide Holocaust Remembrance Day program, will be held here at 7:30 on April 19.  It will focus on the second and third generations of survivors. If you are a child or grandchild of a survivor and would be interested in sharing your story, please let me know. How have the stories you grew up with changed your life? What do you feel is your special legacy or obligation as the descendant of a survivor? The program will feature brief testimonies given by people of all ages, including children, and we will be collecting additional written testimonies to be distributed that night.

Jewish Heritage Tour of Eastern Europe, July 1-15, with Hazzan Rabinowitz.

Includes Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. For information, contact Hazzan Rabinowitz at 322-6901 X309.

Friday Night Live

Here, on April 27, will be at 7:30 (not 8:00 as is printed in some places). We're assembling an incredible musical ensemble. Learn the music ahead of time: join the Hazzan for rehearsals each Wednesday evening at 8. And join us on the 27th -- it's for all ages.

Women of the Wall

Find out about this courageous group of women who, despite great pressure from the Ultra-Orthodox authorities, hold a monthly service at the Western Wall.  Video and brunch, with commentary and discussion led by Barb Moskow.  And it’s FREE  this is Sisterhood's gift to the women of TBE.  April 29, 9:30AM. RSVP by
4/25 to Denise Greenman 329-8594 or

On TV  TONIGHT: Thursday April 12, at 10 p.m.

"They Came for Good: A History of the Jews in the United States" Part Two:  Years 1820-1880 -  WNET Channel 13

To Marc and Susan Leferman and family on the birth of Joshua Sol Leferman, this week in Stamford hospital.


Food and Fellowship

Passover both begins and ends with a powerful combination of food and fellowship.  We begin the Seder with the public invitation to “all who are hungry” to join with us at our table.  The Afikoman recalls an ancient Roman practice of transporting hospitality from the table to the road. In Greek, the word “afi” means “after” and “koman” means, “procession.”  In Roman times, people would leave their homes after the meal and go around from house to house to share the dessert.  While we don’t do that at our Seders anymore, many in Israel and elsewhere conclude the holiday with an old Moroccan Jewish tradition known as Mimouna.  At the close of the festival of liberation, here is a celebration of true springtime liberation  liberation from the festival itself  as the entire nation takes to the streets, the parks and beaches, and Jews return to the wonders of hametz by breaking bread with their neighbors.

The best cyber-explanation of this fascinating tradition can be found at the Sephardi Connection Web Site: Those who have had the pleasure of spending Pesach in Israel know just how wildly popular Mimouna has become, and while politicians have indeed exploited it, as the Web site suggests, that attention has only increased its stature.  Mimouna has become a rallying point for Sephardi pride, and given the historic injustices perpetrated on that community by successive Israeli governments, that can be compared to the inordinate focus on Martin Luther King Day in America.  But unlike America’s minorities, who have found their political voice primarily on the left, the Sephardim have found their voice within the right wing of Israeli politics.  That has often turned Mimouna into one big Likud/Shas campaign rally in Israel, lending it a divisiveness that goes against spirit of the custom’s origins.  That will likely change this year.  Embattled and subdued by the current situation, Israelis are adjusting to the peculiar partnership of right and left, embodied by the team of Sharon and Peres.

The Sephardi Connection  And the Moslem Connection

For some background as to the socio-economic gap in Israel, see  There, author Jonathan Kaplan notes that Mimouna has had a positive impact:

“The overriding principle of the unity of the Jewish people is accepted by all groups. An example of this can be seen in the celebration of the Mimouna on the day after the Passover week. Originally a family-centered holiday among the Jews of Morocco, the occasion has developed in Israel into a national holiday centering on the breaking down of cultural barriers and the promotion of national friendship and unity. It has also become a something of a political staple, a whistle stop for politicians seeking the Sephardi vote.”

For another related backgrounder, this one focusing on varieties of Judaism in Israel, click on  No politician has benefited more from Mimouna than the Moroccan-born David Levi.  Proof can be found in this photo at  And there are some nice Mimouna recipes to be found at, and at

To understand the allure of Mimouna, we must trace its roots back to the Jewish communities of North Africa.  Next week, on Yom Ha-Shoah, we’ll mourning the loss of European shtetls; this week we should take a few moments to recall the rich and varied civilization that existed on the other side of the Mediterranean before 1948.  Some interesting though frustratingly incomplete background on Moroccan Jewish culture can be found at and

At, you can read fascinating oral history interviews conducted by Vivienne Roumani-Denn.  In this one, Shlomo Gean describes daily life for Jews in Libya; Italian and Jewish schools; Shabbat celebration, Holy Day customs and prayers; life cycle customs; and synagogues. There are also descriptions of Arab customs, and Jewish-Arab relationships regarding life and work.  This is especially apparent when he describes Mimouna:

“(On) Motzae Pesah the Arabs took to the synagogue, outside the synagogue, they brought rolls uncooked, dough, to use them as leavening because the Jews of Libya, at Motzae Pesah they made a special bread called Mimuna, made with cumin and they put an egg on top, so to have leavening since during Pesah there was no leavening, the Arabs brought these uncooked rolls, dough, and the Jews used them as leavening for this kind of bread.”

Who would have thought that Mimouna originated as a celebration of Moslem - Jewish neighborliness!   But it makes lots of sense.  Since Hametz cannot be owned by Jews on the festival, without non-Jews to supply it, from whence would it come when darkness descends and the holiday has, at last, passed-over? 

This notion is reinforced at a review of the new show organized by the Jewish Museum in New York, entitled ”Morocco: Jews and Art in a Muslim Land" and reviewed at  Here is how Mimouna is described:

“Mimouna, a uniquely Moroccan Jewish custom, is a day of largely outdoor celebration that
follows Passover, symbolizing the reintegration of Jews into society. It follows eight days of restricted eating and has, in fact, become a national holiday in Israel. Because Muslims considered this return beneficent for nature, they participated in this celebration by offering food to their Jewish friends.”

Imagine having the Grand Mufti offer Rabbi Ovadia Yosef a fresh-baked onion roll at Sacher Park in Jerusalem.  In essence, that’s what used to happen in Fez.  We’re not likely to see it again in the near future; perhaps the day after the Messiah comes, or the week after Ariel Sharon sells Yasser Arafat his Hametz, whichever comes first.

The Lion and the Lamb

Our exploration of Mimouna leads us to one final item, something I found at two sites, the bulletin boards of Tikkun and P’nai Or.  Since you’ll have a tough time finding Rick Gold’s dispatch from Bamako Mali, West Africa, at either site ( and, I’ll take the liberty of reprinting a significant chunk of it here.  Despite his clear anti-Zionist bias, the premise is fascinating.  Mimouna, as it existed in Morocco, at least, was not only a celebration of Jewish unity, but also of interfaith solidarity, much like Thanksgiving has become for Americans of different faiths.

“Here are some additional insights into the holiday of Mimuna, based on the four years I spent in Morocco. Those interested in learning more might want to read Harvey Goldberg's article, "The Mimuna and the Minority status of the Moroccan Jews," in the journal Ethnology, XVII, 1978, pp. 77-82. Mimuna is a holiday as full of symbolism as the Seder ritualsNamed after Lalla Mimuna, a Jewish woman saint representing good fortune, the holiday is a demonstration of the symbiotic existence of Jews and Muslims. In addition to contributing to community cohesion, the festival celebrates the rebirth associated with spring. During Mimuna, Jews experience a feeling of liberation, at the end of a period of dietary restrictions. Their joy is expressed in attending parties at several people's homes and ignoring social constraints. During the evening of the last day of Passover, each family prepares for an open house, in which anyone, Jewish or Muslim, friend or stranger, can visit and sample from a table filled with desserts, sweets and symbolic foods. Jewish families go from house to house throughout the night, making sure to leave at least one person at their own home to welcome visitors. Muslim friends bring bread and cakes as gifts, the first leavened goods to be consumed by the Jews since the beginning of Passover. On the tables are found sweet products light in color, such as cakes, honey, milk and butter, representing a sweet life. Symbols of fertility such as fish, wheat, barley, fava beans, and fruit, also decorate the tables. Finally, there are symbols of prosperity, such as bowls of flour, and vases in which pieces of gold jewelry are covered with olive or argan oil. Upon arrival at a home, visitors say "TARBHU U-TSA'DU," meaning "Succeed in your ventures and rejoice." In this manner, they call upon Lalla Mimuna to intercede in their lives and provide fertility, success, happiness and abundance. Some Moroccan Muslims honor Lalla Mimuna to the same extent as Moroccan Jews. In addition, Muslims call upon her husband, Sidi Mimun, to intercede with Allah in their favor. In mellahs up through the 1950's, when Zionists convinced tens of thousands of Jews that there was no future for them in an independent Morocco and organized a secret operation to bring them to Israel, the streets were festive during Mimuna. Young people would wear costumes, with some boys dressing up as girls or as Muslims. Women might wear wedding dresses. Some families used the occasion to arrange marriages.

On the Jewish political spectrum, Tikkun and P’nai Or are about as distant from Shas and Likud as one can get.  And yet it seems strangely appropriate that Mimouna has been embraced by both.  Mimouna, that George W. Bush of Jewish festivities, is at its heart a “uniter, not a divider.”  It beings out the lion and the lamb in us (although with fava beans on the menu, the lambs may well be silent), and coaxes them to coexist.  It also turns the world upside down.  After all, while ultra-pious Haredim will be pigging out on Hametz this Sunday at Mimouna celebrations (the day after Passover in Israel), we heretics here in America will be diligently dining on Matzah for one more day.  Mimouna does indeed make things topsy turvy.  So if Ariel Sharon and Simon Peres can barbecue together this weekend at Gan Sachar, perhaps there will also be room on the picnic blanket for Michael Lerner to break bread with Aryeh Deri, and for Hanan Ashwari to pass the hummos to David Levi?

Maybe next year.

This Shabbat-O-Gram goes out weekly to hundreds of Beth El congregants and others.  Feel free to forward it to your friends, and if you know of anyone who might wish to be included, please have them e-mail me at  To be taken off this e-mail list, simply click on "reply" and write "please unsubscribe" in the message box.

For more information on the synagogue, check out Beth El's Web site at  And to check out some previous spiritual cyber-journeys I have taken, see my book's site at

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