November 19, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Holocaust, Media Bias and Progressives Being Good Parents

Why the Holocaust Still Resonates

I would try to briefly reflect on Thane Rosenbaum’s question: “Is there anything left to say about the Holocaust?” (“What’s Left to Say?” April 6). David Irving and his ilk would show up with technical drawings of concentration camps to argue that the crematoriums were not really used for what all the survivors say they were used for. Or, one of the effects of the fading memories and political manipulations is the emerging concept that the Holocaust was a terrible thing, but it was not just about Jews; these revisionist “historians” would say that gypsies, homosexuals and communists also were unfortunate victims, and numerous soldiers and civilians died as a result of the war. At least Hungary, which certainly has its share of revisionists, is not confused about the word. The equivalent, Hungarian word for “Holocaust” is “vészkorszak” (the age of danger,) and it is used only in the Jewish persecution’s context and does not cover any other death, including the fallen soldiers of the Hungarian 2nd Army or other, non-Jewish civilians.

What we must repeat is that not long ago, 6 million people’s genocide took place on racial/religious grounds. It could happen again if we are not on guard.

Peter Hantos, Los Angeles

It is with concern that I read your article on the Holocaust. More and more young people regard the Holocaust as distant as Hannibal and the Alps. There’s plenty left to say, i.e., Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was so large that it required traffic lights! The camps were nearly as numerous as post offices.  Camp personnel, including guards and administration, were kept drugged on crystal meth. Back then it was known as Pervitin. This was done so they could perform their tasks without giving it thought and in dealing with the large numbers of inmates.

Daniel Kirwan via email


Poland’s Holocaust Law

Regarding your article “The Polish Jewish Story” (March 23), may I bring up a couple of rarely mentioned facts: During their occupation of Europe, only in Poland did the Germans punish those who helped Jews by death, and the punishment included the helper’s closest family (in other countries the penalties varied from dismissal from work to jail time).

On the other hand, the Polish underground, the largest anti-Nazi underground army in Europe, punished by death those Poles who snitched on their Jewish neighbors.

Also, with all due respect to the author of the article, the new Polish law, although imperfect and perhaps in need of correction, does not criminalize “any mention of Poles” being complicit in the Nazi crimes. Rather, it prohibits accusing “the Polish nation or the Polish state” as a whole, of being complicit in the Nazi German crimes.

Jozef Malocha, Chrzanow, Poland


Media Bias Against Israel 

“(((Semitism)))” author Jonathan Weisman commendably assails surging right-wing anti-Semitism, including social-media trolls and Nazis marching through Charlottesville, Va. (“A Call to Action in the Age of Trump,” March 16). However, anti-Semitism takes many forms, including media bias against Israel, which Weisman seems to ignore. His own newspaper, The New York Times, is a leading offender.

Consider the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. On May 14, 1948, Israel legally declared its independence, consistent with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181. The next day, five Arab armies invaded the Jewish state, determined to annihilate it.

The New York Times never reports these facts. Instead, it describes the conflict as “the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation” (March 8) or “the 1948 war that broke out over Israel’s creation” (March 31). The Times’ Orwellian descriptions whitewash the Arab states’ genocidal intent continues to this day, obscuring the fact that Israel was attacked and implicitly blame Israel.

Rewriting history to vilify Israel is also anti-Semitism.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Hold on: Progressives Are Good Parents, Too

Here you go again, Karen Lehrman Bloch. In your constant search for negative comments about anything that contradicts conservative dogma, you find the other side guilty of supporting terrorism and raising kids who are insensitive bullies (“Progressive Bullies,” April 6).

As a lifelong progressive, I abhor terrorists and so do all of my progressive friends. I don’t propose that we or Israel give terrorists a pass because they had a rough childhood. Despite blame and fault, Israel is in the dominant position and must treat the general Palestinian population with as much dignity and respect that security allows, and punish terrorists as they deserve.

Regarding child rearing, our two daughters were raised in a progressive home and have become progressive adults who care about their fellow human beings in both their personal and professional lives. They are also raising children to follow our humanistic ideals.

If the proof is in the pudding, we don’t need to look further then at our conservative administration. Bullying, dishonesty, lying and lack of concern are its hallmarks.

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles


Response to Letter Writers 

In his April 6 letter, Martin J. Weisman blames President Donald Trump for the rise in global anti-Semitism (“Trump and Anti-Semitism,” April 6). Respectfully, far-right Trump support explains the emergence of “old-school” American Jew-hatred, but the explosion of Israel-bashing and anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party and on American campuses is the fault of former President Barack Obama, with his anti-Israel bias and promotion of Muslim groups in government and academia.

Moreover, Trump has nothing to do with the rebirth of European anti-Semitism, which is mainly caused by the immigration of millions of Muslims, and the rise of right-wing parties protesting them. In fact, some of those parties, like France’s National Front and the Dutch Freedom Party, are wooing Jewish support to fight Muslim misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and even Christian-bashing.

Irrational Trump-hatred closes the minds of otherwise intelligent, inquisitive folks. Jewish Democrats who refuse to face this provide cover for the anti-Semites, Louis Farrakhan supporters and Israel-bashers in their party.

Rueben Gordon via email

Marc Yablonka besmirches the name of David Harris in his letter to the editor (“He Doesn’t Miss the ’60s,” April 6) when he falsely calls him a “draft evader … who persuaded others to go to federal prisons for five years for burning their draft cards,” and wrongly claims Harris “chewed up and spit out those of us who were naive enough to ride along so [he] could further [his] own egotistical adventures. … [He] didn’t give a hoot about the rest of us.”

Factually wrong on every count. Harris was the very model of patriotic objection to a governmental policy.

First, he advised his draft board in writing that he would not cooperate with any of its requirements. Second, he publicized his non-cooperation in his advocacy against the war, ensuring that he would become the focus of federal enforcement. Only then did he publicly and repeatedly urge other young men to do the same.

I should know. Harris — a former Stanford student body president — was in prison when I arrived there to begin my freshman year in September 1969.

I turned 18 that November. Federal law required I register with my draft board. I went to Palo Alto Resistance headquarters, which Harris helped establish, for counseling. The draft counselor’s kindness and respect for my struggles and questions as to what to do, even though he was to begin his own prison term for resistance the very next day, moved me to my core. It still does.

These brave men and the equally brave women who supported them will soon get their due when the documentary “Boys Who Said No!: Draft Resistance and the Vietnam War” is released.

David I. Schulman, Los Angeles


and FROM FACEBOOK:

“Why Is This Sport Different?” April 6:

I love it. Baseball is timeless. There is no clock to run out. What a great metaphor for redemption.

Cyndi Buckey

“Between the Shoah and Mimouna,” April 6:

The beauty and light and optimism of Mimouna is tempered, as a sword blade is tempered in the blacksmiths forge and under his hammer, by the awful evil that was the Shoah. It is built into the very fabric of our divinely created world that the forces of destruction and savagery will never have a final conquest. … Not as long as the Chosen People can find the will to resist.

Ernest Sewell

Thank you for writing of the concerns I share about current events.

Marilyn Danko

Beautiful words.

Tamara Anzivino

Spreading the Spirit of Mimouna

A mock Moroccan wedding held at a Mimouna celebration organized by JIMENA at Urban Adamah, an educational farming community center in Berkeley. Photo courtesy of JIMENA.

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, director of the Sephardic Education Center, has celebrated Mimouna his entire life.

He credits his Moroccan father and Algerian mother with introducing him to the North African, post-Passover tradition, during which people feast on an array of sweet Sephardic foods, some with chametz, others without, including the popular moufleta, a sweet tortilla-like treat smeared with honey, butter or jam. Additionally, Arabic music, the blessings of good fortune and the coming together with neighbors, family and friends are important components of Mimouna.

Today, the Los Angeles Sephardic community leader carries on the centuries-old tradition. Despite being an integral part of the Sephardic Passover experience as well as something akin to a national holiday in Israel, many non-Sephardic Jews in the Diaspora do not know about Mimouna.

Mimouna commences immediately after sunset on the final day of Passover.  Havdalah is recited to mark the end of the holiday. Then, while an Ashkenazi family may head out for pizza, those who celebrate Mimouna open their homes or visit the homes of others, greet each other with the Judeo-Arabic Tirbah u’tissad,” (May you prosper and succeed), reminiscent of the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper,” from “Star Trek.” They then eat a date, filled with butter and honey, and scarf down two or three of the aforementioned moufleta. The ingredients are purchased before Passover and sold with the other chametz, or purchased hastily shortly before Mimouna begins.

Traditional Mimouna foods include dried fruits, marzipan pastries, sesame cookies, and other treats that celebrate the renewal of spring.

Those who celebrate often dress in traditional Moroccan garb, including a kaftan, (embroidered dresses for women), and jalabiya (long robes for men).

“There is kind of a whole rhythm to what Mimouna is,” Bouskila told the Journal in a phone interview.

When Bouskila’s father was growing up in Marrakesh before the founding of the State of Israel, Mimouna was also an illustration of coexistence between Jews and Muslims who lived side-by-side, he said.

“My father remembered that distinctly. The afternoon of the last day of Pesach, a lot of the materials that were needed for the Mimouna, the Muslims used to help them prepare for it, because it was still yom tov, and the Muslims knew that.”

While the coming together of Jews and Muslims in Arab countries on Mimouna does not happen much today, given that there are not many Jews left in Arab countries, the celebration is an opportunity for Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews to come together, Bouskila said.

In 2015, I attended a Mimouna celebration for young professionals organized by Reform synagogue Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA). Henna stations, tables featuring a buffet of Sephardic foods and the live music of Middle Eastern band Bazaar Ensemble welcomed the large crowd of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews at a tucked-away warehouse space.

“Beyond understanding the specifics of why something began, it is what kept us as a people.” — Odin Ozdil

This year, on April 11, four days after Passover ends, JIMENA — in partnership with Students Supporting Israel at UCLA and Jewish Awareness Movement (JAM) — will hold a Mimouna gathering for college students at JAM’s UCLA location, featuring a henna station, moufletas and other Middle Eastern food and Moroccan lantern- and challah-making.

Additionally, Hillel 818, which serves Jewish students at Cal State Northridge, Pierce College and Los Angeles Valley College, is holding a students-only Mimouna party, on April 10.

Odin Ozdil, the L.A.-based program coordinator at JIMENA, said he is looking forward to introducing students to Mimouna. “It is events like Mimouna I can really rally the resources of the organization around,” he told the Journal.

Some believe the origins of the word “Mimouna” derive from the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Others believe it is derived from the Hebrew word “emunah,” or “faith.” There is, however, nothing conclusive about its absolute origins.

Ozdil said that the origins do not matter as much as the result of the tradition of bringing people together.

“Beyond understanding the specifics of why something began, it is what kept us as a people,” he said. “Even not knowing is something worth celebrating that can empower a people moving forward.”

Eli Miller, 25, who runs the Sephardic community Midrasho Shel Shem out of his West Hollywood home, attracting Hebrew- and French-speaking transplants in Los Angeles, also will celebrate Mimouna this year. He plans to visit multiple homes in one night, staying at one house for about 15 minutes before going on to the next.

“It’s hard to be at a million places at once,” Miller said in a phone interview. “You make a stop and come in for a few minutes, listen to music, talk to some people and move on to the next one.”

For Bouskila, this practice of moving from one house to the next represents the essence of Mimouna.

“The idea of a Mimouna is that there is no such thing as a formal invitation. It is kind of an open house,” he said.  “People just file in and out — neighbors, friends — through word of mouth. We often had people we didn’t know, people who heard about it and it was never, ‘What are you doing here? You’re not part of our dinner plans.’ It was just a continuous open house.”

The Magic of Mimouna

Go back a few centuries and picture yourself on a small street in a Jewish neighborhood in Casablanca, Morocco, as the sun is starting to set.

You’ve just finished the late afternoon prayers on the last day of Passover, and as you head home, you see Arab grocers setting up shop and laying out butter, milk, honey and, most importantly, flour and yeast. They are doing what their ancestors did for generations: helping the Jews of Morocco prepare for the ancient tradition of Mimouna, a night when the Jews celebrated the end of Passover by opening the doors of their homes to their neighborhood.

After sundown, Jewish men would rush to gather all the supplies — either by purchasing them or receiving them as gestures of good will from local Arabs — and bring them home, where the women would prepare elaborate sweet tables.

These tables were laden with delicacies, but the star of the show was a thin, mouthwatering Moroccan crepe called the moufleta, which you would roll up with soft butter and honey. Please trust me when I tell you that to this day, few things in life are as perfect as a couple of hot, sweet, tender moufletas — right after you’ve come off a strict eight-day diet of dry matzos.

Moufletas were not the only sweet things floating in the Arabian moonlight on the night of Mimouna. According to folklore, Mimouna was known as the ideal night to meet your sweetheart. It was a night when doors and hearts were open, and young men and women, dressed in their finest, would move and mingle like butterflies from one party and sweet table to another. (I know, it sounds a lot more romantic than speed dating.)

The free-flowing and joyful atmosphere that made you feel the promise of finding love was not a coincidence. The night of Mimouna was all about bringing good fortune into your life. After eight days of prohibitions, Mimouna was the night you broke free, the night anything was possible.

For the Jews of Morocco, Mimouna was the Jewish holiday that celebrated optimism.

All night long, people would give the same greeting over and over again: “Terbach,” an Arab word that roughly means, “May you win and be fortunate.”

The word “mimouna” itself combines the Hebrew/Aramaic root “mammon,” which means riches, with the Hebrew word “emunah,” which means faith. Have faith in your good fortune: If Mimouna ever becomes a big deal in California, I bet the California Lottery would salivate to sponsor Mimouna parties.

After eight days of prohibitions, Mimouna was the night you broke free, the night anything was possible.

As many of you know, the mainstreaming of Mimouna has already happened in Israel. The tradition has morphed from magical nights among neighbors to loud daytime barbecues in public parks, where politicians of all stripes come to sell their wares. I’m guessing the politicians want in on the good Mimouna vibes, which might explain why they’ve made it a national holiday.

From what I hear, the rabbis in Israel also got involved. They were afraid that people would rush out to buy their moufleta ingredients before the holiday was officially over, so they nudged Mimouna into the bright sun of the next day.

These rabbis obviously have no feel for romance — Mimouna is for the moon, not the sun. My memories of Mimouna nights in Casablanca can never mesh with the notion of an afternoon barbecue in a public park. Even though I was only a child, I recall feeling this mysterious, nighttime magic in the air. Even the nervous rush after sundown to gather the goods and prepare the sweet tables were part of the excitement.

But the magic of Mimouna was not just the sweet tables and the Arabian nights. There was something else.

When I talk to Sephardic Jews today who spent a big part of their lives in Morocco, they go on and on about Mimouna. It’s like they’re talking about an ex-girlfriend they were madly in love with and wish they had married. There’s a sense of nostalgia, yes, but also of loss — a loss of what that one night represented.

It’s true that they have tried to take Mimouna with them. In Montreal, where I grew up and where there is a large Moroccan Jewish community, people drive to fancy Mimouna parties all over town until the early morning hours. Even here in Los Angeles, there are Mimouna parties sprinkled all over the area, especially in Moroccan Jewish homes.

But everyone knows there’s something missing. You could serve the world’s greatest moufletas (my mother’s), wear a gold-laced caftan and have a live Middle Eastern band, and there would still be something missing.

It’s the neighborhood.

Mimouna represented the love and intimacy of a neighborhood. There’s nothing like popping in to see 10, 20, 30 different neighbors on the same night, most of whom you see all the time — especially when you know your great-great-great-grandparents probably did the same thing in the same place.

According to tradition, Mimouna itself came out of a neighborhood need. Because many Jewish families in Morocco each had their own Passover customs, Passover week was the one time of the year when families would usually not eat in each other’s homes.

Mimouna was a way for the neighborhood to dramatically make up for this week of limited hospitality — a night when things got back to normal, and everyone invited everyone.

If Passover was the holiday that drew you in — toward yourself, your home, your family — Mimouna was the holiday that blew you away, back to the neighbors, your friends, your freedom, your dreams, maybe even your future love.

Many years later, I find myself living again in a Jewish neighborhood, and I can’t help wondering if my moving here had something to do with my memories of another neighborhood.

Especially on that one magical night of the year, when the moufletas were hot, the doors were open and everything was possible.

This story originally appeared in the April 6, 2007, edition of the Jewish Journal.

‘Mimounizing’ Your Life

Moufletas.

Although I consider myself a social person, I realized early on that in a party situation, I’ve always gravitated toward the kitchen. Everyone expresses themselves differently, but I think chefs tend to have this trait in common. Most of us would rather watch other people have a good time as we melt into the background while serving little slices of joy and nostalgia.

Perhaps it’s the romantic in me that remembers the atmosphere during holidays when our family cooks would gather in the kitchen. “Tombe la Neige” or Pavarotti would be playing in the background, my aunt’s favorite. She’d be singing along while working on repetitive tasks such as stuffing grapeleaves or frying leek patties.

My cousin who is also a chef told me stories of growing up in Migdal HaEmek in Israel, where roughly half the population is Romanian while the other half is Moroccan. When Passover ends, and Jews begin to eat chametz again, he and the rest of the Romanians look forward to their Moroccan friends’ Mimouna celebrations. He would find himself hiding in his neighbors’ kitchens watching the moufletas being made and wishing he was the cook standing over the stove. He described his awe at watching his friends’ grandmothers turning over the thin crepes, again and again, building up one crepe on top of the other until the stack reached over a foot tall and threatened to topple. Someone else would drench them with butter and honey while other hands would roll them up and bring them to the table.

Mimouna is a singularly Moroccan tradition, and although it’s not a religious holiday, it is a cultural phenomenon that has grown in popularity over the years. While Ashkenazi and even Sephardic Jews usually prepare a dairy feast with matzo brei taking center stage, the Moroccans break out their gold and finery and run a sweet fantasy tour through their neighborhoods, blessing and kissing, flirting and enchanting. During the Mimouna, there is an unwritten rule that even if you have been fighting with your neighbors or friends all year, that night is the time to forgive and be forgiven, to let bygones be bygones, and to hope for love and success. Mimouna is the night when “emouna” or belief meets “maimun,” the Arabic word for good fortune.

Everything about the Mimouna celebration, from the sweets-laden table with stuffed dried fruit to the buttery honey-kissed moufletas, spicy sweet tea and arak (a Levantine alcoholic spirit), tells a story of letting loose and of love. Traditionally, the ban on the time of the year when marriage is prohibited lifts and many couples receive the blessings of their families for an engagement. Matchmakers are out in full force, and romances are kindled and rekindled. It’s easy to feel footloose and fancy-free, lost in the giddiness of the Mimouna atmosphere. Why not take this feeling forward and use it as a motif for the rest of the year?

Everything about the Mimouna celebration tells a story of letting loose and of love.

It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the times in which we live that cynicism and fear often undermine romance and love. While it’s tempting to blame the media or our iPhone-driven lives for this trend, discontent is not the domain of our times. After all, we live in an age when almost anything is possible, and we have more opportunities than ever. So why are we so lonely and disconnected? Why does it take a Mimouna to help us to forgive the grievances we’ve collected?

I can tell you from watching from the background all of these years what I’ve gleaned from the safety of the kitchen while catering parties:

1) Rich or poor, it makes very little difference — all people have worries.

2) The idea of protecting yourself — forget about it; love can’t happen in the absence of disclosure.

3) Looking for someone to make you whole? You need to make yourself whole first.

4) Thinking that if only you meet the perfect person that your life would be complete. Nobody is perfect, and neither are you.

5) Holding on to the past? Past failures are an indication only that you tried, not an indictment of your character. Move on and forgive yourself.

So, before I give you a marvelous moufleta recipe, let me assure you if you start “mimounizing” your life by being generous with your love, your good words and sharing your sweetness, then the air around you will change. It won’t happen overnight, but unlike the magical Mimouna celebration that comes only once a year, your sweet vibes will attract others with good intentions — and that can lead you to relationships and connections that might last a lifetime.

MOUFLETAS — MOROCCAN CREPES WITH SWEET SYRUP
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons active
dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (not so hot that it
kills the yeast)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (not olive)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey

Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add warm water and mix well in a stand mixer until a soft shaggy dough forms. Knead in a machine or by hand until the dough is very silky and smooth — about 5 minutes.

Oil hands generously and form dough into a rough cylinder about 2 inches in diameter. Using a bench scraper or your hands, pinch off small balls of dough and place on a tray or plate. When all the dough is separated into balls, pour the rest of the oil on the tray and roll the dough balls over in it until they are fully covered. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Put a nonstick pan on the stove on medium heat with a touch of oil on the surface.

Remove a ball and flatten out on a smooth, cold surface. Using well-oiled hands, press and push the soft dough into a very thin, almost transparent, circle — as thin as you can get it and about 10 inches in diameter. Don’t worry if the dough tears. Place the crepe in the warm pan and cook it for about 60 seconds while working on the next ball.

Flip over the crepe and then immediately place the next crepe on the surface of the hot crepe in the pan. Keep rolling and turning, rolling and turning until all the dough balls are used and you have a stack of crepes in the pan, each time lifting carefully and turning over the stack, taking care not to overcook.

Put butter and honey in small pot and heat until butter is melted. Separate the stack of moufletas one by one, spooning the melted butter and honey over each, and then roll into a cylinder or fold in half and then into quarters.

Makes about 30 moufletas.


Yamit Behar Wood, an Israeli-American food and travel writer, is the executive
chef at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, and founder of the New York Kitchen Catering Co.

Between the Shoah and Mimouna

We make a statement by what we choose to feature on the cover. This week, we had to choose between two upcoming events — the Sephardic Mimouna party, which celebrates the end of Passover, and Yom HaShoah, which commemorates perhaps the worst atrocity in human history. It’s a choice between the ultimate light and the ultimate darkness.

We chose darkness.

Had Mimouna been our cover story, you would have seen a beautiful, joyful image on the cover, instead of the haunting one you see now. Mimouna represents the joy of breaking free, the freedom to live as you wish, the unbridled pursuit of happiness.

But while it’s not featured on the cover, you’ll still see plenty of Mimouna coverage. One of the articles is a reprint of a column I wrote many years ago titled, “The Magic of Mimouna.”

“The night of Mimouna was all about bringing good fortune into your life,” I wrote. “After eight days of prohibitions, Mimouna was the night you broke free, the night anything was possible. For the Jews of Morocco, Mimouna was the Jewish holiday that celebrated optimism.”

For the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, optimism was not an option; breaking free was not a possibility. There was nothing to see besides darkness.

Our memories dance between these two impulses — between the Mimouna part of our lives and the Holocaust part, between the craving for light and the unbearable weight of darkness. We yearn for Mimouna because we yearn for happiness, but we’re haunted by Shoah because our memories so easily surrender to the trauma of darkness.

The great irony is that Mimouna glitters at night, under the romance of the moonlight.

It is this darkness we wanted to explore in this issue. At the same time, we didn’t want to regurgitate what you already know. But how does one avoid that with the Holocaust, a subject about which everything has already been said a million times over?

We commissioned a Holocaust scholar and novelist, Thane Rosenbaum, to tackle that very question: What is there left to say?

“Holocaust memory has grown a little stale these past several years, and fatigue has set in,” he writes. “There are, in fact, fewer Yom HaShoah commemorations around the world.  With each passing year, they dwindle, not unlike the number of survivors themselves.”

He adds: “Perhaps the savagery of the world has simply caught up with the Holocaust in a twisted competition for evil supremacy.  We are tragically becoming inured to the atrocious, surrounded by so many contenders.”

For this one, singular moment of unspeakable darkness, “never again” is never enough.

Rosenbaum takes us on a tour of darkness to help us frame the role of memory:

“The Holocaust is being forgotten and exploited — both at the same time.  A surging wave of global anti-Semitism has surfaced with the added aim of pummeling and plundering the Holocaust.  Who knows what will be left when this new period of anti-Semitic fervor comes to an end?”

Despite the enormous industry of Holocaust memory, Rosenbaum concludes that we have fallen short:

“All around the world, even throughout the United States, the grand experiment of Holocaust memory appears to have failed.  Museums and memorials, although still well attended, are perceived as depressing amusement rides, with statistics about mass murder, artifacts from concentration camps, and an occasional cattle car just to complete the necessary ‘real-feel,’ ‘you are there’ experience.

“After departing from such places of ephemeral horror, visitors emerge into the light, and settle upon where to have lunch. Their confrontation with Holocaust memory lasting as long as Chinese food traveling through a digestive tract.”

Perhaps that’s why we chose to put Yom HaShoah on the cover — because for this one, singular moment of unspeakable darkness, “never again” is never enough.

As much as my heart yearns for a time when the joy of Mimouna will dominate our consciousness, the reality of evil keeps getting in the way. Confronting evil while also embracing joy may well be the paradox of the human condition.

On the night of Mimouna, I will taste a few moufletas (recipe inside) and surrender to optimism. But a few days later, I will attend a Yom HaShoah event to commemorate the very opposite of optimism, a moment in Jewish time when Jews were crushed by darkness.

The irony is that Mimouna glitters at night, under the romance of the moonlight. Maybe this is a gentle reminder that even darkness holds the promise of joy.

Moving and shaking: American Society for Yad Vashem, AcaDeca and more

Edward and Elissa Czuker, co-chairs of an upcoming gala hosted by the American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV), hosted a kickoff reception March 28 at their Beverly Hills home. About 50 people were on hand to learn about the gala set for June 6 that will honor two Holocaust survivors: producers Meyer Gottlieb (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World”) and Branko Lustig (“Schindler’s List,” “Gladiator”).

Phil Blazer, founder of Jewish Life TV, introduced Gottlieb, former president of Samuel Goldwyn Films and a Holocaust survivor, who recalled his experience as a young boy fleeing the Nazi invasion of Poland.  

Lynne Segall, executive vice president and group publisher at Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, was on hand to represent the latter publication, which also will be honored June 6 for its story “Hollywood’s Last Survivors,” an in-depth article about the 11 remaining Holocaust survivors who made a name for themselves in the entertainment business. The contributors to the story, writers Peter Flax and Gary Baum, discussed the months of research and interviews that went into the creation of the piece. 

Ron Meier, ASYV executive director, spoke about the organization’s work and the significance of Yad Vashem. ASYV was established 35 years ago by a group of Holocaust survivors to advance the efforts of Yad Vashem through Holocaust education, traveling exhibitions, and philanthropy. 

Later, Gottlieb stressed to the Journal how important such efforts are: “With the passage of time and the dwindling of eyewitness survivors, the Holocaust would become an issue simply of statistics without institutions like Yad Vashem and the vital work they do in education, research and keeping the memories of the victims alive so that the Holocaust is never forgotten.” 

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer


Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) celebrated Mimouna, a traditional North African Jewish holiday marking the end of Passover, with 275 young professionals on April 30. 

From left: Chloe Pourmorady, Zack Lodmer, Daniel Raijman and Marcel Borbon rehearse in advance of the Mimouna celebration.  Photo by Luis Bargos, Moishe House Venice

“There’s an opportunity for the Jewish community, dominated by Ashkenazi Jews, to learn from and integrate the traditions of Jews of all backgrounds,” TEBH Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin told the Journal. “In Israel, Mimouna was brought by North African immigrants and with time became a national holiday. I hope that we can replicate this beautiful integration here in the United States.”

One goal of the evening event, held at Studio 11 in Culver City, was “to connect those professionals to the amazing organizations in our community that serve them,” according to Bassin. It was put on with funding provided by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and in partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NextGen Engagement Initiative.

Upon arrival, guests were given a “passport” and visited different stations staffed by partner organizations AJC Access, Bend the Arc, Israeli American Council/Bina, JDC Entwine, Jews of Color, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), JScreen, Moishe House, Reboot, Stephen Wise Temple, Temple Emanuel YoPro, Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA), Sinai Temple Atid, Miller Introduction to Judaism Alumni and Open Temple. Stations offered information about the organization as well as light snacks to aid attendees in transitioning back to chametz

Guests lined up for henna and glitter tattoos and wandered through the venue’s garden, socializing in circles around a hookah with fellow attendees. Musical guest Bazaar Ensemble provided its unique Middle Eastern jazz-funk vibe, and Persian-American violinist, vocalist and composer Chloé Pourmorady contributed audience-rousing multicultural sounds.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles hosted a pre-Passover open house party April 3 for more than 80 people. The event included music from Cantor Dale Schatz, who sang Passover-themed songs. Guests noshed on fruit from a fruit cart, popcorn and pretzels while Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz read the Passover book “And Then Another Sheep Turned Up” by Laura Gehl. 

The free event included face-painting and art projects designed by the rabbi’s wife, Blair Lebovitz. Kids got to design matzo covers, color Passover placemats and solve Passover puzzles. 

It marked the beginning of an ongoing partnership with PJ Library, which sends Jewish children’s books to families for free. The book was selected because it “stressed the values of family and welcoming others during the Passover seder,” Lebovitz said.

“Engaging with unaffiliated Jewish families in West L.A. is a priority for me in my rabbinate,” Lebovitz told the Journal. “Adat Shalom has so much to offer families with children.  That’s why we’re so proud of our partnership with PJ Library.”

Among those in attendance were Adat Shalom President Liz Bar-El and board member Marla Knoll.

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer


Led by coach Mathew Arnold, the Academic Decathlon team at Granada Hills Charter High School took home the national title in the quiz competition last month — again. The win is the fifth championship for Arnold, 38, an English teacher and longtime former camper at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu.

The 2016 national Academic Decathlon champions from Granda Hills Charter High in the San Fernando Valley, led by coach Mathew Arnold (far right), a former camper at the JCA Shalom Malibu summer camp.  Photo courtesy of Granada Hills Charter High School

Despite his status as the winningest coach in Academic Decathlon history, it wasn’t clear until near the end of the competition in Anchorage, Alaska, that he would be going home with another title.

“At times, it seemed like we were neck and neck,” Arnold said. “That was tense.”

In the end, Granada Hills’ 13-member group of high schoolers — divided by grade-point average among “A,” “B” and “C” students — dominated the individual as well as the group scoreboards, earning top spots in the competition’s rankings for each tier of students. The San Fernando Valley high school has won five of the last six national championships.

Arnold emphasized that the team’s success would not be possible without support from the administration, other teachers and parents. “It really takes an entire school,” he said.

But the ultimate credit — and the college essay fodder — goes to the teenagers who spend hours after school studying for tests not required in their class curricula.

Arnold recalled one of his students being honored as the top scorer in the “C” category: “He stood up and it was like he’d just won ‘America’s [Next] Top Model’ or something,” Arnold said. “He had this look on his face that was like, ‘Me? Me? You mean me?’ ”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com

Letters to the editor: Nancy Kricorian, Hannah Arendt, minimum wage and more

School Chums Discuss Middle East Problems

Rob Eshman and his old school friend who is working with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement tried to find common ground on Israel-Palestine and raised the question: Do you have a better idea or a better strategy to get there (“Nancy and Me,” April 29)? I would like to suggest that Jews and Muslims in the U.S. need to work together. Start by making personal friendships and connections. In her book, “Refusing to Be Enemies,” Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, a Quaker-Jewish activist, promotes non-violent approaches to do so. It’s a start.

Gene Rothman, Culver City

Many thanks to Nancy Kricorian and Rob Eshman for this illuminating dialogue. Like many other people (Jews and others) who want to see an end to the Israeli occupation, I have wondered what precisely BDS policies are. Boycott goods produced by the occupation in the West Bank or all Israeli goods, etc.? Kricorian’s response to the question of why single out Israel and not Syria, North Korea or Saudi Arabia is a pretty good one: The United States throws tons of money and arms at Israel, so I, as a taxpayer, am complicit in what Israel does. But I shared in Eshman’s disappointment at the full measure of BDS’s demands, which clearly would mean an end to Israel. 

Kricorian asks if there is a better idea. Yes, there is, and it is being represented by J Street, which is very seriously pro-Israel and pro-peace, and lobbies for the two-state solution. There is an increasing visibility in the media for Street’s policies, and an increasing number of representatives ready to listen.

Alicia Ostriker via email

If Nancy wants to perpetuate the violence and injustices experienced on all sides, she has chosen the right path. If she wants peace and justice for all of Israel/Palestine, there is a very simple “better idea” working to move both sides closer to a vision of two states for two people … and there is much, much difficult work to be done to do that. It may not happen — and even if it does, it won’t happen with one simple piece of paper signed and state created — there will need to be a plan to get things there over an extended period of time.

But Nancy’s “answer” is a road to nowhere. “Ending the occupation” is a slogan, not a plan … and it is always easier to chant a slogan than to plan.

Lawrence Weinman, Jerusalem

Zimmerman Story Hits Sour Note

In the Katie Iulius article on Simone Zimmerman, although I agree with much of what the writer has to say, when was she appointed to speak for all, or most, “young Jews” who are interested only in the Kardashians or “cavorting” with Israeli soldiers (“To Simone Zimmerman, From a Schoolmate — and IDF Soldier,” April 22) — the author’s assumptions turned an interesting article sour and bitter, and a little ugly.

Richard A. Stone via email

Taking Issue With ‘Banality of Evil’

The allegation that Hannah Arendt’s construct, the banality of evil, is often misunderstood is invalidly employed to imply that if someone doesn’t accept it as a valid Holocaust explanation, then that someone is unable to understand it (“The Enduring Relevance of Hannah Arendt,” April 29).

Ada Ushpiz hasn’t made a film titled “The Enduring Spirit of Lucy Dawidowicz.” One might ask why Arendt is routinely celebrated as an intellectual while Dawidowicz is not? If Arendt hadn’t been willing or able to sufficiently fulfill her publishers’ dark objectives, I assert they would’ve promoted someone else.

Ivan Smason via email

Word of the Week: Praise

I’m well aware of the Mimouna celebrations, which have become increasingly popular in Israel, but I never knew what the word “Mimouna” means. Now I know: the Lucky Girl! (“Hebrew Word of the Week,” April 29).

We’re lucky that professor Yona Sabar is sharing with us his unique knowledge of Hebrew in such an interesting and fun way in his “Hebrew Word of the Week” feature. Although I’m an Israeli with a solid knowledge of Hebrew, I always find new (even surprising!) aspects of the Hebrew language in Sabar’s posts, which I share with my family and friends during Shabbat meals.

Rivka Sherman-Gold, Yodan Publishing

Wage Hike and Small Business

Like Dennis Prager, I, too, was opposed to the recent arbitrary wage increase foisted upon small business owners in Los Angeles and the state (“Why Do Jews Support a $15 Minimum Wage?” April 29). 

Besides the economic burden to squeeze out what minimal profits some businesses operate on (such as the 4 to 6 percent profit margin of restaurants, for example), what about the question of the moral “rightness” of the government altering the once “free” enterprise system?

I guess social democrats are happiest and feel the most fulfilled when they kowtow to labor unions and the working poor, so, what do they care about small, middle class-owned businesses?

Rick Solomon, Lake Balboa

Hebrew word of the week: “Mimouna”

The end of Passover was celebrated in various Jewish communities with local customs, often synthesizing old Jewish and non-Jewish traditions that are universally associated with spring. Passover itself is also known as Hag ha-Aviv, “Holiday of Spring,” and it falls in the middle of Nisan, the first month of the year in ancient calendars (Deuteronomy 16:1).*

Mimouna, the end-of-passover Moroccan celebration, which became an Israeli holiday as well, gets its name from Arabic for “the lucky girl,” since many weddings were held on this day (and were forbidden for several weeks before and after). This wedding tradition is similar to the custom from talmudic times of many marriages taking place on the day after Yom Kippur and on the 15th of Av, as well as to our “June brides” (originally Roman).

Many Muslims, who couldn’t visit Jewish homes during Passover for fear of carrying chametz, would visit on the evening of Mimouna, bringing bread and dairy dishes to “break” the “fasting” from bread.

*Jews of Iraq wished one another on this night sana khizrah, “Have a green year!” Compare to the Persian Nowruz “New Day” (of spring); “The First of Nisan” by Christian Assyrians; Seharane (a community picnic dance and music) by Kurdish Jews; and Rumpelnacht among Ashkenazi Jews.

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

A taste of Morocco without leaving town

I remember six years ago being in Tarifa — on the southernmost coast of Spain, a 30-minute ferry ride to Tangier, Morocco — and being tempted to cross continents. The port was so close to Africa, I could nearly taste it. The cloth was brighter, the spices more aromatic, the sea greener. 

“I’m taking the ferry,” I told my parents, who were comfortably ensconced at home in Los Angeles, during a conversation over a throw-away mobile phone. 

“Like hell you are!” they responded. 

I still flirted with the possibility, but as a 20-year-old female trekking solo into that foreign port, without any real plan or sense of direction — not to mention a tired, old backpack filled to the brim with odds and ends — Morocco seemed too mystic, too far-fetched, too risky. I never went.

But I fulfilled that urge years later, with no backpack, no throw-away cellphone, no ferry crossing. With just a glass of Cabernet in hand, I sat at the Levantine Cultural Center on Pico Boulevard, transported to that faraway land with the help of an array of art and an impressive sound system. It was all part of an April 11 celebration of Mimouna, a Moroccan commemoration of the end of Passover.

Custom has it that Mimouna was an opportunity for Jews and Muslims to convene and break bread. Because Moroccan Jews at this time of year maintained Passover kitchens, their Muslim neighbors would offer them post-holiday ingredients from their own kitchens (flour, milk and honey) and, in turn, together they would celebrate with platefuls of mufleta, a flaky North African crepe. 

Jordan Elgrably, co-founder of Levantine Cultural Center, described Mimouna as a “chance for the non-Jewish Moroccans to hang out with their Jewish neighbors.” 

When I arrived at the event, I was immediately enveloped in a collage of colorful fabrics, scents of powdered sugar, baked dough and hot tea, and the sounds of traditional Moroccan tunes wafting from the stereo. 

“So, you are Moroccan tonight,” a busy Elgrably said before rushing away to the back. 

People continued to arrive — about 75 total. As seats were being arranged, visitors wearing traditional scarves, linens and ankle-length dresses in astonishing colors kept drifting through the Levantine’s front doors. Once no more seats were available, they sat cross-legged on the floor in typical Bedouin fashion.

“Happy Mimouna!” Elgrably said, welcoming the crowd. 

A patchwork of heritages, Elgrably is Moroccan, first and foremost, and a fusion of religious affiliations, including Jewish and Muslim. His father, of mixed ethnicity, was born in a town that Elgrably roughly calculated as “one day’s mule ride from Marrakesh,” and his mother came from Casablanca.

Inspired by his blended heritage, Elgrably told the Journal he wants to expand the potential of the Levantine Cultural Center in the coming year as a cultural co-op. In fact, a name change is underway and the center, which opened in 2001, soon will be rebranded as The Merkaz, which in Arabic and Hebrew means “The Center.” The idea, he said, is so “more people will relate to the concept that this is a hub.” 

“I’m the bridge from Old World to New World,” Elgrably, sporting a mop of curly hair, striped white-and-gold Moroccan garb and slick, black leather dress shoes, told the crowd. 

Soon after, the festivities commenced as performers Rose Rojas and her Guedra group took the stage. Guedra is a tribal dance traditional to the “blue people” of the Tuareg Berbers, a North African matriarchal tribe in which men, not women, wear veils. Their nickname comes from the indigo dyes used to color their linen, which in the Saharan heat, bleeds onto their skin. Adorned in rich indigo robes, the women sat on their knees, chanting, as Rojas went through the movements, twirling her hands and swaying her braided black locks.

Next was Youssef Iferd on a sinter (three-stringed lute), who played an improvised set with local band Bedouin X. Iferd’s voice wavered like an imam’s call to prayer as he sang the ancient hymns of Essaouira, the walled city from which he comes.

This was my first Mimouna and my first real taste of Morocco. And although, over the years, Mimouna has been adopted by other cultures and traditions have been revised, Elgrably made it a point to revert to its origins. For me, it rekindled something else — that feeling of sitting in a Spanish port, exhilarating and wondrous, not knowing what to expect. 

Mimouna: In my mind I’ve gone to Marrakech

Tirbah u’tissad — may you prosper and succeed. This Judeo-Arabic blessing is the manner in which North African Jews greet one another just moments after Passover formally ends, on the night we call “Mimouna.”

For many Jews, the night Passover ends is typically the night to turn over the kitchen from Passover dishes back to chametz. For North African Jews from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, it’s a night when we turn over our homes from Passover to Mimouna, a joyous family and community-oriented cultural celebration that’s all about blessings, smiles and sweets.

Mimouna is all about blessings. In Arabic, the word mimoun means “mazal”; it’s a night when we bless each other and pray for “mazal” in our lives. Because Passover is the anniversary of our deliverance from slavery to freedom, we conclude Passover with an expression of belief — which in Hebrew is emunah (sounds like Mimouna) — that God will continue to bless and protect us beyond Passover. We kick off the night with a long, festive, beautifully chanted havdalah that not only “distinguishes between Passover and weekday,” but also features blessings for health, prosperity, happiness and safety. We recite this havdalah around a colorful table adorned with symbols of blessing. A bowl of flour filled with gold coins represents livelihood and sustenance. Branches of greenery symbolize a successful agricultural spring season, and a fish represents fertility and plentitude. We chant piyuttim (religious poems) in Moroccan-Andalusian tunes, with lyrics such as ‘arbah ya hai ul’jina’ — bless my brother with wealth.

Mimouna is all about smiles. There are no formal invitations to Mimouna. It’s an open-door evening, and everyone  — neighbors, family, friends and friends of friends — stops by to kiss each other on both cheeks and greet each other with festive blessings. The mood induces happiness and smiles. The table is colorful, and so are the clothes we wear. The women wear long, elaborately embroidered dresses called kaftan, and the men wear embroidered shirts or long robes called jalabiya. The sounds of Andalusian music fill the room, and as things warm up, so does the hand clapping and dancing. Shot glasses of mahya (the Moroccan name for arak) are passed around. My father told me that mahya means mayim hayyim — the water of life. This water certainly livens things up.

Mimouna is all about sweets. There are two “mandatory Mimouna foods” that everyone must eat. The first is a date filled with butter and honey. The host of the Mimouna welcomes you with this delicacy, accompanied by the greeting “Tirbah u’tissad.” Eating this indulgent combination of sweets symbolizes the sweetness of prosperity and success. Then there is moufletta, the piece de resistance of any authentic Mimouna. Moufletta is a thin, tortilla-style crepe fried in oil and served hot with butter, honey or jam. It’s our first post-Passover chametz, and — appropriately for Mimouna — it’s sweet! Some additional features of a Mimouna table include fresh and dried fruits, marzipan pastries, sesame cookies rolled in honey, a variety of jams and jellies, buttermilk and Moroccan tea with nana (fresh mint). Other than moufletta, which is either purchased before Passover and sold with the other chametz, or purchased after havdalah that very night, the remainder of the pastries are not chametz, and are often prepared during Hol Hamoed of Passover. 

I was born into a French-speaking North African Sephardic home. My father was from Marrakech, my mother from Algeria. I was raised in a small apartment in West Hollywood and have never been to these countries. Other than my family, our building was all Ashkenazi Jews, many of them Holocaust survivors. From them, I learned about the Shoah, and from my family, they learned about Mimouna. With my mother beautifully dressed in her kaftan and my father greeting everyone with “Tirbah u’tissad,” our little apartment in West Hollywood somehow expanded to welcome more than 100 guests, who came in and out throughout the night. All of our neighbors, our friends from school, our extended family — everyone wanted to come to our Mimouna. Everyone wanted that date and blessing from my father, and the two kisses on both cheeks and moufletta from my mother. The table, the blessings, the foods and the music — it was as if we were in Marrakech, not West Hollywood.

I now live in a slightly larger condominium in Westwood, but on Mimouna night, we may as well still be in Marrakech. My parents are no longer alive, so it’s upon me to distribute dates and blessings of Tirbah u’tissad, and my Ashkenazi wife, Peni – beautifully dressed in her kaftan — prepares moufletta that rivals that of my mother. My kids invite their friends, the table is decorated, and Andalusian music (along with Enrico Macias) fills the room.

James Taylor sings, “In my mind I’ve gone to Carolina.” On Mimouna night, we sing, “In my mind I’ve gone to Marrakech.”

Tirbah u’tissad.

The Magic of Mimouna

Go back a few centuries and picture yourself on a small street in a Jewish neighborhood in Casablanca, Morocco, as the sun is starting to set.

You’ve just finished the late afternoon prayers on the last day of Passover, and as you head home, you see Arab grocers setting up shop and laying out butter, milk, honey and, most importantly, flour and yeast. They are doing what their ancestors did for generations: helping the Jews of Morocco prepare for the ancient tradition of Mimouna, a night when the Jews celebrated the end of Passover by opening the doors of their homes to their neighborhood.

After sundown, Jewish men would rush to gather all the supplies — either by purchasing them or receiving them as gestures of good will from local Arabs — and bring them home, where the women would prepare elaborate sweet tables.

These tables were laden with delicacies, but the star of the show was a thin, mouth-watering Moroccan crepe called the moufleta, which you would roll up with soft butter and honey. Please trust me when I tell you that to this day, few things in life are as perfect as a couple of hot, sweet, tender moufletas — right after you’ve come off a strict eight-day diet of dry matzahs.

Moufletas were not the only sweet things floating in the Arabian moonlight on the night of Mimouna. According to folklore, Mimouna was known as the ideal night to meet your sweetheart. It was a night when doors and hearts were open, and young men and women, dressed in their finest, would move and mingle like butterflies from one party and sweet table to another. (I know, it sounds a lot more romantic than speed dating.)

The free-flowing and joyful atmosphere that made you feel the promise of finding love was not a coincidence. The night of Mimouna was all about bringing good fortune into your life. After eight days of prohibitions, Mimouna was the night you broke free, the night anything was possible.

For the Jews of Morocco, Mimouna was the Jewish holiday that celebrated optimism.

All night long, people would give the same greeting over and over again: “Terbach,” an Arab word that roughly means, “May you win and be fortunate.”

The word “mimouna” itself combines the Hebrew/Aramaic root “mammon,” which means riches, with the Hebrew word “emunah,” which means faith. Have faith in your good fortune: If Mimouna ever becomes a big deal in California, I bet the California Lottery would salivate to sponsor Mimouna parties.

As many of you know, the mainstreaming of Mimouna has already happened in Israel. The tradition has morphed from magical nights among neighbors to loud daytime barbecues in public parks, where politicians of all stripes come to sell their wares. I’m guessing the politicians want in on the good Mimouna vibes, which might explain why they’ve made it a national holiday.

From what I hear, the rabbis in Israel also got involved. They were afraid that people would rush out to buy their moufleta ingredients before the holiday was officially over, so they nudged Mimouna into the bright sun of the next day.

These rabbis obviously have no feel for romance — Mimouna is for the moon, not the sun. My memories of Mimouna nights in Casablanca can never mesh with the notion of an afternoon barbecue in a public park. Even though I was only a child, I recall feeling this mysterious, nighttime magic in the air. Even the nervous rush after sundown to gather the goods and prepare the sweet tables were part of the excitement.

But the magic of Mimouna was not just the sweet tables and the Arabian nights. There was something else.

When I talk to Sephardic Jews today who spent a big part of their lives in Morocco, they go on and on about Mimouna. It’s like they’re talking about an ex-girlfriend they were madly in love with and wish they had married. There’s a sense of nostalgia, yes, but also of loss — a loss of what that one night represented.

It’s true that they have tried to take Mimouna with them. In Montreal, where I grew up and where there is a large Moroccan Jewish community, people drive to fancy Mimouna parties all over town until the early morning hours. Even here in Los Angeles, there are Mimouna parties sprinkled all over the area, especially in Moroccan Jewish homes.

But everyone knows there’s something missing. You could serve the world’s greatest moufletas (my mother’s), wear a gold-laced caftan and have a live Middle Eastern band, and there would still be something missing.

It’s the neighborhood.

Mimouna represented the love and intimacy of a neighborhood. There’s nothing like popping in to see 10, 20, 30 different neighbors on the same night, most of whom you see all the time — especially when you know your great-great-great-grandparents probably did the same thing in the same place.

According to tradition, Mimouna itself came out of a neighborhood need. Because many Jewish families in Morocco each had their own Passover customs, Passover week was the one time of the year when families would usually not eat in each other’s homes.

Mimouna was a way for the neighborhood to dramatically make up for this week of limited hospitality — a night when things got back to normal, and everyone invited everyone.

If Passover was the holiday that drew you in — toward yourself, your home, your family — Mimouna was the holiday that blew you away, back to the neighbors, your friends, your freedom, your dreams, maybe even your future love.

Many years later, I find myself living again in a Jewish neighborhood, and I can’t help wondering if my moving here had something to do with my memories of another neighborhood.

Especially on that one magical night of the year, when the moufletas were hot, the doors were open and everything was possible. l

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.