The Abundant Joy of Mimouna
As the sun set over Bay Ridge, Brooklyn two weeks ago, Mizrahi and Sephardi members of JFREJ made history. We’re pleased to share the joy of the evening with you through this report back. And, it’s not too late to donate in support of this visionary cultural organizing for the long haul.
We celebrated JFREJ’s first-ever leftist Mimouna alongside 400 members of our community, including our long-time partners at the Arab American Association of New York and Desis Rising Up and Moving, in our fights against Trump’s Muslim Ban, the NYPD’s discriminatory surveillance of Muslim communities, and the rising tide of white nationalist hate violence.
It was an evening that can only be described by sheer abundance: an abundance of people; an abundance of sweet desserts; an abundance of joy, of solidarity, of livelihood, of connection; and an abundance of firmly rooted Jewish culture and ritual alongside our beloved Arab, Muslim, and South Asian neighbors in the diaspora.
Mimouna is a holiday that comes from Moroccan and other North African Jewish communities, beginning the night Passover ends, marking the return of chametz back into our homes. Many Jews who lived in Muslim-majority countries for centuries would open their homes to everyone on the block in honor of the holiday—including their Muslim neighbors—and quickly make mofletta pancakes with flour after sundown, sing and dance to Arabic songs and be together with neighbors and family in joyous celebration.
“The rich culture and history of Moroccan Jews has so often been erased, mocked, and appropriated,” said Hannah Goldman, a member of the Mimouna planning team and a Moroccan member of the Mizrahi and Sephardi caucus. “As a Moroccan artist and cultural organizer, it feels incredibly exciting and healing to gather community in service of honoring and uplifting Moroccan rituals, while forging new blueprints for intersectional Mizrahi art making.”
As folks arrived just before sundown—only hours after the devastating shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway—we opened the evening with our Arab and Muslim family at AAANY by marking Mimouna as an act of joyful solidarity and resistance against the rise of authoritarianism and ethnic nationalism that seeks to divide and destroy our communities.
Then, members of our Mizrahi and Sephardi caucus led us in a Sephardi ritual for Havdallah, and we unveiled the abundance of traditional sweets: Moroccan mofletta (pancakes) with different toppings made by our new member Enat Ventura; baked Iraqi goods like ba’ba’ b’tamur (date cookies) and sambusak b’jibn (cheese puffs) made by Annabel Raby at Awafi Boston; and nut- and dried fruit-filled phyllo pastries from Nablus Bakery, like baklava (pastry with phyllo and nuts), basbousa (semolina cookies), and ma’amul (date and nut filled cookies). It’s safe to say no one went hungry!
Throughout the night of Mimouna, our community danced to the incredible music played by our live band; listened closely to the Mizrahi and Sephardi storytellers who shared the wisdom of their ancestors; recognized the groundbreaking work of our Mizrahi and Sephardi caucus co-founders; and danced until midnight to the music played by our Moroccan DJ.
“It has been amazing to watch our caucus membership work and grow over the past 5 years, from organizing Mizrahi history teach-ins that challenge Ashkenazi dominance to showing up in the streets with our Muslim neighbors to protest the xenophobic Muslim Ban,” said Ora Batashvili, another member of the Mimouna planning team and one of the four co-founders of the Mizrahi and Sephardi Caucus. “It is such a gift to honor a holiday and history grounded in Jewish-Muslim solidarity and love. Our work is not just about learning our histories, but also about doing justice work here and now, in NYC, given the current political moment we are in.”
This is what our founding director, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, seeded for us when she wrote about and organized in service of what she called radical diasporism. It was both entirely in the spirit of JFREJ and entirely new and groundbreaking for JFREJ, and that made it utterly transformational.
Mimouna wouldn’t have been possible without our planning team of artists, cultural workers, and care workers at JFREJ: Sivan Battat, Ora Batashvili, Maya Edery, Hannah Goldman, Tom Haviv, Anna Jacobs, Jenny Romaine and our dedicated Mizrahi staff organizer, Keren Soffer-Sharon.
With their collective vision, creativity, and artistry, they were able to draw from the deep well of our mixed lineages and, with great care and intention, open up a sacred space for our movement that we desperately need and deserve. Mimouna helped us catch a glimpse of collective liberation—between our Mizrahi and Sephardi community, our multiracial Ashkenazi family, and our committed Muslim comrades—and it was absolutely exquisite.