The Things We Carry

Many of our family traditions stay with us regardless of where we go, even as we may try to fit into new surroundings and new realities. In many ways and throughout the ages, Jews have maintained a balance of continued commitment to Jewish holidays and rituals while incorporating cultural influences from countries in which they lived; the huge cultural distinctions of Ashkenazic (those with ancestors primarily from Central and Eastern Europe) and Sephardic Jews (those with ancestors primarily from Spain and Portugal) are just one example. As people from all around the world have made Israel their new home, this balance shifted in a significant way. Israel’s cultural fabric is being enriched and shaped by the Jewish holidays and customs that people brought from other places. The result is both a mainstream Jewish culture and a multicultural Jewish place. Some of these holidays and customs have been adopted into mainstream Israeli society, while others continue to be traditions practiced at home and handed down within certain families. We have included a small selection of traditions that have been brought to Israel from different cultures.

Some of them have become part of Israeli society more broadly, and others are only practiced in certain circles but may gain more widespread recognition the longer they are practiced in Israel.

  • How does tradition help you find a place of belonging?
  • What Jewish or Israeli traditions do you feel belong to you? Which ones feel foreign?
  • Which of these traditions would you like to experience and why?
  • How do these cultural traditions impact the nature of the Jewish state?


Many people identify the word “seder” only with Pesach, but many Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews incorporate seders into their celebration of Rosh Hashanah.

Like the Pesach seder, Rosh Hashanah seders feature a variety of foods, each with a special significance to the holiday.

Dates, pumpkin, scallions, and even sheep’s head are among a long list of traditional foods. Many uses of these foods revolve around traditional superstitions and represent a desire for health and prosperity. 

Here is an example of a Rosh Hashanah Seder booklet that includes many of the food symbols for the new year.


While some customs were brought to Israel from other places, other customs were discovered by Jews coming from all over the world once they arrived in Israel. One example is the traditional Jerusalem melody to “Adon HaSlichot,” a piyyut (liturgical poem) recited by Sephardic Jews as part of the Selichot prayers beginning the month preceding Rosh HaShanah and continuing through Yom Kippur. The beautiful traditional Jerusalem-Sephardic melody which had been sung for generations in Israel caught on among Jewish groups from all over the globe and is incorporated into the prayers by all kinds of communities and synagogues in Israel and abroad.  This traditional melody has become so “Israeli” that it has even been used by pop musicians, like the rapper E-Z and the singer Hanan Ben Ari.

Crowds at the Western Wall prayers singing Adon HaSlichot

Israeli Conservative Movement’s Version

E-Z and Hanan Ben Ari



The holiday of Sig’d was brought to Israel by Jews who immigrated from Ethiopia. Celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur, it marks the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and the longing of Beta Israel to return to Jerusalem.

In 2008, the Israeli government declared Sig’d a national holiday; it is becoming more common to see Israelis of all backgrounds partaking in the celebrations.



Mimouna is the Moroccan Jewish holiday, observed the day after the end of Pesach, which marks the beginning of spring. Best-known for its delicious honey dessert bread called “mufletta,” Mimouna has become popular and is celebrated across Israel and in some Sephardic Jewish communities around the world.

In celebration, Jews of Moroccan origin dance, sing, and wear traditional Moroccan clothes. Watch the video clip from Shalom Sesame to join a young Israeli girl at her family’s Mimouna celebration and click on the links below for more about the holiday!

תחנות יסוד קשורות בתחום החינוך לישראל

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