Our family traditions stay with us no matter where we go. Learn how Israel's cultural fabric has been enriched by these Jewish holidays and customs that may seem unfamiliar in the North American Jewish community.
"My parents made aliyah (עֲלִיָה) thirty years ago from North America, and while they were eager to learn Hebrew and feel comfortable in their new surroundings, celebrating Thanksgiving was one tradition they (particularly my father) were not willing to give up." – Leah Breslow-Katz in "Why Do We Keep the Traditions We Keep?"
Just as some American olim (עוֹלִים, lit. "those who ascend") have integrated Thanksgiving into their lives in Israel, there are many examples of unique customs and traditions that contribute to the diversity of Israeli culture.
In celebration of the Thanksgiving and Chanukkah overlap this year, below are examples of Jewish/ethnic holidays that have been "carried" to Israel.
Moroccan Jewish Community
Mimouna is the Moroccan Jewish holiday which marks the end of Pesach and the beginning of spring. The holiday is known for its delicious honey dessert bread called “mufletta.” Mimouna has become popular and is celebrated across Israel and in certain Sephardic Jewish communities around the world.
In celebration, Moroccan Jews dance and 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!
- What is "Sephardic"?
- What themes do you see in the Mimouna celebration?
- In what ways do they compare with the traditions of your family?
Beta Israel Community (Ethiopia)
The holiday of Sig'd celebrates the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and the longing of the Beta Israel to return to Jerusalem. The holiday has been declared an Israeli national holiday, and Israelis of all backgrounds have begun to partake in the celebrations.
- Who are the Beta Israel?
- How does their story compare to the story of your own ancestors?
- How do their rituals compare to your own rituals?
Rosh Hashanah Seder (סֵדֶר לֵיל רֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה)
Sephardic and Mizrahi
Many people identify the word "seder" only with Pesach. But amongst many Sephardic Jews, seders also occur during Rosh Hashanah. Like the Pesach seder, Rosh Hashanah seders feature a variety of different foods, each with a special significance to the holiday. Foods like 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 a desire for health and prosperity.
- How does food play a part in your traditions?
- What foods do you associate with the different holidays?
- How do they compare to the foods and traditions of others?
General Questions and Activities
- What are traditions?
- Why are traditions important?
- In what ways can the word "tradition" be defined?
- What traditions are a part of your family? How do they compare to the traditions listed above?
- How have your traditions/events been combined with the celebration of a Jewish Holiday?
- What do you keep a part of you? If you were moving to another country, what would you keep a part of you?
- In what ways do traditions act as more than just traditions?
- What do we choose to remember about our holidays/traditions?
- "Israeli Street Party" – Interactive activity where kids act as a variety of people on the streets of Israel and engage with eachother as that personality. This activity can be simulated in any setting: the shuk, Thanksgiving dinner, etc.
- "Israel Lens" – Using photographs, kids have to opportunity to discuss and explore the stories and perspectives behind the diverse faces/people that form Israel
- "Potluck Dinner" - Assign each student a personality in Israel. The theme of the potluck is "diverse traditions." Depending on their assignment, what would they bring to the dinner and why? The items don't necessarily need to be food.