By Leah Jalfon, MHWOW Program Manager
Passover is more than a seder! If you want to celebrate Passover in a different way, your community already has plans for a seder, or you’re hosting an eat-all-the-bread-you-can-before-Passover program, this article is for you.
1. Celebrate Mimouna
What is Mimouna (pronounced Mee-moo-na)?
“Mimouna is a traditional festival celebrated by Moroccan Jews at nightfall on the last day of Passover and throughout the following day until sundown. Families open their homes to the public as they host a celebration involving family, friends, neighbors, and food…Since the celebration coincides with the last day of Passover, breads, cakes and leavened breads previously prohibited from being eaten during Passover are particularly present in the celebration. Mimouna is a time to celebrate luck and good fortune as well as the start of the spring season.”
JIMENA was created in 2002 by former Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa who desired to share their personal stories and rich culture with college students, policy makers and North American Jewish communal and lay leaders.
Why celebrate Mimouna?
According to JIMENA, “The marginalization of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews from mainstream American Jewish life has left American Jews with a narrow view of what Jewishness looks like, what countries it comes from, what traditions it follows, what languages it speaks, how it engages with other Middle Eastern communities, and how it experiences Israel.”
A Mimouna is an opportunity to learn about and actively include Mizrahi and Sephardic traditions into your Passover story.
How to host a Mimouna Celebration
- Prep your guests beforehand about Mimouna . It will be easy to get people excited, because the purpose of this celebration is to do exactly that: celebrate!
- Traditionally, Mimouna is celebrated as a community, with neighbors opening up their homes to one another and sharing food. Your MHWOW programs might usually be invite-only, so consider making this one an open invite!
- Cook the traditional Mimouna foods – don’t forget the mufleta, the first leavened food served after Passover symbolizing sweetness, happiness and prosperity.
- Set your table – this looks like so much fun:
“[The Mimouna table] is laid out with items, each of which is symbolic in some way: a live fish swimming in a bowl of water, five green fava beans wrapped in dough, five dates, five gold bracelets in a pastry bowl…a palm-shaped amulet, sweetmeats, milk and butter, white flour, yeast, honey, a variety of jams, a lump of sugar, stalks of wheat, plants, fig leaves, wildflowers and greens. All are symbols of bounty, fertility, luck, blessings and joy. The traditional holiday greeting fits right in: Tarbakhu u-tsa’adu – meaning, May you have success and good luck.”
-Professor Yigal Bin-Nun, “Lady Luck”
- Mimouna recipes
- The origins and traditions of Mimouna
- Lady Luck: A deeper look into the origins and traditions of the holiday
- Ten things you didn’t know about Mimouna
Still unsure? Ask for help in the MHWOW Facebook Group! Many of your fellow MHWOW hosts celebrate Mimouna and would be happy to share their traditions with you.
2. Set Yourself Free
I led this easy and meaningful ritual last year for one of my Rosh Chodesh programs inspired by this At the Well Moon Manual from last year. Before Moses parted the Red Sea, Jews were slaves in Egypt. I asked my friends to share, What is “enslaving” you right now? Our answers ranged from finances, body image, to personal relationships and more. Showing vulnerability with each other allowed us to empathize and support each other. We each wrote our answers on slips of paper.
We then asked ourselves, “How can we set ourselves free from what’s enslaving us?” and wrote down our intentions for the next month.
I then asked everyone to put the pieces of paper that said what was enslaving them into the bowl, and then I set it on fire. I asked everyone to take home their intentions and keep them close.
Tip: For conversations in which you’re asking your participants to be vulnerable, it can be helpful to agree to follow some conversation guidelines, such as…
- Keeping the conversation confidential
- Speaking from the “I,” (meaning from your own experiences rather than on behalf of another person, group, etc)
- Allowing each person to speak without interruption
3. Eat! But also think.
Cheers to the Pre-passover carbo loading programs, Matzah pizza parties, Passover cookie swaps, and all over Passover food-centered programs. Consider adding a reflection piece to your program.
You can remind your participants why Jews don’t typically eat leavened foods during Passover. You can use any of these discussion questions or come up with your own.
- What does “keeping Passover” look like to you? Your family?
- Are we planning to “keep Passover?” Why or why not?
You can tell your friends, this is a no guilt program! You will not be judged if you’re not keeping Passover! Let’s talk about it!
- What are we doing to acknowledge the meaning of Passover?
- What Jewish traditions do we hold sacred and why?
Begin your evening with a simple statement of gratitude:
Our ancestors were slaves, and now we are free. Let us be thankful for this food and for our freedom.
4. Welcome the Stranger
Passover is a great opportunity to reflect on those in our society that are still not free and what can we do to help. Gather your friends to discuss the issues they care about the most, and decide together what you’ll do. This will create the buy-in necessary for a sustainable volunteer project!
Huge thank you to Molly Cram, Moishe House’s Senior Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager for putting together tons of resources to give back in this Tikkun Olam Guidebook – look at the very last page for Passover-specific resources.
I especially like Repair the Worl’s printable resources for your tables to spark conversations about social justice. Remember, MHWOW funding can be used for printing! MHWOW hosts like Anna Bobrow (Charlottesville, VA), Amy Krigsman (Boynton Beach, FL), and Diane Grayson (New York City, NY) have printed Shabbat and Havdallah blessings, siddurim, and more from the MHWOW Resources folder.
5. Tell Your Story
This one’s inspired by MHWOW host Nina Gordon Kirsch’s program, “Desert Wanderings of Adolescence!”
“This program will be a story telling about Passover, followed by folks coming up to share their own stories of wandering through the deserts of their personal history and making it to the promised land. In a cultural society that hardly recognizes the immense transition from adolescence to adulthood (let’s be real – bar and bat mitzvahs no longer initiate us into adulthood), this event will give people in their 20s and 30s a time to be witnessed in their storytelling of their wanderings in the desert of adolescence and how far they’ve come into the promised land of adulthood now. My goals for the program are to first re-enact the Pesach story, then have at least 8 people share their personal stories of the hardships of adolescence in a comical fashion – to read journal entries or act out their middle school self, and be grateful for where they came from because it made them who they are today.”
In order to make your Passover storytelling program the most meaningful it can be, ask the people who you think would be great storytellers before the program to give them enough time to prepare. If they’re nervous to speak in front of a group, let them know they can pair up with someone else. Suggest that their stories/skits stay between 3-5 minutes so that everyone has a chance to participate. Let them know it’s fine to bring their stories/skits on paper, and bonus points if they dress in costume!
Set the stage so that your storytellers feel appreciated and that the rest of the group is prepared to listen. Make sure that people grab food and drinks before sitting down, and ask storytellers to stand in front of the group. Thank the storytellers for their work and ask that participants show them respect by paying attention, not talking amongst themselves, or texting. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Tell us about your Passover programs at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can highlight them in our next Schmoozeletter! Happy hosting!!!