Back

Mimouna: Radical Hospitality

Written by: Ely Benhamo
Passover

Mimouna: Radical Hospitality

As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Passover, there is one Jewish holiday that is unique to North African and Sephardic communities: Mimouna. Mimouna is a celebration that marks the end of Passover and the return to everyday life. This festive holiday begins on the last evening of Passover with homemade meals and continues throughout the following day in the form of outdoor picnics and BBQs.

Mimouna has its roots in the Jewish communities of Morocco. It is a time of celebration, music, and feasting. Imagine gathering together with family and friends to share traditional delicacies, such as thin (not kosher-for-Passover) crepes known as moufletta, served with honey, butter, dates, and a variety of spreads and jams.

You’re wearing traditional clothing items such as kaftans and fez, listening to Arabic tunes, and blessing everyone around you with wishes for good luck and wealth. You sift your hands through a bowl of flour to reveal silver coins (not to be confused with gelt), which symbolize these wishes for abundance and protection. All while sipping on delicious mint tea served out of beautiful glass cups.

In addition to marking the end of Passover and the beginning of Spring, Mimouna serves as an opportunity for Jews and their neighbors to come together and celebrate their shared values of friendship, hospitality, and coexistence.

Hospitality, hachnasat orchim, is deeply ingrained in Moroccan culture, and it’s also one of OneTable’s core values.

It wasn’t until 2019 when I visited Morocco for the first time with JDC Entwine’s Global Leaders Initiative, that I learned about Mimouna’s long history of promoting coexistence through hospitality.

The custom of inviting neighbors and friends into one’s home, regardless of their religious background, to share in the celebration originated in Morocco between Jews and their Muslim neighbors. Since we refrain from eating grains on Passover, and the traditional Mimouna food included ingredients that were forbidden during the holiday, it was often Muslim neighbors who prepared the sweet treats and pastries and brought them over to their Jewish neighbors for Mimouna. The opposite is accomplished with the Iftar meal after the Ramadan fast, where Jews would prepare sweets and treats for their Muslim neighbors for breakfast.

Just a few months after I returned from Morocco, the world shut down because of the pandemic, and I went back to my childhood home in Miami for the beginning of quarantine. Passover was the first Jewish holiday that we celebrated in lockdown, and even though I have Moroccan heritage, and “Morocco” was even the theme of my Bat Mitzvah, I had never really celebrated Mimouna.

I came to love and appreciate it after learning more about it from locals in Morocco. In March 2020, my mom and I decided to invite guests into our home (virtually) to celebrate Mimouna. We dressed up in family heirlooms and walked our guests through the process of setting the table and making moufletta. We welcomed 70 guests from around the world who joined us over Instagram that evening. Sharing the stories of my ancestors and learning about so many other Passover traditions that Jews have around the world was an incredibly valuable experience.

Today, Mimouna is celebrated by Jews around the globe. In Israel, it has become a national holiday. It is a reminder of the importance of coexistence and friendship in a diverse society and that, despite our differences, we can come together to celebrate our shared values and traditions.

As we set our intentions for our upcoming OneTable Shabbat dinners, prepare for Passover, and even consider hosting our own Mimouna meals, we can continue the tradition of hospitality and coexistence by inviting our friends and neighbors of different backgrounds to share in the celebration.

While celebrating Mimouna, we say “Tarbakhu utsa’adu” to wish our guests success and good luck. Let us embrace the spirit of Mimouna and come together to share in the joy and friendship of this special holiday!

###

About the Author:

Ely Benhamo (she/her) is a professional schmoozer and OneTable hostess with the mostess. When she’s not serving up some of her favorite Cuban, Israeli, or Moroccan-inspired dishes, she works as OneTable’s Director of Major Gifts, raising resources to support OneTable Shabbat dinners like yours!