By Samantha Caruso
Maryland Hillel and Israeli American Council Mishelanu hosted this university’s first Mimouna, a traditional Moroccan Jewish festival celebrating the end of Passover, at the Rosenbloom Hillel Center Sunday night.
Mishelanu is a pro-Israel organization with active chapters on 96 college campuses across the country meant to bring together Israeli-American students. It promotes leadership and strong Israeli-American connections, according to its website.
The organization’s chapter at this university transformed the game room of RHC into a colorful and lively shrine to Moroccan culture, and did so by hanging traditional Moroccan garb on the walls and setting up a bountiful table of homemade Moroccan desserts and tea, which served as the focal point of the room.
Mishelanu Co-president Ophir Gal, a sophomore computer science major, described the purpose of the festival, which takes place annually in Israel.
“Mimouna is just a very big, fun celebration,” Gal said. “It marks the end of Passover and going back to eating baked goods, which you’re not supposed to eat during Passover. This is a Moroccan tradition, so it’s full of Moroccan food, outfits and dancing.”
They also set up fun craft tables, like a table where participants could decorate their own hamsa and a table where people could get traditional henna tattoos on their hands.
Shira Gabay, the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at RHC, described Mimouna as a festival celebrated all over Israel, even by Jewish people who do not have a Moroccan background.
“It was created by Moroccan Jews but people all over Israel celebrate it today. It’s just become a part of Israeli culture over the years,” she said. “Even if you aren’t Moroccan, your Moroccan Jewish friends invite you over and share food with you and don’t let you leave until you’ve had plenty to eat!”
Mayan Beroukhim, a sophomore special education major of Moroccan-Jewish descent, said she loved the atmosphere at the festival.
“The loud music, the amazing food, it’s just so fun in here,” she said. “People are smiling and excited to be eating bread again! And I really love looking at all the clothes. They’re so intricate and beautiful. You can tell they’re authentic.”
Beroukhim said she enjoyed the henna table, where she was being given an intricate tattoo while being interviewed. She also appreciated how similar Mishelanu’s Mimouna festival was to festivals of the same kind hosted in Israel.
“It’s as close to a Mimouna in Israel as you can get. Super traditional, which is really comforting,” she said.
Lauren Kershenbaum, a junior art history major, said she loved learning about the traditions of Moroccan Jewish people. “As someone with a strong, proud Jewish identity, it’s really fascinating for me to experience a side of Judaism that I haven’t experienced before. I hadn’t even heard of Mimouna before tonight, but it’s such a cool tradition.
Kershenbaum also appreciated the different traditional breads and baked goods at the festival. “After a week of not being able to eat bread, being surrounded by all these desserts is awesome.”