Mimouna, Moroccan Jewish Music, and Montreal

April 17 2023

Thanks to a proclamation from Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington, DC officially recognized yesterday as “Mimouna, a Festival of Good Neighbors.” Yet this traditional North African Jewish celebration, which in recent years has become increasingly mainstream in Israel and even in parts of the Diaspora, in fact took place last week, marking the conclusion of Passover. Mimouna’s origins and etymology are unclear. One common explanation states that it marks the anniversary of the death of Maimon ben Joseph, father of the great Rabbi Moses Maimonides; another that it is a leyl emunah, or “night of faith.”

Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy take the occasion to discuss not just the holiday itself, but also the musical traditions of North African Jewry, the Moroccan Jewish community of Montreal, and that community’s greatest musician, Samy Elmaghribi, with Christopher Silver. (Audio, 54 minutes.)

Read more at Bonjour Chai

More about: Canadian Jewry, Jewish holidays, Jewish music, Montreal, Moroccan Jewry


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship