Rabat – The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations honored “righteous Muslims” who protected Jews during the Holocaust during its recent event in New York.
The Conference of Presidents, an umbrella organization that represents over fifty US Jewish organizations, hosted Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary general of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, as the featured guest.
During his keynote speech, Al-Issa discussed the state of Jewish-Muslim relations and highlighted the importance of Holocaust education in the Muslim world.
In January, Al-Issa wrote a letter to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in which he publicly acknowledged the tragedy of the Holocaust, “an incident that shook humanity to the core, and created an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person.” He also asserted that “true Islam” opposed the Nazi genocide.
The Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents said: “In the presence of many leaders of the American Jewish and Muslim communities, Dr. Al-Issa joined us as we commemorated and paid tribute to the immensely important, but too little known, acts of human decency and kindness of people in many majority Muslim countries during the Holocaust that enabled Jews to survive the horrors of the Nazi drive to exterminate them.”
Mimouna highlights Muslim-Jewish camaraderie
The Conference of Presidents also honored Laziza Dalil, Vice President and Co-founder of the Moroccan-based Muslim student movement, Association Mimouna, which promotes Jewish heritage in Morocco and Muslim-Jewish dialogue.
The Moroccan Jewish festival of Mimouna, a 24-hour food-centered celebration, begins one week after Passover ends. This commemorates how, for many centuries, Moroccan Jewish homes would empty their cupboards of leavened bread and flour during the week of Passover and give the flour to their non-Jewish neighbors.
After the holy week, Jewish families would receive their grain from their Muslim neighbors, who were trusted with preserving the food, due to their own careful maintenance of halal dietary restrictions.
Most older North African Jews remember the age-old “Mimouna” tradition. At the end of Passover, when Muslims came to Jewish homes to return the flour, they were always invited to stay for a few hours and enjoy the soon-to-be-baked treats.
Thus, Jewish homes were filled with neighbors, friends, and family exchanging traditional Arabic blessings of good luck and success while awaiting the laden trays of delicious Mimouna baked goods. The celebration was often also repeated the next day, with even more pastries and neighborly exchange.
Prior to the rise of secular political nationalism in the 19th century and the rise of politicized Zionism and Islam in the 20th century, Jewish-Muslim relations were usually characterized by neighborliness and amity, as the North African Jewish celebration of Mimouna shows.
The Association Mimouna co-founder concluded her statement by telling the audience of her group’s hope to preserve Jewish heritage in Morocco and announcing the first Holocaust education curriculum for Moroccan students.