Jewish Week Concludes With Bible Lecture

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Kavita MishraBrown Daily HeraldBrown University

PROVIDENCE, R.I.?The first ever Brown University Third World Jewish Culture Week ended Tuesday with a lecture by Naomi Franklin, a black feminist Biblical scholar at Bryant College in the West Indies. Franklin examined the role of gender in the Bible.

The week was “a diverse look at non-European Jewish culture” and at “the aspects of Jewish culture that get neglected in the American Jewish discourse,” Third World Jewish Cultural Week organizer Jordan Elpern-Waxman said.

He said the week was held to educate Jews about the richness of their culture beyond European boundaries and to inform non-Jews Jewish people are not strictly European.

Jewish identity is not inextricably wed to a purely European setting, Elpern Waxman said.

A Moroccan Jewish celebration of community called Mimouna kicked off the week April 4 at the end of Passover, he said. About 150 students enjoyed food and dancing to Jewish songs in Hebrew and Arabic in Bigelow Lounge of Keeney Quad, he said.

Selin Zalma, an organizer and a Turkish Jew, said Mimouna recognizes the relationship between Moroccans and Jewish Moroccans.

The Week, initiated by students, was organized through the Third World Center and Brown-RISD Hillel, with financial support from several groups and departments, including the Africana studies department and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Elpern-Waxman said.

Other events included a Sephardic Shabbat service Friday evening at Hillel based on traditions of Sephardic Jews, those of Iberian or Mediterranean descent. After the service Cantor Moshe Tessone, director of Sephardic community activities at Yeshiva University, explained how services are held in other countries, such as Morocco and Syria, Zalma said.

Myron Beasley, lecturer in the department of theater, speech and dance, detailed his life story as a black Jew from Ethiopia as part of the week’s festivities, Zalma said. The black Jewish community in general is a very small one, she added.

Historically, Jews in the non European world have not had “a colonial presence,” Elpern Waxman said, but many Jews have lived in Morocco and the North African area for nearly 2,000 years.

“We’re hopefully going to do an Iraqi Rosh Hashana celebration in September,” he said.

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