Tuesday, 24 April 2012

JVO: Celebrating Holidays of Another Jewish Ethnic Group

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe serves as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.

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Question: Can Jews of one ethnicity adopt holidays and customs of another? For example, some Ethiopian Jews celebrate “Chag HaSigd” around Sukkot, and Moroccan Jews celebrate “Mimouna” after Pesach. Is there anything wrong with an Ashkenazi Jew taking on these celebrations?

I know of no prohibition to do so  To my way of thinking, Jews should adhere primarily to one set of Community Traditions and not create an eclectic mix.
Personally, and many of my  colleagues dissent, I see no objection to "changing" one's ethnicity, E.G. from Ashk'nazi to S'phardi or vice versa.  But that change ought to be a thorough commitment.
The Talmud decries certain "cherry picking". E.G. to take all the leniencies of both Beth Hillel and Beth Shammai is "evil" ; to take both of their stringencies is foolish.
Yet we do see that the family of Rabban Gamliel took an OCCASIONAL stringency. So the rules are not totally rigid.
The best thing is to stay within one community, but perhaps to visit other communities on occasions of their celebrations as a guest.  E.G. why not attend a Chabad celebration of the 19th of Kislev?  Or a Kabalistic Seder for Tu Bishvat?

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