Book review

A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night

At the end of Passover in Fez, Miriam is excited for the Mimouna celebration to begin. She is especially eager to help her mother make special paper-thin moufleta pancakes. However, with no flour at home, and at this late hour, how will they make this treat? She joins her mother on a trip to a Muslim neighborhood where her mother’s friend shares tea, conversation and a sack of flour. There, she meets Jasmine and a shy friendship blossoms when Miriam trips and Jasmine catches the airborne sack of flour. With an invitation to join their Mimouna party later in the evening, Miriam and her mother return home to prepare for the festivities.

Miriam sets the table with ‘a jug brimming with olive oil, and plates of dried fruits and nuts’ that signify prosperity and good luck. The guests start streaming in and as Miriam serves the delicious moufletas, Jasmine once again comes to her friend’s rescue. They spend the evening engulfed in sounds of music, laughter and shared feasts in the neighborhood. Jasmine, reminded of Ramadan celebrations, invites Miriam to join her next year. Though Miriam and her family immigrate to Israel in the next year, the memories of this night stay with her.

Similar to A Moon for Moe and Mo, A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night written by Allison Ofanansky and illustrated by Rotem Teplow explores interfaith friendship and a connection over shared food and festivities. The warm muted illustrations in reds, greens and blue give us a glimpse into Moroccan homes, alleyways and courtyards that portray a simpler time. This sweet look at Mimouna which traces its origins to Morocco and North Africa, also expands our understanding of Jewish diversity.

However, suggesting that Miriam is unfamiliar with sights and sounds of a mosque and Muslim neighborhoods feels disingenuous. The azaan or Muslim call to prayer sounds five times a day seven days a week and echoes through multiple mosques in Muslim majority countries such as Morocco. Even if Miriam is a young and sheltered child brought up in the Jewish quarter of the city, the call to prayer as well as mosques would be a familiar sight. As any minority community growing up in a majority culture knows, there is a familiarity with the majority culture which includes their food, festival, clothes, language and religion.

It is a pity that the author didn’t see fit to explore this connection in a meaningful way especially since Jews in Morocco were well integrated with the Moroccan Muslim community. While the book includes an afterward about Mimouna along with a moufleta recipe, she is clearly writing with a majority bias which is reflected in her need not to provide any back matter about Passover, the time period of the story, the symbolism of the Mimouna table or the history of Jews in Morocco for readers unfamiliar with Jewish traditions.

Here are some other inter-faith books that do better with representation of both communities.

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