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Differences are meant to be celebrated and shared and highlighted as the beauty that makes the world spin around. Each of us and our cultures are different and unique. Please join Blupela in celebrating the uniqueness of your life and heritage by sharing it as a spotlight on Light of Culture.

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Asia

Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremony Chanoyu

Nathaniel Pantalone
Matcha ceremony (Chanoyu) is very complicated. Students of Chanoyu go to University to learn and study every aspect of it! Books that are written about it cannot hold all of its complexities within. Nonetheless, in this Spotlight, we will endeavor to shed a faint light on one of the most beautiful and complicated ceremonies in the world: Chanoyu.
What is Matcha?
"Matcha is a first class type of powdered, extra-fine ground tea that is used for the Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu, during which the tea is whisked with a bamboo tool called a chasen, in a handcrafted bowl called a chawan. Quality Matcha is always a pea-green, extra-fine powder with a distinctive, grassy aroma. The foamy infusion is fresh and deep green with an unforgettable, intense taste. Its health benefits are endless! We recommend that it be enjoyed after dessert or with a Japanese sweet, but never drink it on an empty stomach!" Taken from Dobra Tea
Matcha is made from the leaves of the Gyokuro tea plant. Gyokuro that is shade grown for more than 20 days is harvest by hand. The leaves are preprocessed into tencha by steaming and drying. When ground in a milstone (think giant granite stones), the tencha becomes matcha.
Two styles of matcha are served during the tea ceremony. The first, thin-style matcha, called usucha (oo-Soo-cha) is served to each person. The second, thick-style matcha, called koicha (Koy-cha) is shared among the guests.
What is Tea Ceremony?
Japanese tea ceremony is about four elements: wa, kei, sei, and jaku or harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. When one includes all elements, one can enjoy the simplicity of drinking tea. Harmony can be created through cleanliness; the ceremony is held in a room without clutter and with elegant decorations, like flowers in a vase or a flag of calligraphy. Respect is created by thoughtful consideration of everything and everyone involved in the ceremony. Topics that can lead to arguments are not discussed during tea ceremony. Purity comes from the cleaning of the utensils and the boiling of the water. Tranquility is achieved after the calm consumption of the tea.
The Five Parts of Chanoyu, Simplified
The Yoritsuki (receiving room): The receiving room is prepared to comfort the arriving guests. In the room, guests may prepare themselves for the tea ceremony by changing their cloths (kimonos are popular choices) or using the bathroom. Usually a pot of hot water is available to the guests to refresh and cleanse their palate. Sometimes the hot water is made with toasted rice. Relaxation is important before the tea ceremony.
The Roji (passageway): In traditional tea ceremony, after preparing in the yoritsuki, the guests move outside to the garden. The garden is specially prepared as a passageway to the tearoom. Stepping stones surrounded by moss are common. The ground is lightly sprayed to mimic the clean look of a gentle rain. The passageway is meant to create tranquility by experiencing the beauty of nature and refreshing the mind.
The Tskukubai (symbolic cleaning): Within the roji is a special place for guests to cleanse their hands and mouths called the tskukubai. It is made of carefully placed plants, stones, and pebbles. a stone basin filled with constantly flowing water allows the guests to physically clean before the ceremony, refreshing the body.
The Machiai (waiting room): The machiai is a waiting area comprised of a wall with a small roof and bench beneath. It is an area for guests to wait for the rest of the group and quietly enjoy the tranquility of the garden. The host appears after everyone has gathered in the machiai. The guests greet the host with a simultaneous bow. With a gong, the host invites the guests into the tearoom.
The Chashitsu (tearoom): After the drum of the gong fades, the guests walk to the unique entrance of the tearoom. The entrance, called nijiri guchi, is small, only about three feet high and two and a half feet wide. All guests must humbly stoop to enter the tearoom. Upon entering, guests slide toward the alcove, which displays artistic calligraphy, typically the work of a well known Zen priest, and bow to show respect. Flower arrangements and incense holders are also present. After examining the artwork, guest move toward the host to inspect the teakettle and utensils. After inspection they take their places for the tea ceremony.
The tearoom gives the sense of elegance and peace. Soft light shines through the shoji screens, highlighting the objects on display, and incense perfumes the air. The soft sound of boiling water is heard. Beginning the gathering, the host opens a sliding door that connects the kitchen to the tearoom and enters the tearoom. Everyone, including the host, quietly bows with respect. The host welcomes everyone and explains the special reason for the ceremony, if there is one. The guest of honor, or main guest, thanks the host on behalf of the other guests.
Description of Ceremony
A door made of rectangular rice paper windows opens. Two outstretched hands reach through the doorway and place a utensil on the floor. The hands, now pressed on the floor, allow their master to shuffle into the room. The master is a Japanese woman, dressed in beautiful green robes (kimono) with a large belt and a bow tied in the back. She picks up the utensil, places it ahead of her again, and shuffles toward it a second time. Finally within the room, she stands, walks slowly toward the flag of poetry enshrined on the wall, kneels and bows to it. She then approaches the kama, the water vessel in the room, inspects it and the ornate vase misisashi next to it. Since everything is correct, she walks to the corner of the room, by the door to kneel and rest. She is guest.
This description is from a tea ceremony watched by the author
Tea Utensils
Tea Bowls - Chawan
Tea Scoops - Chashaku
Tea Whisks - Chasen
Tea Containers - Natsume
Water Scoop - Hishaku
Cloth Napkin - Chakin
Silk Napkin - Fukusa
Tea Kettles - Kama
(And more!)
UPDATES TO FOLLOW!
Written by Nathaniel Pantalone for OWB LLC.

Votes7 DateJul 30, 2015

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North America

The Cajuns

Bernard Asper
The Cajuns are descendants of Roman Catholic French Canadians whom the British, in the 18th century, drove from the captured French colony of Acadia (now Nova Scotia and adjacent areas)who settled in the fertile bayou lands of southern Louisiana. The Cajuns today form small, compact, generally self-contained communities. Their patois is a combination of archaic French forms with idioms taken from their English, Spanish, German, American Indian, and African American (usually “Creole”) neighbors.
Pres. Teddy Roosevelt was a proponent of the ‘melting pot’ philosophy. The movement was led by people in Louisiana such as Progressive Luther Hall, elected governor in 1912. In July of that year, the legislature passed an act allowing the Department of Education to select all books and curricula for public schools. Starting the next year, English was stressed throughout the curricula, essentially banning French from the schools. In 1916, the state legislature approved Act 27, which required that all children attend public school where English was to be the language. This implicitly meant that the Cajun children that were brought up speaking French in their homes would have to learn English. The events were completed in 1921 when the Louisiana Constitution was changed so that all school proceedings had to be conducted in English. This succession of events led to many Cajuns growing up without learning their ancestral language. Stories abound of Cajun children being punished for speaking French at school.
Most of the parents of children in school for the first few decades of the century had grown up speaking French and still spoke it in the home. Children would learn English at school, but still learned some French in the home. As that English-educated generation grew up and had their own families, the use of French in the home was decreased with each generation. Some Cajun families, especially in more rural areas, continued to pass along the Cajun French language throughout the twentieth century.
Things began to turn around in the 1960s. Faced with the prospect of losing their language, CODOFIL (Council for the Development of French in Louisiana) was established in 1968 to help bring interest in the French language back to the educational system. Less than 5% of Cajuns born in the last fifty years speak French as their primary language. The French being taught by CODOFIL was not Cajun French. Still, it was a move leading to French language preservation amongst the Cajuns. French immersion programs can now be found across Acadiana, Cajun Louisiana.
Zachary Richard founded Action Cadienne to advocate for the Cajun French language. The group maintains that the language is integral to the continuation of Cajun culture.
Cajun cuisine reflects the mixture of cultures in Louisiana. Among its classic dishes are alligator stew, jambalaya, gumbo—actually a Creole dish, made with a roux—and crayfish (or other seafood) étouffée, served over rice. Many dishes are prepared with some variety of sausage, such as boudin or andouille (a smoked sausage made with pork), and tasso (a pork shoulder preparation borrowed from the Choctaw). Essential seasonings include filé powder (made from sassafras leaves), cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Cajun music likewise shows a blend of several influences, including French, Creole, and Celtic songs. Cajun songs are usually sung in French. Typical ensemble instruments are the fiddle, the diatonic (button) accordion, the guitar, and spoons or the triangle. Tempos can range from a mournful waltz to a lively two-step, but, whatever the tempo, Cajun music is meant to be danced to.
Article mostly from http://www.acadian-cajun.com/clang.htmin content and http://www.britannica.com/topic/Cajun

Votes7 DateSep 1, 2015

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North America

Jordan Danielsen Music

Jordan Danielsen
A native of Denver Colorado but raised in the Iowa heartland on the banks of the Muddy Mississippi, Jordan Danielsen grew up with guitar in hand and a harmonica on his neck. He has spent over a decade hosting open mics, performing in wineries, casino's, pubs, restaurants, festivals and everywhere imaginable from Madison, WI. to St. Louis, MO.
A wandering loner at heart, Jordan has spent much of his musical career as a solo act. However he has also played with some of the finest musicians in the Midwest to create two full length albums and do a bit of touring as well.
In 2011, Jordan released his debut CD Night Alone in the City; an album very diverse from start to finish. Chalked full of soulful horns, electric guitars, acoustic ballads, blues and a tiny bit of hip hop. Jordan's lyrics tell the story of his life growing up in Davenport, IA., and at times borders on the hilarious.
2014 brought the release of Old Soul, an album much different than it's predecessor. Jordan spins his musical tales of river's, road trips, and great grandfathers in the civil war. Sleek piano, organ moans, and haunting fiddle make this collection of songs very soothing yet exciting, and tend to take you along for the ride.
Always on tour and never without a song in his throat, Jordan writes from his life experiences and reflects his personality through his music. With many more songs to record and endless gigs to play, he continues to strive for new audiences every day.

Votes5 DateOct 1, 2015

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Africa

Ibrahim, the Coach on the Wheelchair

Issa Nyaphaga
Ibrahim Abdoulaye –
Since ever he was a child, Ibrahim barely remembers the last time he stood up and walked. Ibrahim was victim of Polio disease at the age of one and half year old in his village in N’ditam. Because of the lack of information in his family, his parents were not able to provide Ibrahim with Polio vaccination. But Ibrahim showing that even sitting the wheelchair you can accomplish your dream.
Mobility with dignity
The physical condition of Ibrahim has made him resilient to the challenge he faces in his every day’s life. From the age of three to nine years old, the young boy crawled down most of his childhood. In a rural African village, taboo is rampant in the communities. Fortunately, Ibrahim has less prejudice in Nditam and also the support of his entire village. In 2002, Ibrahim was granted with his ever first tricycle donated by HITIP (Hope International For Tikar People) a community-based organization working to improve the quality of life of the marginalized, indigenous people in Mbam and Kim region, where Ibrahim is from. The wheelchair has helped the young boy to gain his dignity – he couldn’t any longer be carried to run little errands such as going to the toilet, getting himself around the village and with his friends. The same tricycle helped Ibrahim to complete his primary education. Almost a decade after Ibrahim received his first wheelchair; he has become a strong young leader and a man with a vision for his life.
A gifted soul
In Nditam, a lost village in the middle of the equatorial rainforest, with no infrastructure – no running water, no electricity and medical center, Ibrahim has developed skills of a technician – he is the tech repair guy of the village. He fixes flashlights, radios, wheelchairs, bicycles and even generators. The villagers are amazed how the talent of a young individual with disabilities has become a tremendous support to the community.
Beside his passion as technician, Ibrahim is a great fan of soccer/football game. In Cameroon, Soccer/football is not only a game as we would think, it is a religion, and everybody is involved; children, adolescents, women, adults and elders. And for those who are not naturally granted with two legs, they can go play with braces or crutches. Ibrahim knows early in his life that he wouldn’t play the ball himself, and for a while he cheered the teams sitting on a wheelchair and one day he felt like not only waiting next to the stadium, he wanted to be in the game and field on the grass under the wheels of his tricycle, since he cannot stand and run.
Fair winner
In the Summer 2009, HITIP, the same local organization launched the soccer/football championship among the villages. And the event took place in Nditam his home-based village; it was the perfect opportunity for Ibrahim to show how much he could contribute to the championship. Quickly, Ibrahim formed a team of young soccer players and started training them three times a week. And he baptized his team; Meliti Football Club of N’ditam. Meliti is the name of the most famous tikar gods, symbolized as a character of a mask, which are the spirits of Tikar ancestors. The mythology of Meliti is known as the son who committed a matricide – the murder of his mother. With his oval and flat back head, Meliti has an impressive appearance, and has a single red feather on the top of his forehead, that gives him a particular look. Meliti has one extraordinary affect on the Tikar people; they adore and hate him in the same time, mostly women and young females. However, this name brought luck to the team of coach Ibrahim who has won the first soccer/football tournament. Since then, Meliti Football Club has doubled final cup winner of the Championship in N’ditam.
Along with his exciting hobby as soccer lover, Ibrahim has been a fellow for the computer and solar provided by Linux Friends Solar. The young coach on the wheelchair is now preparing to complete the secondary education.
The movie star in rural African
In the countryside of Africa where superstitious beliefs are rooted in the culture, taboo and prejudice are the daily challenge of women, poor or the disabled. Ibrahim’s achievements were brought to the attention of Narcisse Sandjon; a Cameroonian filmmaker based in the city of Yaoundé. Early in the summer 2015, a local Narcisse Sandjon came to interview and follow Ibrahim for documentary film project on his life. Narcisse said he was interested to film him because Ibrahim is one the rare person with disability who doesn’t beg. Then I thought maybe the coach on the wheelchair is kind of cool story.

While filming Ibrahim in N’ditam, the young man said: “Then years ago, my dream was to stand and walk. Today my dream is to leave this village to go beyond the borders of my country to receive knowledge and come back to make significant changes.”
At Blupela, our answer is: Why not! If you were able to change things in the daily of your village and give two victories to your village, you can inspire the world.
Good luck Ibrahim!
To connect with Ibrahim Abdoulaye, contact:
Issa N. Nyaphaga
Artist, Cartoonist & Human Rights Activist
Professor of Contemporary African Art, Social Justice & Cultural Diversity
Santa Fe, New Mexico – USA - January 25, 2015.
connect@hitip.org

www.hitip.org
All photos by O. Mebouack©

Votes6 DateAug 31, 2015

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Asia

Japan: Tradition And Modernity

One World Blue, LLC
Japan: A Journey Between Tradition And Modernity
How do you handle your life between your traditions and Modernity? What do you hold fast to, what do you keep, what do you preserve? How do you live the balance of Life and stay true to who you are? We all must come to our own understanding and yet see the traditions and culture of our life passed down from family to family are so precious and dear. Walk the balance of life and hold on to what you believe in. Hold on to YOU!!
1st Video by AmnesiArt http://amnesiart.com

Votes6 DateJul 26, 2015

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North America

Olmo Ling July Events

Olmo Ling
Ancient Tibetan Thrul Khor Yoga Retreat
With Tempa Dukte Lama and Geshe Chhembel Gurung
July 30-31 at Olmo Ling Bon Center, 1101 Greenfield Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
Join us for a special weekend Workshop on the ancient Tibetan Yoga practice of Thrul Khor, the “wheel of miracles”, with Tempa Lama and Geshe Chhembel. Thrul Khor is the training of harmonizing our body, mind and energy. The harmonious state of our being is a manifestation of joy, peace and prosperity of our body, mind and energy. This state manifests when we clear obstacles, obscurations and blockages of our energy, as well as blockages of mental clarity and wisdom due to agitation, dullness and drowsiness. Thrul Khor utilizes gentle physical movement, breathing and visualization to clear our mind so that we can abide in natural clarity and insight. Through this yogic practice we can transform conditioning that causes disturbances and imbalances in the three humors of wind, bile and phlegm and thus maintain a healthy body.
Mental stability, gentle physical movement and proper circulation of the vital breath will be the focus of this yogic training.
Olmo Ling Monthly Youth Sangha Program – Summer Meeting July 2
The Olmo Ling Youth Sangha meets once a month (during the regular school year) on a Friday evening with activities for both younger (0-10) and older (11-17) children beginning at staggered times. From 6-7PM activities will be geared towards the younger children with the teens welcome to come as well to assist. From 7-8PM activities will become a little more advanced, but related to what has already been taking place with the younger children able to leave if necessary for earlier bedtimes. Parents and friends are always welcome and we specifically request that parents of children birth thru 5 years of age plan on staying. Children 6 and up may be dropped off if they desire more independence although families are always welcome to attend.
The Friday evening Youth Sangha is a mindful way to end the school week and begin the weekend. This Program is free and open to all, and newcomers are always warmly welcome. Gatherings include a snack, meditation, and an art activity such as calligraphy, music & literature or discussions and service projects. Tempa Lama will join some of the sessions to lead creative and mindful activities.
2016 Summer Program: Saturday July 2
We will meet from 6-8PM to print prayer flags. Youth Sangha coordinator Bonnie Weiss will guide the children in meditation, chanting and stories in addition to the block printing. We will also have a potluck for snacks, so please bring something small to share (NO NUTS PLEASE). Tempa Lama will be away traveling.
We will be selling the cloth prayer flags to raise funds for the young nuns at Redna Menling Monastery in India, as well as to help fund the Youth Sangha. We do have all five colors of paper and any family who wants to print a set of these to take home for indoor use will be welcome to do so. As always, if anyone can sew on a machine and is willing to take some sets home to complete by September when we resume regular meetings, your help would be greatly appreciated.
Please RSVP with the Youth Sangha coordinator Bonnie Weiss at Bonnie or 412-877-4049, to ensure adequate materials are available for class as well as to advise about any food allergies or special accommodations that might benefit your child.
Bon Ngondro Retreat with Tempa Lama at Alma Yoga Center
Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9:30am-5pm, Sunday, July 17, 10am-1pm
Alma Yoga, 67 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hancock, NY 13783-1037
During this special weekend, Tempa Lama will continue teaching the ancient Tibetan preliminary Bon practices known as “Ngondro”. He will begin with review of the 1st part, taught last year. If you didn’t participate in last year’s retreat, please feel free to participate this year.
Ngondro practice is very beneficial for our life. It helps us connect deeply with our spiritual teachers and cultivate and stabilize the heart and mind that wish to benefit all beings. Ngondro is a powerful practice for purifying our karmic tendencies and negativities, cleansing our body, speech and mind and preparing us to recognize our true nature.
The Heart Mantra for Healing and Transformation with Tempa Dukte Lama
A Humla Fund event to benefit the Humla medical clinics
Saturday, July 23, 2016, 9:30am-5:30pm
Sruti Berkshire Yoga Center, Great Barrington, MA
In this daylong workshop Tempa Dukte Lama will give the transmission and instruction for the contemplative Tibetan Bon practice of the Heart Mantra, Du Tri Su for healing and transformation. he Heart Mantra is the heart essence of the teaching of the Bon Buddha Tonpa Shenrab.
Public talk with Tempa Lama: The Authentic and Compassionate Self Revealed
Thursday July 28, 7pm.
Shaler North Hills Library, 1822 Mt Royal Blvd, Glenshaw, PA 15116.
Join us for a public talk with Tempa Lama in the Art and Inspiration series at Shaler North Hills Library, entitled “The Authentic and Compassionate Self Revealed”. The Art and Inspiration series is facilitated by artist William Rock as a forum for artists, poets, writers and musicians to discuss creativity and dialogue on the ways in which creativity and spirituality inform each other.
Suggested donation: $5.
To Learn More About Any Program, please visit:
www.OlmoLing.org
Tempa and the Olmo Ling Staff and Community Thank You

Votes2 DateJun 30, 2016

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Africa

International Fishing Festival Nigeria

Sylvester Omeje
For many people, fishing is a way of life. But for a small town in Argungu, Nigeria, fishing is both a way of life and a symbol of peace between them and the people of Sokoto. Every year, the Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria is celebrated to commemorate the harmony between the two neighbors. Fishermen from Argungu, Sokoto and nearby towns participate in a bare-hand fishing contest in Matan Fada River where the winner is awarded generous prizes and the title, "Fisherman of the Year". The winner is the one who catches the biggest fish using only a net and a calabash floater. The Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria is a four-day festival which also includes different sports activities like archery, swimming, catapulting, animal-skinning among others. But the main event is the bare-hand fishing wherein a fisherman is given one full hour to catch the biggest fish to the sound of the beating drums. Winners will receive cash prizes and other gifts given by sponsors. Generally, the participants and audience are all male so verify with the event organizers if you are female and want to experience the excitement.
The best time to see the Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria is on March 16th or 17th. Again, always check with the organizers to prevent missing the dates as sometimes, the Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria is postponed due to low water level of the the Matan Fada. Usually the Argungu fishing festival starts on a Wednesday and ends on Sunday. If you are a bit of an adventurer and would love to dive into the waters of Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria or in any of the events, recently, they have allowed male foreigners to join the contests and the festival was brought to International level. The people are known to be friendly and helpful and it is most honorable to be able to experience the Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria. Weather during this time will be hot and balmy with some occasional rain shower, make sure to drink lots of water because it will be crowded. Moreover, if you are a spectator, expect it to get muddy especially if it rains in the Matan Fada. It is recommended to travel with a local so hire a trustworthy guide from a local tour operator.
Ref: http://www.thecircumference.org/argungu-fishing-festival
YouTube videos

Votes4 DateJul 3, 2015

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Middle East

Jews of Djerba

Bernard Asper
According to a local tradition, the Jewish settlement in Djerba also spelled Jerba dates from the reign of King Solomon and so was founded the present al-Ḥāra al-Kabīra (the "Big Quarter"). A family of Kohanim, priests fleeing Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. is said to have transported one of the Temple gates from Jerusalem to Djerba. It is believed to be enclosed in the Bezalel synagogue, known as al-Gharība (the "extraordinary") of the Ḥāra al-Ṣaghīra (the "Small Quarter"), which is situated in the center of the island.
The Gharība was a much frequented place of pilgrimage. The Jewish population consisted mainly of Kohanim with a small sprinkling of others, although there were no members of the tribe of Levi, the tribe assisting the Kohanim, among the residents. According to tradition, the absence of Levites on the island is the result of a curse of death against them by Ezra because they refused to answer his request to send Levites to Israel at the time of Jewish return to Israel after the first exile. The history of the Jews of Djerba includes three serious persecutions: in the 12th century under the Almohads; in 1519 under the Spanish; and in 1943 under the Nazis. In 1239 a colony of Jews from Djerba settled in Sicily , where they obtained concessions to cultivate henna, indigo, and the royal palm groves. It was common for the male Jewish population of Djerba to look for livelihood abroad, but they kept returning to the island, where their families had remained. Exchange of goods with Malta and Italy was in the hands of the Jews, who grew the products and processed the commodities for export themselves.
In the 19th and 20th centuries the Yeshivot, Rabbinical academies, of Djerba produced many rabbis and writers and they provided rabbis for the communities of North Africa. In 1946 there were some 4,900 Jews in Djerba, settled in al-Ḥara al-Ṣaghīra, al-Ḥāra al-Kabīra, and Houmt-Souk, the principal town of the island. Their number dwindled to about 1,500 by the late 1960s, about 1,000 in 1976, 800 in 1984, and 670 in 1993, the majority immigrating to Israel. Those remaining dealt in jewelry and commerce, but the Jewish neighborhoods lost their purely Jewish character as Muslims moved in and the community was the victim of several anti-Jewish incidents. Across the rest of the Middle East, Jewish communities have been vanishing over the past half century, since the creation of Israel. Before then, there were more than 850,000 Jews living in the Arab world. Today, there are between 4,000 to 4,500, according to Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Some countries, such as Algeria and Libya, which once had sizable Jewish populations, have virtually no Jews within their borders. Egypt, which through the late 1940s had 75,000 Jews active in the country’s economic and social life, is down to a few dozen. Only Morocco, once home to 265,000 Jews, has a community of 2,500 left. Many are elderly or middle-aged.
As other Tunisian Jews moved away to Israel and France for fear of persecution, the Jews of Djerba stubbornly clung to the promise of their own future. A community that had dwindled to fewer than 700 Jews by the mid-1990s—from a high of about 5,000 in 1948—began to grow slowly but surely. While there were and still are departures, they are outweighed by the young families choosing to stay. Today, the island’s Jews number roughly 1,000, local leaders estimate. Mounting concerns about anti-Semitism in France, underscore what the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia has been saying for years: That no place is safer or more hospitable for Jews.
“The Jews of Djerba are concentrated in one area, so the government is able to protect us,” says Haim Bittan, the Chief Rabbi. A resident of Djerba, Rabbi Bittan also believes that the community’s deep spirituality offers it protection. “We have faith in God, that if we keep his laws and commandments, he will guard us from evil,” he says.
The central government in Tunis has long seen value in having a stable Jewish population. Even after the 2011 revolution ousted longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali —the first casualty of the Arab Spring—the new leaders sought to assure Tunisian Jews that they were safe.
Djerba has enjoyed a lucrative tourist industry and Tunisia has been keen to preserve it by stressing its tolerance and moderation. Having a sizable Jewish community is key in that goal.
Djerban Jewish leaders are concerned about assimilation, so contacts with the 150,000 Muslims on the island are limited. Clustered in the Hara Kebira, the main Jewish quarter, they speak Arabic as well as Hebrew; a few speak French.
Relations between Jews and Muslims are complex—proper and respectful, though not especially close. Jewish men work alongside Arab merchants in the souk, for example, and enjoy amiable ties with Muslim customers.
With its low-lying houses and narrow, unpaved streets, the Hara Kebira is modest. While not walled in, it is insular and self-contained. Little boys run around in skullcaps; women wear long skirts, and scarves. And there are over a dozen working synagogues. The community is still Orthodox and insular but laptops, iPhones and TV sets are ubiquitous and more opportunities for women are being pushed for. Djerban Jews are proud of their heritage and want to preserve it even as the community has embraced aspects of modern culture. It is an ancient heritage of deep faith and it dwells on an island in space and in time.
For the most part this article is based on and quotes from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0005_0_05275.html and http://www.wsj.com/articles/insular-jewish-community-of-djerba-tunisia-has-weathered-revolution-and-terrorism-but-can-it-survive-girls-education-1423869146

Votes4 DateJan 17, 2016

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Africa

Yehuday Etiopia

Bernard Asper
In Israel there exists the largest community of Black Jews in the world. They are called today Yehuday Etiopia or Ethiopian Jews. They have their own Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Hadane, recognized by the State of Israel. He has amongst his duties to make sure that Ethiopians in Israel before they marry have either a continuous female line Jewish lineage or else that they first convert. This is because of the gap between World Jewry in touch with Rabbinical Jewish Law and their Ethiopian brethren not traditionally conversant in Rabbinical Judaism altogether.
They are developing their own responses to Rabbinical Judaism on individual and communal levels. This causes tension at times but the Jews from the Former Soviet Union have had a similar situation with Israel having to deal with people considering themselves Jewish in accordance with Soviet government definitions but not Jewish ones. In any event many Ethiopian Jews want to preserve customs that have been in vogue in Ethiopia. One of them, a holiday in Israel, called Sigd is an opportunity nowadays, for all Jews to further their bonds as a people or more accurately in terms of Jewish attitudes, a family.
Sigd falls out the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur. The holiday recalls the reaffirmation of acceptance of God's covenant with Israel through the leadership of Ezra and Nehemia leaders of the returning Jewish exiles to Israel from the Babylonian exile, the first exile of the Jewish people.
In 2008, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset legislated Sigd as a national holiday. Rabbi Yosef Hadane helped to organize its annual Jerusalem celebration. It is a time when Ethiopian Jews celebrate their heritage and now a time when their fellow Jews come to celebrate with them their common connection. After welcoming their brothers and sisters home to Israel, they are trying to make them feel at home.

Votes3 DateJun 30, 2015

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