Legumes say farewell to Sephardi/Ashkenazi distinctions

Who thinks legumes are innocent?

It’s Pessach and I ate corn and chumus for dinner. And Bamba as a snack earlier today.

I’m Ashkenazi and I eat kitniyot. Hear me roar.

Of course I’m eating kitniyot (legumes that are traditionally forbidden for Ashkenazim to eat on Pessach). It’s taken me a few years to really go all out but I know that they aren’t chametz and I believe it’s time for Ashkenazim to get over it.

OK, OK, I know that you can’t just “get over” a custom that is many hundreds (or is it thousands?) of years old. But the transition is most definitely happening here in Israel as more and more Ashkenazim eat kitniyot on Pessach. Some are doing it more slowly – for example by eating foods that have kitniyot derivatives but not the legumes in their full form – but whichever way it’s happening, I am really enjoying watching it.

Avert your eyes, sensitive Ashkenazi souls! (photo by daszz)

There is so much talk around this topic. There are some Conservative and Orthodox rabbis who say that all Israelis should eat kitniyot on Pessach. You can read long articles explaining the nuances of the tradition in relation to life in Israel (in Hebrew) here and here.

It’s happening. And all this out of control kitniyot eating has me thinking about the different Jewish ethnic groups and where that will be in 20-30 years.

If kitniyot is only an example of the merging of Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Israel (and I hope it is), I could totally imagine the Jewish State having a mishmash of Ashkenazi-Sephardim and Sephardic-Ashkenazim where it comes to a point that we forgo those terms altogether. Yes, our children might say, “My father was from an Ashkenazi home and my mother was from a Sephardi home” but they will no longer be comfortable categorizing themselves as one over the other. Nor will they feel the need.

There is a big question about a lot of traditions and how they would evolve or merge with each other. For example, most people wouldn’t want to part with their prayer styles (nushachs) and melodies. But as people mix more and more, maybe solutions will naturally come to light.

I am not advocating us all becoming exactly the same, of course. There should, and probably will, continue to be nuances in Jewish practice. But this would still be a very welcome change because currently Israeli society is too focused on categorizing everyone in it. It’s really extreme and often unpleasant the extent to which Israelis categorize each other. It will be a relief when people get over this need. I do think we are already moving away from that.

And then, since geography makes such a big difference, I think the distinction in those 20-30 years might be not Ashkenazi versus Sephardi but instead Israeli versus Diaspora.

And meanwhile:

ashkenazim go hungry on pessach
“This year too there will be hundreds of thousands of people in Israel that have nothing to eat on Pessach. They are called Ashkenazim. Let’s help them!”
About the Author
Deena is a new mother, a project manager and a writer living in Jaffa.
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