web analytics
July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Passover, Peace, And Palestine: An Arab-Style Seder In 1920s Long Island

No matter how deeply American Zionists yearned for peace their good intentions often went unreciprocated.

Irma Lindheim

Irma Lindheim

Passover at Irma Lindheim’s Long Island home in the 1920s was not your standard Jewish holiday experience.

There was plenty of matzah ball soup and brisket, to be sure. But the dining room was occupied by a makeshift tent, the Passover table was replaced by a pile of sheepskin rugs, and the Lindheim children were dressed in Arab garb. For Mrs. Lindheim – the national president of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, from 1926 to 1928 – Passover was an opportunity to make a dramatic statement about what she perceived as the common heritage of Arabs and Jews and her hopes for peace in Palestine.

The path that led to Irma Lindheim’s unique Passover Seders began during a trip to the Holy Land shortly after World War I. A visit to a Bedouin encampment near the Syrian border deeply impressed her. The sheik received her “so courteously,” the wives of his harem were so attractive, his children were so charming, the ample food was “so delicious in taste and aroma,” that Mrs. Lindheim had to wonder, as she put it, “Under what possible circumstances could such people and I possibly be enemies?”

In Mrs. Lindheim’s eyes, the Arabs of Palestine closely resembled the Jews of biblical times – so surely they should all be able to get along. She marveled at the fact that her host “pulled off my boots himself, and laved my feet with cool water, [just] as Abraham had done with the three strangers,” as recounted in Genesis 18:1-4.

“The customs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were customs of the present-day Bedouin,” she wrote. “When Abraham sat before his tent in the heat of the day…he did no differently than a Bedouin sheikh we encountered, resting before his tent in the Plains of the Huleh.”

As her personal contribution to the cause of Arab-Jewish amity, Mrs. Lindheim decided to radically revise her own Passover Seders. Her children “would wear the robes of the desert Bedouin and would eat their meal in a tent… to commemorate not only the flight of their forebears from slavery to freedom, but also bonds with the Arab people who lived now exactly as their forefathers lived then.”

On their first such Passover, “young Norvin [her eldest son] stood, tall and darkly handsome in his Bedouin robes,” to recite the story of the exodus before a group that included Sir Wyndham Deeds, first secretary of the British government in Mandatory Palestine, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the foremost American Jewish leader of that era. Wise was a renowned orator, and “his beautiful great voice boomed out” as the hosts and their guests all joined in reading sections of the Haggadah. Lindheim’s youngest son, Stephen, who was named after Wise, recited the Four Questions.

“To the children, to ourselves, and to our many guests,” she later recalled, “the Seder [was] at once an unforgettable experience in itself and, in its way, a family landmark.”

But Mrs. Lindheim was not content with symbolic gestures such as her unorthodox Passover Seders. She and the Hadassah organization undertook a series of projects in Mandatory Palestine aimed at improving Arab-Jewish ties, including providing free health care to Arab communities, establishing the U.S. Jewish leadership’s only Committee for the Study of Arab-Jewish Relations, and building the first Jewish-Arab playground in Jerusalem.

Generously funded by Mrs. Lindheim’s aunt, Bertha Guggenheimer, the Zion Hill playground opened near the Zion Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City in 1926, complete with supervisors trained by the American Playground Association.

Sadly, it did not last long.

In the late summer of 1929, Arab residents of Hebron and Jerusalem carried out widespread anti-Jewish violence. Since the Zion Hill playground was situated in a predominantly Arab neighborhood, the supervisors, fearing for the children’s safety, quickly shut down the facility. Two months later, when they returned to the site to reopen it, they were horrified to find local Arab children painting slogans such as “Down with the Jews” and “Down with the Balfour Declaration” on the equipment and walls.

Although one of the goals of the playground had been to promote good relations with the local Arab residents, chief supervisor Rachel Schwarz found that “amongst the Arab neighbors are many who took an active part in recent riots and are very active at present in the [anti-Jewish] boycott.”

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Passover, Peace, And Palestine: An Arab-Style Seder In 1920s Long Island”

  1. Julia S. Gilman says:

    What an article.

  2. Julia S. Gilman says:

    What an article.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UN Human Rights Council
UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
Latest Indepth Stories
Jelgava Synagogue, Latvia

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

United Nations Building, New York City

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Zuckerman-070315

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

wedding cake

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Medoff-050815

An estimated 1.5-million Jewish men/women served in US, British, Soviet & Allied armies in WWII

Bibi0303.jpg

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/passover-peace-and-palestine-an-arab-style-seder-in-1920s-long-island/2013/03/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: