web analytics
September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 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 the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.


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
Sen.Barbara Mikulski
Maryland’s Sen. Mikulski Gives Obama Magic Number for Iran Deal
Latest Indepth Stories

To be sure, the worst of what was directed at Mr. Nadler by some random hotheads with no real power or influence (calling him a “kapo,” for example) was over the top.

We can readily understand that it would be an embarrassment to the president were Congress to reject the deal he struck, even if that rejection would be vetoed and go nowhere.

Front-Page-090415-Exhibit-4

As the First Zionist Congress was indisputably one of the seminal events in modern Jewish history, it is not surprising that it became the subject of some of the most beloved, beautiful, and rare Rosh Hashanah cards ever created.

Many in the media impart bias in place of truth; convey personal prejudice over objective facts.

Nahal Haredi is the ultimate solution, according to Branski, serving haredim from a wide variety of backgrounds – chassidish and yeshivish, Sephardi and Askenazi.

A recent study found that 54% of Jewish college students experienced/witnessed anti-Semitism in 2014

The purpose of an attack on Joseph’s Tomb is to murder Jews at prayer and destroy a Jewish holy site

A nuclear Khomenist Tehran will be a threat to Western democracies and to Jerusalem in particular

The MONSTERS of Nebi Saleh know well the damning, visceral impact of powerful, deceitful imagery.

Jewish Voice for Peace openly supports BDS movement against ALL of Israel & ending the Jewish State.

In recent years, there has been a big push to grow and develop American Football here in Israel.

Unlike Judaism & Christianity which honors “truth,” Islam pursues “Taqiyya,” strategic lying

Yashar Lachayal’s mission is to learn what IDF soldiers’ need and get it to them when they need it.

Corbyn leading the Britain’s Labour Party polls, describes Hamas & Hizbullah as England’s “friends.”

The convicted murderer was released from Israeli prison with more than two dozen other sociopaths

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Dr. Raphael Medoff

For the Jewish Democrats in Congress, this is a trying moment

Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau

Morgenthau’s speech echoes history, reprising his father’s role of speaking truth to power: FDR

By using linguistic trickery, Nader is purposely looking to confuse the issue of anti-Semitism

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

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”

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: