Passover in Amsterdam: Matza, the invisible Jew and “our Jewish-Christian tradition”

Last Friday I went out with my son, looking for Matza meal for a couple of recipes for the Seder, the Passover dinner (ritual feast). We live in a lively neighbourhood in Amsterdam, plenty with shops. It used to be a Jewish neighbourhood. We have been to several shops but found Matza meal nowhere. We were puzzled with the experience. How comes that a neighbourhood once crowded with Jews has no traces of Jewish shops, nor Jewish produce? I mean, we know that Amsterdam sent 80% of “its” 80,000 Jews to their death, but it is still quite unsettling to walk in such a space and meet only signs of the annihilation of Jewish lives (see Gunter Demnin’s important project “stumbling stones”).


We decided to settle for Matza instead and just smash it into flour. Usually Dutch supermarkets do have Matza but we went to supermarket after supermarket to find it sold out everywhere. Finally we were lucky to get our hands in the last Matza packages in a neighbourhood supermarket. But we were also confused about the fact that despite no sign of Jewish life or Jewish traditions, Matzos were sold out! In fact the public space is saturated with Easter. But then a friend of my daughter explained to us that Dutch Christians eat Matzos with Easter. This is exactly what we found in the Matza package; nothing though about the fact that this is a Jewish tradition and that we commemorate Passover in this very period of the year…


We were left with a very strange feeling, as if we were sleep walking as invisible presences alongside a long tradition of presences and histories made to disappear. This made me think about the ubiquitous expression “our Jewish Christian tradition” which became shorthand in Dutch public and political discourse to affirm the non-belongingness of Muslims to “our [Dutch] culture”. It is a cleverly perverse way to instrumentalise Jews and an alleged inclusion of “Jewish tradition” into Dutch hegemonic culture with the end of excluding yet other Others. Let’s say that Jews are as included into hegemonic Dutchness as Matza in Easter, according to the package: made following a traditional recipe…

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