Judaism, Slavery and Commemorative Ritual in the Netherlands: From Seder Meal to Keti Koti

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Abstract

Judaism and slavery in the (Early) Modern Dutch history are connected in a
paradoxical way. Jewish merchants played a minor, but substantial role in the
initial stages of the Dutch transatlantic slavery and are sometimes accused
of having contributed disproportionately to its growth. As a matter of fact, it
has been claimed that one of the first documented slaves on Dutch territory
was a Jewish slave, property of Jewish masters (the slave Elieser). On the
other hand, Jews and (descendants of ) slaves sometimes find each other in a
shared history of being victim of violence, oppression and discrimination. In
light of this, the phenomenon of the Keti Koti Dialogue Tables is of particular
interest. The Keti Koti Dialogue Tables are an invention of the Surinamese
slave-descendant Mercedes Zandwijken and the Dutch Jew Machiel Keestra.
The Keti Koti Dialogue Tables are meant to commemorate the Dutch role
in the transatlantic slavery by bringing together descendants of slaves and
white Dutch people. In the past five years Keti Koti Dialogue Tables have
been organized at different places in the Netherlands and up to 5000 persons
have participated. The Keti Koti Dialogue Tables are explicitly inspired by the
Jewish Seder meal. As in the Seder meals questions are asked (why are we
here tonight?), symbolic food is eaten and songs are sung. In this article I will
study the Keti Koti Dialogue Tables against the background of the Seder meal
through the theoretical lenses of Multidirectional Memory (Rothberg 2009)
and Transfer of Ritual (Langer e.a. 2006). With the help of other special-purpose
Haggadot (manuals for the Seder meal), for i.e. the LGBTQ community
and ‘earth justice’, I will show that the Seder meal forms a particular useful locus for experiencing and sharing feelings of hope for peace, justice, inclusiveness
and dialogue.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)65-85
Number of pages21
JournalNTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion
Volume73
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

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Keywords

  • Keti Koti Dialogue Tables
  • Seder meal
  • Haggadah
  • Slavery
  • The Netherlands
  • Transfer of Ritual
  • Multidirectional Memory

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