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Judaism, slavery and commemorative ritual in the Netherlands

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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.
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Keywords: Haggadah; Keti Koti Dialogue Tables; Multidirectional Memory; Seder meal; Slavery; The Netherlands; Transfer of Ritual

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion, formerly known as Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift (NTT), is a leading platform for academic debate in the fields of religion and theology. NTT (Dutch Theological Journal) was established in 1946 and is the oldest journal of its kind in the Netherlands.

    NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion (NTT JTSR) has a broad scope and welcomes contributions from religious studies, theology, and a wide range of disciplines within the humanities and the social sciences which investigate religions and religious phenomena.

    The journal regularly publishes special issues which discuss current topics in the study of religion. Recent special issues focussed on the study of religion today, freedom and servitude in Jewish and Christian Traditions, Paul Tillich: a theology for the 21st century, the contemplative turn in theology, and the future of religious studies and theology in the Netherlands.

    Renowned scholars such as Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, Kocku von Stuckrad, Birgit Meyer, David Chidester, Hans Alma, and Catherine Pickstock have recently contributed articles to this journal.

    Articles are expected to advance scholarship in their respective fields. Highly specialized research will be considered, provided that the Editors consider the contribution to be relevant for a wider audience.

    The journal uses double-blind peer review and accepts original contributions in English, Dutch and German, The journal appears four times a year. In addition, in each issue a broad range of recently published literature is reviewed.

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