JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa is a 501 (c) 3 organization headquartered in San Francisco, CA that is dedicated to the preservation of Mizrahi and Sephardi culture and history, and seeks recognition for the nearly one million Jews indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa who were displaced from their country of origin in the 20th century. JIMENA endeavors to address the existing gaps in the historical narrative of the Middle East and North Africa by sharing the Mizrahi and Sephardi story of oppression, plight and displacement.
Founded in 2001, JIMENA has been a leader of the Jewish multicultural movement by representing Jews from Arab lands. We have provided a platform for marginalized indigenous Middle Eastern and North African Jews to celebrate and share their rich cultural traditions and compelling histories with diverse populations throughout North America. Our unique programming raises awareness to the oppression and displacement experienced by nearly one million Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews in the last 60 years. JIMENA carries out its programs in college campuses, community centers, high schools, synagogues & churches, private homes & clubs, and public institutes in the Bay Area and in other North American regions and cities. Our main programs include:
A Speakers Bureau, composed of former Mizrahi and Sephardi refugees who visit local, national, and international organizations and institutions where they share their personal stories of flight and introduce audiences to the rich culture and history of Middle Eastern and North African Jews. From the U.N, to Harvard, to local High Schools in the Bay Area, the roster of institutions who have hosted JIMENA Speakers is impressive and has been effective in raising awareness to this history and culture of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA). All members of the Bureau undergo professional Speakers Training before sharing their story with an audience.
JIMENA’s Oral History Project aims to collect and preserve the personal histories of Jews who fled Arab lands and now live in the Unites States. Little has been done to document, preserve, and expose the personal and collective stories of trauma and loss experienced by Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. Former Mizrahi and Sephardi refugees are part of an aging population and for the sake of Jewish history and historical accuracy in the Middle East and North Africa, we we must ensure that their histories be properly documented. JIMENA’s growing archives of unedited film interviews, transcripts, written testimonies, and copies of documents are available to the public for research. Some of the testimonies can be found in the Personal Story section of this website.
Cultural Programming events such as Mimouna Celebrations, Mizrahi Shabbat dinners, Cooking Classes, Cultural Series, and Henna Ceremonies increase public awareness to Mizrahi and Sephardi culture. It is through this kind of programming that members of the general public gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rich culture of Middle Eastern and North African Jewry. Our outreach work creates cultural continuity between Israel and the USA, as nearly 50% of Israeli Jews are of Mizrahi & Sephardi descent, yet few Americans are familiar with this part of Israeli culture.