2021-05-03 | International News

473, A Belonging Experience. 2021

Opportunities and Challenges of Mizrahi and Sephardic Inclusion in Jewish Life, Source Sheet

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Many Jews of color and diverse Jews are politically conservative — and many voted for Trump by Dr. Mijal Bitton. JTA, November 19, 2020

“In the course of my work, I have found three most prevalent fallacies that impair Jewish diversity projects: the idea that all diverse Jews are the same, that nonwhite or diverse Jews are all progressive, and rampant tokenism.  

Many have a well-meaning but mistaken impulse to flatten the differences within and between diverse Jewish populations. They assume that all Syrian Jews, for instance, have the same political orientations or that all Black Jews would feel uncomfortable with security details at synagogues.   

Others commit this flattening between groups, lumping together Black, Asian and nonwhite Middle Eastern Jews as if they all see themselves as parts of the same communities with shared goals and interests. One example is the way some use the term “Jews of color” as a catchall phrase that includes all kinds of populations — Black Jews, Middle Eastern Jews, sometimes even all Sephardic Jews and Hispanic Jews.”

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Who Is A Jew And What Kind of A Jew? Getting to Know a Friendly American Jewish woman: Conversation by Sami Shalom Chetrit

Tell me, you’re from Israel? 
Yes, I’m from there. 
Oh, and where in Israel do you live? 
Jerusalem. For the last few years I’ve lived there. 
Oh, Jerusalem is such a beautiful city. 
Yes, of course, a beautiful city. 
And do you…you’re from West…or East… 
That’s a tough question, depends on who’s drawing the map. 
You’re funny, and do you, I mean, do you speak Hebrew? 
Yes, of course. 
I mean, that’s your mother tongue? 
Not really. My mother’s tongue is Arabic, but now she speaks Hebrew fine. 
Oh, ‘Ze Yofi,’ I learned that in the kibbutz. 
Not bad at all. 
And you are, I mean, you’re Israeli, right? 
Yes, of course. 
Your family is observant? 
Pretty much. 
Do they keep the Sabbath? 
Me, no, depends, actually… 
Do you eat pork? 
No, that, no. 
Excuse me for prying, but I just have to ask you, are you Jewish or Arab? 
I’m an Arab Jew. 
You’re funny. 
No, I’m quite serious. 
Arab Jew? I’ve never heard of that. 
It’s simple: Just the way you say you’re an American Jew. Here, try to say “Europeans Jews.” 
European Jews. 
Now, say “Arab Jews.” 
You can’t compare, European Jews is something else. 
How come? 
Because “Jew” just doesn’t go with “Arab,” it just doesn’t go. It doesn’t even sound right. 
Depends on your ear. 
Look, I’ve got nothing against Arabs. I even have friends who are Arabs, but how can you say “Arab Jew” when all the Arabs want is to destroy the Jews? 
And how can you say “European Jew” when the Europeans have already destroyed the Jews?

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Torn between Shabbat and just another hot night in the city. A reflection of a Shabbat service at the Magain David Sephardim Congregation in San Francisco by Michal Lev-Ran. J Weekly. November 7, 2003

“I sat in the back — the only woman in the women’s section — and listened.

For about an hour, the hustle and bustle of daily life — of work, appointments, cars and taxis and Friday nights out — escaped my mind. I sat, transfixed and transformed, and listened to the prayers and songs.

I was no longer in San Francisco. I was in Jerusalem, in the Moses Montefiore Synagogue in Ohel Moshe, where, as a little girl, I used to sit on plush red benches just like these. Any minute now the service would be over, the last song would be sung, the last “Amen” uttered in unison. I would grab a handful of dried chickpeas from the Shabbat table in the corner, say “Shabbat shalom” and walk down the steps of the synagogue into the quiet of a Jerusalem Shabbat. There would be no cars and taxis, the stores and cafes would be closed, and the people indoors with their families. The candles would be lit, the wine blessed and passed around and Shabbat dinner would begin and end with a relaxed, early bedtime.

“Shabbat shalom.”

“Shabbat shalom,” I replied to the men who had begun filing out of the synagogue.

I didn’t really want to leave.”

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Hacham Avraham Azulai. Fez, Morocco, 1590, The Daily Sage, Kol Israel Haverim/Alliance Israelite Universelle

Journey to the Mizrah Curriculum

“Such is the Torah, each and every person makes sense of it in keeping with his or her understanding, and sees its image in it. Each soul will interpret Torah in keeping with the interpretation it received, and will find that particular interpretation in Torah, just like a mirror that reflects the shapes of all people, despite that they each have different shapes.”

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Rachel Wahba, Benign Ignorance or Persistent Resistance? The Flying Camel, Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage. 2003

“Sometimes when I bring up the oppression of Jews in Arab countries, progressive Jews get strangely uncomfortable – as if recognizing the Jewish experience under Islam would make someone racist and anti-Arab. During my mother’s cancer support group intake, I listened as my mother told her story of living in Baghdad and surviving the *Farhud. She ended with an ironic, “I survived the Arabs to get cancer?” The Jewish oncology nurse was shocked that my mother was so “blunt.”

Should we revise our history? Leave out the details of our oppression under Islam? Pretend my mother never saw the Shiite merchants in Kabballah wash their hands after doing business with her father, because he was a “dirty Jew?”

*The Farhud was a violent pogrom targeting the Jewish population in Baghdad Iraq in 1941. Over 200 Jewish individuals were killed and 1,000 injured.