FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. June 20, 2019
San Francisco, CA – On this World Refugee Day, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, is excited to announce the launch of the English version of an Israeli mobile application, “Seeing the Voices” which is part of a $2.6m initiative spearheaded by Israel’s Ministry of Social Equality to build an international Oral History archive of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews sharing their personal stories. Until now, the stories of Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East have been largely neglected, contributing to a lack of international awareness and recognition for their personal and communal experiences and losses. Documenting the personal stories of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews is not only an act of empowerment, but a necessary step towards inclusion in mainstream Jewish and Middle Eastern histories and consciousness.
In partnership with Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of Jewish Peoplehood and Yad Ben Zvi Institute, the project enables individuals anywhere in the world to capture the personal stories of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East and add them to the growing international collection utilizing basic mobile technologies. The user-friendly “Seeing the Voices” Mobile Application guides individuals through the process of the interview from start to finish. Users are provided with a step-by-step guide and questionnaire to conduct and video record testimonies with their phones. Each interview collected with the mobile application is automatically added to Israel’s official database of testimonies and are made available for viewing online.
In 2018, JIMENA joined on as the primary North American-based project partner after urging the Israeli organizers to launch the mobile application in English. JIMENA recognized the need for accessible Oral History technologies and support systems that would enable English speaking individuals to capture and add Sephardic and Mizrahi testimonies to a centralized, national archive. Since 2018, JIMENA staff have worked with the Israeli team on developing the English version of the application.
JIMENA’s Executive Director, Sarah Levin notes that, “For years there has been growing interest in ensuring the stories of Jews from the Arab world and Iran are documented and preserved in perpetuity, but the capacity to collect Mizrahi and Sephardic stories and build an international repository and database has been extremely limited. The “Seeing the Voices” mobile application puts the power of storytelling in the hands of family members, friends and schools who have limited access to film technologies. It ensures that the stories of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews from North Africa and the Middle East can be quickly collected in record numbers and are preserved in perpetuity without limitations. For too long the personal stories of Jews North Africa and the Middle East were mostly unknown and inaccessible. Now there is no excuse –English speakers must do our part to document the testimonies of our Jewish family members and friends who carry unknown stories and tremendous legacies from the Middle East and North Africa.”
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JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa