As an organization representing one million Jewish refugees who were ethnically cleansed or fled antisemitic persecution in the Middle East and North Africa, and whose Sephardic descendants now comprise more than half of Israel’s Jewish population, members of JIMENA’s Speakers Bureau are uniquely positioned to counter the antisemitic claim that Israel and her Jewish American supporters are oppressive, colonial, interlopers with no connection to the Middle East. This antisemitic revisionist narrative, which is popular on many campuses in North American, conveniently erases the histories and rights of Jewish refugees from the region in an effort to delegitimize Israel and Jewish people’s ancient and ongoing presence in the region.
JIMENA is committed to engaging students on campuses throughout the United States in authentic and diverse Middle Eastern heritage and empowering them with the Jewish people’s multi-millennia ties to the Middle East and North Africa. Members of JIMENA’s Speakers Bureau share deeply personal stories of Jewish life in the Middle East, adding nuance and accuracy to the status quo of on-campus dialogue regarding Israel and the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East and North Africa. JIMENA’s campus programs strengthen participant’s knowledge and cultural continuity with Israel and the larger Middle East, while enriching young adult Jewish life by engaging diverse communities in programs which emphasize Jewish diversity and the Middle Eastern Jewish experience. Our work is helping to combat antisemitic propaganda by arming students with the personal stories of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
JIMENA’s Young Adult and College Campus Programs
JIMENA student interns serve as informed JIMENA ambassadors on college campuses nation-wide, responsible for developing and implementing a JIMENA themed project relevant to their course of study. In addition to carefully designing an academic project, interns are responsible for engaging and empowering their peers in an on-campus Sephardic and Middle Eastern programming. JIMENA interns help expose their campus community to the personal and communal stories of former Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, serve as an example of Jewish diversity on college campuses, and develop a deeper understanding and inspired desire to preserve and share Mizrahi and Sephardic history and culture. Interns will receive a stipend for their internship.
Presentations by JIMENA’s Speakers
JIMENA’s volunteer Speakers Bureau is composed of specially selected Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews who serves as the voice of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran. Members of JIMENA’s Speakers Bureau visit college campuses where they share their personal stories and lead discussions related to issues of Middle Eastern refugees, Jewish diversity, Israel, and Jewish history and heritage of the Middle East and North Africa. JIMENA Speakers engage a diversity of student audiences in the culture of their Mizrahi community and 95% are multi-lingual. Their presentations promote JIMENA as a resource for more in-depth learning and engagement.
Mizrahi and Sephardic Cultural Engagement
Each year JIMENA engages a minimum of ten-thousand and young adults in immersive Mizrahi and Sephardic cultural programs such as Mimouna, Mizrahi Shabbat dinners, henna gatherings, Middle Eastern cooking classes, concerts, exhibitions, identity explorations, Sephardi Torah study and other cultural events. These programs help engage audiences in Jewish programming that exemplifies the diversity of the Jewish people. Our cultural programs give unaffiliated, and sometimes marginalized, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews an opportunity and platform to build community and share their heritage with larger audiences. By offering events that are uniquely Mizrahi and Sephardic we effectively create cultural continuity between Israel and North America. JIMENA operates through a unique partnership model that requires at least 90% of our programs to operate in partnership with another Jewish agency.
JIMENA Young Professional Boards: San Francisco and Los Angeles
JIMENA has two young professional boards, the Bay Area Young Professionals Board (YPB) and the Los Angeles Young Professionals Board. JIMENA’s YP Boards are a collection of individuals passionate about celebrating and sharing the rich culture of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry. This experience serves to build an inclusive community of young leaders working together to extend JIMENA programming and cultivate connections. YPB membership is an opportunity to learn about MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Judaism while developing lay leadership skills, cultivating friendships, and building community.Our YPB Network attends events such as lectures, concerts, film screenings, social gatherings, and dinners. In addition, we host a regular monthly happy hour in San Francisco, and a regular Mizrahi Shabbat series in LA.
JIMENA’s Young Professional Volunteer Committees:
The volunteer committee is a group of young professionals who take an active role in JIMENA’s work through contributing their time to our mission. Volunteers are instrumental to JIMENA’s work and join us to assist with event organization, advocacy, and more.
To get involved in JIMENA’s Young Adult programming please contact us.
“As an educator I am impressed by JIMENA’s ability to impact students understanding of the conflict by effectively reframing the conversation, in a more nuanced, in-depth manner, which also respects the history and plight of Jewish refugees to Israel from throughout the Middle East region. Amazingly, these Jewish refugees from the region and their descendants, which comprise the largest group of Israelis, have been largely ignored. This despite the central role they play in the history of the conflict, and the profoundly rich culture and heritage they developed over the thousands of years living in the region.
JIMENA’s talented and insightful speakers provide crucial first hand accounts of life and the exodus from the Middle East and North Africa. This is a powerful tool in helping to shape public opinion of the conflict in a more balanced manner. JIMENA fills an important gap in the discourse, especially on college campuses, by challenging the widely adopted revisionist history of the Middle East, which ignores the plight of Jewish refugees and mistreatment of minorities.”
– Charles Asher Small (D.Phil). Director, Institiute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and Koret Distinguished Scholar, Stanford University
“Members of JIMENA’s Speakers Bureau tell a remarkable story that needs to be told and retold. The plight of Palestinian refugees is a tragic story that has been seared into the minds of every student in the world. Why then, has the history of nearly one million Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands disappeared so quickly from our collective conscience? JIMENA’s message and the re-telling of their speakers personal histories, make the forgotten story of Jewish refugees come alive. Their message is helping to balance the inaccurate adopted history of the Middle East, which only recognized the plight of the Palestinians and fails to tell the story of oppression and displacement of Jews from Arab lands. In order to have peace and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews, the issue of Jewish refugees had to also be addressed.”
– Aaron Tartakovsky, Tufts Undergraduate Student
“JIMENA’s presentation was both captivating and educational. The story they tell is an important one which Jews and non-Jews alike should hear. JIMENA keeps this narrative alive both for the sake of the memory of the Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa which were destroyed, and to support Israel, the home and the future for many of these communities’ descendants. It is an important part of Jewish history and of the Zionist narrative today.”
– Brain Maissy, UC Berkeley Student. In reaction to JIMENA’s Presentation at Israel Peace and Diversity Week
“I want to thank JIEMNA for coordinating Semha Alwaya’s visit to Williams. Semha, who is a member of JIMENA’s Speakers Bureau, is extremely knowledgeable, bright, and down-to-earth, an overall great speaker and excellent representative of the Forgotten Refugees.”
-Marah Shapero, Hillel Student Leader. Williams College
“The feedback that I have received from students regarding JIMENA’s presentation has been tremendous. Many students shared feelings of incredulity about not having been taught about the terrible plight of Jews in Arab countries. Others noted that the situation in the region was far more complex than they ever realized.”
-Professor, Harvard School of Government
“We look to JIMENA’s Speaker Gina Waldman, as an inspiration and hope that we can work side-by-side to end hatred.”
-University of Michigan, Muslim Student’s Association
“JIMENA’s speakers gave so much to us – her story, her wisdom, her teaching, and her modeling of how the world could be. JIMENA’s visit made it possible to present the voice of Jews from Arab lands, which is rarely heard in our area; it also gave a boost to our Israel activist students. I really appreciate what you and the David Project are doing for our students. Thank you so much.”
-Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, Director of Hillel at University of Massachusetts
“The JIMENA event with Carmella Pardo at Chabad of USC showcased a speaker whose stories definitely made an impact and hit close to home. As a student whose family comes from a similar background and situation, getting to hear another immigrant’s story about her struggle to reach a place of religious freedom left a lasting impression. Carmella Pardo was engaging, telling stories of her past in a way in which students our age and from our background could understand and attempt to relate to. Hearing of our speaker’s time in Israel and success in education and profession after leaving Iraq was most inspiring, showing students that even in light of adversity, anything can be accomplished. Her story reminded me to appreciate where I come from, what I have, and the journey that lies before me in life.”
-Tanya Benham, University of Southern California Undergrad Student
“JIMENA’s Speakers show incredible selflessness, dedication to their culture, and a responsibility towards their citizenship. They have been able to transform negative and ugly experiences into productive and create helpful tools that are exactly what we need to solve the problems that continue today.”
-Rebecca Sutner, Columbia University Undergrad Student