May 25, 2023

Today at the White House, President Biden’s outgoing chief domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff unveiled The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. JIMENA welcomes this important development, which aligns with our vision to achieve universal recognition of Sephardic and Mizrahi histories.

JIMENA’s Executive Director, Sarah Levin was privileged to participate in White House listening sessions when they were designing this historic strategy. While there, she shared how JIMENA has seen antisemitism manifest in K-12 schools and curriculum, particularly in California, strategies JIMENA uses to counter this, and additional national strategies that are solely needed. We are heartened to see our feedback and insights included in the National Strategy released today. 

Strategic Goal 1.1 of the National Strategy aims to “Increase School-Based Education about Antisemitism, Including the Holocaust, and Jewish American Heritage.” That section includes this language:

In addition to learning about the horrors of the Holocaust, students should learn about global histories of antisemitism. This should include histories of antisemitism experienced by Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews—who trace their ancestry to Spain, the Middle East, and North Africa—and their stories of exclusion, persecution, and expulsion. Students should also learn about the history of antisemitism in the United States as well as contemporary manifestations of antisemitism. Educators need readily available quality resources to enable such education.

This is a historic moment for Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish Americans as the importance of teaching our histories has now been recognized and affirmed by the White House.

As a long-standing leader in educating the public on the histories of Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries, JIMENA looks forward to continuing our work with federal and state level agencies toward achieving this strategic goal. We have experience working with the California Department of Education (CDE) in this area, and already have lesson plans prepared that address antisemitism experienced by Mizrahi Jews both in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa. In fact, our lesson on antisemitism in the U.S. was adopted by the CDE for its ethnic studies course and includes the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

We express our deep gratitude to the administration for including the IHRA’s definition in its National Strategy and reaffirm that JIMENA has adopted this definition as well.

Having a National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism that includes our histories is critical to our work combatting antisemitism. We look forward to helping educate and support leaders and educators around the country and we thank the White House.

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