The Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities encompass vibrant and diverse aspects of Jewish history and heritage. Educators can effectively utilize the JIMENA collection to teach students about the unique experiences, challenges, and contributions of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. This collection offers valuable insights into different historical periods and events that are relevant to the historical and contemporary experiences of these communities. By placing these events in their respective historical and social contexts, educators can enhance students’ understanding of the history, heritage, challenges, and contributions of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Below is a brief chronological overview of the curated lessons and educational units. These lessons can be combined into a year-long unit on Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.
Who are Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews?
Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews share a deep historical and ancestral connection to the land of Israel that spans thousands of years, establishing them as one of the oldest indigenous Middle Eastern communities. Following a series of exiles and expulsions from Jerusalem, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews found refuge in various regions, including the Iberian Peninsula, as well as lands across the Middle East and North Africa.
- JIMENA: Around the Middle Eastern Jewish World: Created by JIMENA, this lesson plan takes students on a virtual journey through four countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It provides students with an understanding of the historical circumstances and factors that contributed to the existence of Jewish communities in these regions. By exploring the rich heritage and diverse backgrounds of Middle Eastern and North African Jews, students gain a broader perspective on the Jewish diaspora.
- PBS Learning Media: Jews in the Islamic World: This resource explores the conditions for Jews living in Islamic lands during the Middle Ages. Students will learn about the varying degrees of acceptance and protection experienced by Jews in Islamic societies, as well as their contributions in commerce, scholarship, and the arts.
- PBS Learning Media: The Cairo Genizah: This resource focuses on medieval life for Jews and Muslims in Cairo, Egypt, from 1000-1500 AD. Students will gain insights into the daily lives, social interactions, and cultural practices of Jews and Muslims in medieval Cairo through the study of the Cairo Genizah, a repository of Jewish documents.
- PBS Learning Media: The World’s First Ghetto: This resource explores the consequences of the Spanish Inquisition and the origins of the word “ghetto.” Students will learn about the persecution and expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and the establishment of segregated neighborhoods known as ghettos.
- Fowler Museum at UCLA: Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews: This comprehensive unit focuses on the Jewish community in Iran, one of the country’s oldest religious minorities. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that have shaped Jewish life in Iran and explore the contributions and resilience of Iranian Jews.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Nazi Racism: This resource introduces students to the foundations of Nazi racial ideology and its specific targeting of Jews through racial antisemitism. Students will gain an understanding of the key concepts of racism and its devastating impact during the Holocaust.
- Justice for Jews from Arab Countries: The Forgotten Refugees: This comprehensive education unit raises awareness about the history, heritage, and plight of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. Students will gain insights into the stories and contributions of approximately one million Jewish refugees who were displaced from their homes in Arab countries, fostering a deeper understanding of the broader refugee experience.
- California Department of Education: Antisemitism and Jewish Middle Eastern-Americans: This JIMENA produced resource examines antisemitism and its manifestations specifically through the lens of Jewish Middle Eastern Americans. By exploring the experiences of this specific group, students gain a deeper understanding of contemporary antisemitism and its impact on diverse Jewish communities.
By utilizing these resources, educators can offer a comprehensive and inclusive education that celebrates the rich history and diversity of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, promoting understanding, empathy, and appreciation for their contributions to Jewish heritage.