JIMENA records Algerian-Jewish stories

Few Jews who fled Algeria did not have members of their family killed, maimed or kidnapped in the Algerian war of independence, which precipitated the mass exodus of the Jewish community to France in 1962. JIMENA has been recording their stories before it’s too late. Report in the San Francisco Jewish Weekly :

Bernard and Lillianne Bekech had no choice but to pay the ransom.

In 1961, their two-year-old son was kidnapped by gangsters during the
chaos of the Algerian War of Independence — during which the Jews of
Algeria suffered mightily. The couple paid everything they had to rescue
him before immigrating to France along with 130,000 of their fellow
Algerian Jews.

Didier Nebot, a French author who was born in Algeria

Didier Nebot, a French author who was born in Algeria

Theirs is just one of the many stories from a Jewish community that had
been in that North African nation since the days of the Roman Empire.

Recently, the San Francisco-based organization JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the
Middle East and North Africa) captured several of those stories on film.
Shot in France over three weeks earlier this year, these interviews
constitute JIMENA’s most extensive trove yet of testimonials from
Algerian-born Jews.

French actor-singer Miléna Kartowski and American filmmaker Manny
Benhamou conducted 25 interviews — most in French, some in English and
Arabic — and gathered 50 hours of footage. Participants represented a
cross-section of the community, including presidents of organizations
such as the Algerian synagogue Les Tournelles and Morial (the
Association to Safeguard the Memory of Jews from Algeria).

The Bekech family sat for an interview filmed by Benhamou, himself
the son of an Algerian Jew who fled in 1961. That man, Eric Benhamou,
went on to become a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and
the Benhamou Family Foundation funded the project.

“Most Jews of Algeria have a strong personal stake in this,” said
Benhamou, a Washington, D.C.–based documentary filmmaker. “It’s an
untold piece of history, with a limited window to tell it.”

That’s because many of the people interviewed were in their 80s and
90s. As with Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Project, JIMENA has sought to
record as many testimonials from Mizrachi Jewish refugees as possible.

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