NY rabbi rebukes colleague for erasing Jewish links to Middle East

A senior rabbi at a New York synagogue has rebuked junior rabbi Andy Kahn for tweeting that Jews were not indigenous to the Middle East.  According to the Jewish Journal, the tweet caused a furious reaction from JIMENA,the California-based organisation advocating for Mizrahi rights, and from Mizrahi rights activist Hen Mazzig. To add insult to injury, Rabbi Kahn blocked Jews objecting to his post-colonial, revisionist views on Twitter. Rabbi Kahn appears to represent those liberal US Jews who think of themselves as ‘white and privileged’.

JIMENA also weighed in on Kahn’s twitter antics. “Him blocking a number of prominent and outspoken Middle Eastern Jews, before proclaiming Jews aren’t indigenous to Israel, is in fact an attempt to suppress Middle Eastern voices and experiences,” the organization tweeted.

“He can only grasp the most facile understanding of the Middle East — one that easily fits into his privileged worldview. Our *PLACE in MENA disrupts his narrative so much that the only thing he felt he could do is erase us – individually and collectively. This reeks of racism.”

Prominent Mizrahi activist Hen Mazzig agrees that Kahn’s behavior was insensitive to Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. “Rabbi Kahn has a blind spot for Mizrahi Jews,” Mazzig told The Journal.

Rabbi Andy Kahn

“He has displayed it over and over again by silencing Mizrahi Jews and even actively attacking them.”

Davidson addressed these concerns in his letter, noting, “Mizrahi communities today bear living witness to a Jewish link to the land — for some, a sustained presence there; for more, one interrupted by conquest and exile.”

 “I’m glad that Rabbi Davidson addressed Rabbi Kahn’s tweets and mentioned Mizrahi heritage,” Mazzig continued. “However, I am concerned that Temple Emanu-El, whose entire clergy is homogenous, has allowed Rabbi Kahn to consistently bully, harass and erase the experiences of Jews of color with little pushback. It speaks to how much they care about people of color in these times.”

 In a statement to the Journal, Kordestani said, “I commend Temple Emanu-El Senior Rabbi Joshua Davidson for speaking the truth about Mizrahi Jewish communities: we bear living witness to the deep Jewish connection to the land from ancient times until today.”

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