Breaking the ‘Ashkenormative’ silence imposed on Mizrahim

Loolwa Khazzoom was one of the earliest people  to draw attention to the existence of Mizrahim and the marginalisation of their stories by the  ‘Ashkenormative’ US diaspora. Now her groundbreaking anthology of 2003, ‘The Flying Camel’ , has been republished. Haaretz reports:

In the early 1990s, long before identity politics permeated the non-academic mainstream, before intersectionality raced to the forefront of every cause and the Middle East became trendy, Loolwa Khazzoom was trying to get people to notice that she – and others like her – existed.

Loolwa Khazzoom. “If you raise your voice and ask a question, then you make yourself visible.”

The daughter of an Iraqi-Jewish father and a Jew-by-choice mother from Illinois who fully embraced her husband’s culture, Khazzoom’s heritage remains “part of the fabric of who I am,” she told Haaretz by phone from her home in Seattle. But growing up in Montreal and California, the basic elements of her identity kept her from finding a true home outside the home.

“I felt like a pinball in a pinball machine,“ Khazzoom says. She was taunted by classmates and staff alike at her Jewish day school in California for her Middle Eastern background and liturgical traditions. At her Orthodox Sephardi synagogue, she was silenced and shunted aside as a woman; her passion for the religion and its traditions and her willingness to sing aloud were met with apathy and annoyance. And in public school, she was the target of antisemitic abuse.

A pivotal moment occurred in 1990, during her senior year at Barnard College, when the school’s Jewish organization held a “kvetching session” on problems in the institution’s Jewish life. Khazzoom didn’t hold back.

Everything from the name of the “kvetching” event to the college’s Shabbat and holiday services “was super Ashkenazi,” she recalls. She suggested doing at least one Shabbat prayer in the tradition of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa – and was silenced once again.

Read article in full


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.