Sephardi Voices US have been interviewing Jews who lived in the Muslim world and recording their stories for posterity. Now Dr Henry Green and Richard Stursburg have produced a coffee table book to help fill the lacunae in this field, writes Nina Boug Lichtenstein in her Jewish Book Council review.
Not only does this handsome, glossy hardcover include a gallery of stunning portraits making it a perfect gift and coffee table book, but the timing of its publication is essential. Henry Green and Richard Stursburg have captured the voices and faces of the still-living generation of Jews who have experienced firsthand — as children and adults — the great uprooting from their homelands in Africa and the Middle East in the twentieth century. This is not a book that lingers in distant histories of dead Jews, but one that puts front and center the ongoing stories of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews who have lost so much, struggled, and yet also rebuilt rich, meaningful lives in their new homelands, predominantly Israel, France, Canada, and the United States.
We are increasingly seeing more and better reports, historical research, and stories that appear about Jews from Islamic lands, not just in academia but also in the press and not the least on social media. In France and Israel, this rectification has in no small part been due to the fact that Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews make up the majority of the Jewish population and that they have contributed to an important revitalization of Jewish culture and joie de vivre in countries where the shadow of the Holocaust hangs heavily.
Publications on the topic in English have lagged behind, but books like Lyn Julius’s recent Uprooted: How 3000 Years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight, and now Green and Stursburg’s stunning and much-anticipated contribution, help fill the lacunae on the topic. While the authors of Sephardi Voices have created an aesthetically pleasing publication, they also provide ample historical context to give the reader a solid sense of the generations of Jews that called places like Morocco, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq, and Ethiopia their homes.