Coffee table book showcases the ongoing stories of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews

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.

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