Tag: Mizrahi Jews in US

American Jewry’s blindspot for Mizrahi Jews

The American-Jewish diaspora has been ignoring the history and experience of a significant number of Mizrahi Jews lest it disturb their binary understanding of Jews generally – divided into simplistic categories of ‘white’ and ‘black’ Jews.  To introduce Mizrahi Jews into debate of the  Arab-Israel conflict also overturns assumptions about who is the ‘privileged’ oppressor and who the victim. Must-read by Nave Dromi  in JNS News.

The recent discussion about “Jews of Color,” who fit this identity and whose numbers relative to the total Jewish population are significant, has once again exposed a blind spot in American Jewry.

Yemenite Jews in a tent camp, 1950: overturning assumptions of who is ‘privileged’

 The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, otherwise known as Mizrahi Jews, are far too frequently erased from the general debate over identity in the American Jewish community, which has recently largely been painted as binary, comprising only “white” Ashkenazi Jews and black Jews.

The debate is significant because while there appears to be a significant disagreement over the numbers of each community, Mizrahi Jews appear to be rarely counted.

Perhaps it is because the debate is largely connected to the wider American debate about identity, privilege and racism, but surely those involved in this debate, usually the elites in the media, academia and the Jewish organizational world, should not be easily forgiven for the erasure of this historic Jewish community.


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More from Nave Dromi

Will Jews in NY become as afraid as they were in Iraq?

When  Jordan Salama’s mother was growing up in Iraq, the warning signs of impending doom for this most enduring of Jewish communities accumulated during her childhood. Are the warning signs appearing in the US? Jews must learn from the past ands take action, he argues in this important piece in the New York Times (with thanks: Dan, Janet) :

Jews in Iraq in the 1970s. 

doesn’t like to talk about Iraq much, but my grandmother Fortunée and my aunt
Cynthia do.

Some of the most memorable moments of my childhood were spent in
Long Island living rooms, sitting beside them as they told me, in a
spellbinding mix of English and Arabic, stories of life in a country that
ultimately rejected them after such a long and rich history of coexistence.

shared tales of my great-great-great-grandfather, a trader who famously owned a
caravan of more than 1,000 camels and traveled the Silk Road from Baghdad to
Aleppo and Isfahan and beyond; of my great-grandfather, who built Iraq’s first
cinema and movie studio; of the family house, with courtyard gardens so
luscious they attracted wedding parties from all over the city.

the summertime the children flew kites and slept peacefully on the cool roof.
Jews were jurists and government officials; one was even the first minister of finance. They
lived side-by-side with Christians and Muslims; they were business partners,
neighbors, close friends who supported one another.

these stories were always set up as the beginning of the end. Sprinkled
throughout paradise were the warning signs, each worse than the next, until
there was no choice but to leave. In the 1930s it was mainly political
rhetoric; then in June 1941 it was the “Farhud,” a pogrom that killed nearly
200 Jews and injured hundreds more.

 By the 1950s more than three-quarters of Iraq’s Jews had
fled the country; just over a decade later, around the time my mother was born,
the few remaining Jews saw their assets frozen and their passports revoked.
My mother remembers
when they imprisoned her father along with other Jews, remembers her mother
going every day to the jail where he was being held, remembers the emptiness
the family felt the morning after her cousins escaped over the border to Iran.
When she was 3 years old, in January 1969, nine Jews were hanged in the main city square.

By 1972, my mother’s family was among some of the last to leave, bound for the
United States. Today, the number of Jews remaining in Iraq is reported to
be in the single digits.

is the story my mother remembers, the story she has always feared would repeat
itself. That no matter how comfortable we as Jews may feel today, it only takes
a small group of people (and a large group of people to sit idly by) to turn
everything on its head.

 I remember watching with her in our living room as
Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017. It was on her mind. As he
approached the podium for his oath she asked me, with tears welling in her
eyes, “Are we going to have to leave?”

that point I didn’t think the answer was yes; I’m not sure I do now, either.
But with each incident that has followed, family conversations have become more
frequently wrapped up in those kinds of questions. First there was “Jews will
not replace us” in Charlottesville, Va. Then the attack in Pittsburgh, on a
synagogue that looked an awful lot like ours. Then San DiegoJersey City and other smaller
but significant incidents in between.

students’ experiences on college campuses are becoming. This
fall, swastikas were drawn in a school in our
, and in another one nearby. And in December, there were
several anti-Semitic attacks in a little over a week in New York — arguably the
Jewish capital of this country — ending with the Hanukkah stabbings in Monsey.

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From Baghdad to Queens: An Iraqi community remembers

From Exile to Exodus: the story of the Jews of Iraq (film)


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