On Saturday, October 21, the Achshav Yisrael committee of Beth Sholom presented Communities of Inclusion: Middle Eastern Jews in Israel’s Modern Era with Tamar Zaken!
Tamar gave an overview of the Middle Eastern countries from where Arabic Jews, many refugees from persecution, emigrated to Israel and the kind of reception they received there. She talked about their systematic stigmatization in Israel, where Jews of European origin considered them “primitive,” uneducated, uncivilized, lacking roots in Judaism, and a burden on Israeli society. The families were sent to the lowest kind of housing in the desert, and the children were often separated from their families so they could learn Hebrew and Israeli customs. They were almost exclusively channeled into vocational tracks in school. Over generations, the value of the Mizrachi culture has emerged and melded with Ashkenazi culture, beginning with music and food.
Tamar brought extremely expressive poetry from three Mizrachi poets and the group reflected on how their meaning reflected their feelings in their new homeland. She talked about the impact on the Mizrahi émigrés, their anger over their treatment, and how the new generations have integrated into the culture. The presentation was striking and engaging, and the audience discussed the challenges and impact of integrating thousands of émigrés from differing Middle Eastern Arabic homelands into modern Israel. One comment also noted the struggle to refocus the language of the Ashkenazi Jews away from Yiddish and onto Hebrew.
As part of the program, Achshav Yisrael also welcomed guest Maya Shemtov from the group JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa). Maya informed the group about resources to educate Americans about recapturing the heritage of Sephardic/Mizrachi spiritual traditions.
Beth Sholom and Achshav Yisrael will be hosting another event on Saturday, November 11. Join us for Jewish State or State of the Jews: The Role of the Conservative/Masorti Movement in the Israeli Religious & Cultural Leadership of the State featuring Yizhar Hess. Click here to learn more and to purchase tickets.
ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.
Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: David Agam, Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Maureen Samson