My Word: Forgotten refugees and the proud Mizrahi heritage – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on December 5, 2020

You might have missed it. November was Mizrahi Heritage Month and judging by the lack of publicity surrounding the events, it will take a lot more than 30 days a year to put the topic in the spotlight.Of all the things that unnecessarily divide Israeli and Diaspora Jewry or at least Jews in English-speaking countries one of the most striking is the perception that talking (or cursing) in Yiddish is the main sign of a shared cultural heritage. Other Jewish languages and dialects such as Ladino are often overlooked. Without detracting from the beauty and value of the mamaloshen, I favor putting more emphasis on learning Hebrew the one language that should unite Jews everywhere. Not every synagogue is a shul, after all, and you dont have to speak Yiddish to preserve Yiddishkayt (Jewishness).A few years ago I witnessed an example of the extent of the problem. A radio broadcaster dismissively used the Yiddish word gornisht. What does that mean? a Sephardi colleague asked me. Nothing, I replied, and added for good measure the Yiddish for absolutely nothing: gornisht mit gornisht.Mizrahi Heritage Month celebrating the lives and legacy of Jews from Arab lands and Iran was born somewhat arbitrarily. On November 29, the date that the UN in 1947 accepted the Partition Plan that would lead to the establishment of the State of Israel, the world body now cynically marks International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. After too many years of being ignored, Israel determined that the following day, November 30, would be dedicated to commemorating the expulsion of the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands. These are the Middle Easts most overlooked refugees. They came to Israel, overcame tremendous hardships to start build new lives in harsh conditions and helped make the country the success it is today. Growing up in London in the 1970s, I was, like most Jewish youth at the time, very involved in the campaign for Soviet Jews. The struggle for the release of Soviet Jewry in many ways served as the core around which our Jewish identity was formed. That sort of solidarity is sorely missing today, when Diaspora Jewish youth are as likely to be pitched against each other, in pro-Israel versus pro-Palestinian configurations.I dont remember how I learned that there were other Jewish communities suffering in even worse conditions. The effort to help Soviet Jews come out of the cold completely overshadowed the plight of the Jews in places like Syria and Iraq who were literally dying to get out pushed out by antisemitism, pulled by Zionism.The work on behalf of Mizrahi Jewry was of necessity more low-key. Drawing attention to a refusenik made the Soviet authorities realize there were international eyes following what they were doing and conditions might be improved as a result. The same could not be said for the Jews in Syria, for example. Here, drawing attention to a specific member of the community was likely to result in that persons disappearance.

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My Word: Forgotten refugees and the proud Mizrahi heritage - The Jerusalem Post

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