JVoices on the Arab Jewry

JVoices brings us this excellent article from David Shasha, the director of The Center for Sephardic Heritage in NYC. It’s a good read, and covers Sephardic history as well as Zionism’s problems in trying to …whitewash, for lack of a better word, the Arabic legacy of Jews in Islamic lands.

Go check it out!


3 Responses

  1. I never understood why Israelis would want to do that, given that the nation’s diversity is one of the best responses to those folks who portray it as basically a vestige of the British Empire.

  2. I’d assume it’s some sort of supremacist attitude, or the homogenization of Orthodoxy by religious authorities who are threatened by external influences that have popped up in Sephardic Orthodoxy over the years, but maybe that’s too simplistic a response.

  3. David Shasha’s article is an insulting and underinformed string of stereotypes, both as to Ashkenazi Jews (who apparently were hermetically sealed off from European culture) and as to Mizrahi Jews (who apparently don’t get to have our own distinct ethnicity). Noone in my family would ever call ourselves Arab Jews, least of all those from my parents and grandparents generation who actually (unlike Mr Shasha) lived there.

    His main point seems to be “In an ethnographic sense the Jews who lived in Arab lands were ARAB JEWS just as Jews who live in the United States are American Jews.” Except that, duh, no — Arab is an ethnic marker, not a geographic one. Just as we don’t call Jews from Slavic lands “Slavic Jews”, because you were an ethnic minority in a culture marked by the Slavic majority.

    But, then, Mr Shasha is the latest in a series of critics who never lived in Arabic countries and have invented a whole romanticized history from little more than zeal. I’m not sure what to expect from someone who seems to honestly believe that we have lived the “complete anglophonization of Western Jewry” — hello, David? France? Largest Jewish community in Europe? Heck, if Europe’s too furrin, come visit us in Montreal? — but he should really start his ethnographics with those parts of the Western Jewry that are not anglophone. Like the mostly-Mizrahi parts that speak French. And he can try this “Arab Jew” nonsense on those of us whose families and communities actually came from there.

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