Hen Mazzig and I had an exquisite dialog — about Jewish otherness, intersectionality, and the intricate nature of Jewish id on the earth right this moment. Take a hear right here.
Test this out.
That was Jewish music. Genuine Jewish music. That was Niggun Yerushalmi, an Israeli people group, performing the medieval piyyut, a liturgical poem, Ma L’Ahuvi.
When you have by no means heard Jewish music like that earlier than – in case your concept of Jewish music is Freudenthal’s “Ein Keloheinu,” with its musical roots, supposedly, in a German consuming music, or one thing from “Fiddler on the Roof,” then maybe it’s time for all of us to admit the sin of Ashkenormativity – the widespread Jewish sin of imagining that our central and jap European Jewish expertise is the center of Judaism. That will be the concept the Yiddish language, rooster soup, gefilte fish, and tales of the shtetl are important to Jewish life.
Sure, we’re from Berlin and Ukraine…and in addition from Yemen and Iraq and Iran and Morocco. These are the Sephardim, however extra precisely, they’re the Mizrahim, the so-called jap Jews who come from Arab lands – who right this moment represent greater than fifty % of Israeli Jews. They’ve their very own tales of grandeur and persecution and pogroms and exile – tales that we virtually by no means hear, and that we virtually by no means honor.
Despite the fact that it’s the place we started. We started in Ur, in historical Babylonia. The tales of Genesis make that clear: we’re always returning there. It’s the place historical Judaism was formed throughout the exile. It’s the place the definitive Talmud – not the Talmud of the land of Israel – was created. Maimonides himself was a Mizrahi Jew.
In his new ebook, The Wrong Kind of Jew: A Mizrahi Manifesto, the creator Hen Mazzig writes about his quadruple layers of otherness: a Jew on the earth; a Zionist on the earth; a Moroccan-Iraqi Jew in an Ashkenazic Jewish world; a homosexual man in a straight world.
He writes in regards to the persecution of Mizrahi Jews by the hands of the Israeli Ashkenazic institution, its previous political elite that created the state – a few of it merciless, a few of it delicate, all of it lasting and hurtful. He writes that this can be a partial rationalization of the success of Likud and the fitting wing – that these politicians paid consideration to the Jews whose id had been erased twice—as soon as from the earth after which from our collective reminiscence.
We’re the blind spot in each narrative about our nation—together with these tales that Israelis have been telling themselves. For many years, we have been dismissed by the Ashkenazi elites as a primitive variation of the Arabs who’ve all the time been the nation’s massive “different.”
It’s not simply in Israel. Hen writes with ache about the truth that there are not any American Jewish organizations which can be led by Mizrahi Jews.
With comparable ache: that there’s Yom Ha Shoah, the place our reminiscence is generally Ashkenazic, although Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews additionally perished. There are not any American communal commemorations of the Farhud, the pogroms in opposition to the Jews of Baghdad in 1941, beneath the management of Nazi sympathizers; nor of the Jews hanged publicly in that metropolis.
Whereas I do know the names of many particular person dying camps in Nazi-era Europe, a lot of my pals, particularly in the USA, have by no means heard of the Farhud. It’s not taught in American Hebrew colleges. It not often seems in textbooks. The Mizrahi victims of the Holocaust have been erased twice—as soon as from the earth after which from our collective reminiscence.
Considered one of my strongest reminiscences from my 12 months in Israel, learning at Hebrew Union School-Jewish Institute of Faith in Jerusalem – was the Shabbat after they took us to a kibbutz to fulfill members of the Black Panthers. These weren’t the American Black Panthers. It wasn’t as if we have been going to be hanging out with Eldridge Cleaver or Bobby Seale, although only a few of us would have protested that chance.
No – we have been assembly with members of the Israeli Black Panthers. That they had modeled themselves and their activism on the American Black Panthers. These have been Mizrachi Jews, and so they have been there to inform us in regards to the social hole in Israel. This was already in 1976. I’ll always remember it.
Neither will I ever neglect the time period that they taught us – for the forces that they have been up in opposition to. The time period was WASP – not White Anglo Saxon Protestant, because it was in America.
No – they have been speaking a few totally different type of elite.
WASPS have been White Ashkenazic Sabras with Protektsia.
Let me unpack this for you.
White Ashkenazic. Somebody whose dad and mom or grandparents got here from central Europe or jap Europe. Which is to say: Like most American Jews. Which can be to say: Like most of the founders of the Jewish state.
A sabra is somebody born in Israel. That designation had higher social cache than being an immigrant.
Proteksia is an efficient one. It comes from the phrase “safety.” It means somebody who has social juice, affect, the power to make issues occur. Elite connections.
That just about outlined the Israeli elite at the moment. By the top of our 12 months in Israel, in July 1977, Menachem Start – who was about as Ashkenazic because it will get – had been elected Prime Minister – and he pledged to concentrate to the Sephardim and Mizrahim – and thus started a social revolution in Israel that continues to this present day.
Hen Mazzig writes that Mizrahim needed to suppress that piece of their id with a view to match into white European Israeli society that had no room for them, ethnically or ideologically. And nonetheless doesn’t.
The Mizrahim represent a majority of Israel’s Jews—between three and 4 million folks —and their distinctive tradition and historical past have had a major affect on what it means to be Israeli, who Israel’s leaders are, and the way the nation’s tradition seems.
Hen writes: “We’re the blind spot in each narrative about our nation—together with these tales that Israelis have been telling themselves. For many years, we have been dismissed by the Ashkenazi elites as a primitive variation of the Arabs who’ve all the time been the nation’s massive “different.”
We’d like a Jewish world – during which nobody is an Different.
We have to keep in mind that we Jews could be a small folks, however we’re a really massive household.