Jews of the Middle East and Africa

(Photo courtesy of JEMINA)

The majority of Jews in America are from Eastern Europe. This population is called Ashkenazi or Askenazim and is the standard for “Jewish” in American movies, books, television and culture. The foods, music, history and languages that we experience as “Jewish” in America are Ashkenazi. However, the Jewish people originated in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Jews from those regions are different in appearance, foods, music, history and language. These populations of Jews are called Sephardic or Sephardim and Mizrachi. The large populations of Jews who lived in Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Morocco and other middle eastern countries were ancient and lived in their respective countries until the founding of modern Israel when those countries punished the state of Israel by persecuting, killing and expelling their own Jewish populations.  Most non-Jewish Americans have no knowledge of these Jews.

Take time to learn about those other millions of Jews.

JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) works to educate us all about these often forgotten Jews.

Many Jews who were thrown out of their countries of origin would like to return. Their also those who say some of those countries would like their Jewish populations back. Here’s an interesting article, Arab Countries Say “We Miss the Jews” from January 2020.

With Jews from countries as different as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, you can imagine that there are things that are unique to each population. However, there are also things they have in common. Just ask Eastern European Jews shared a language that combine Hebrew and German, Yiddish, Jews from Spanish speaking countries had Ladino and Jews from Arab speaking countries had Judeo-Arabic languages.

I am NOT an expert on any of this. BUT I know that there is a world on information regarding Jews from around the globe. Take time to learn. You’ll be glad you did. Not all Black Jews are Ethiopians. Not all brown Jews are Israeli. Not all redheaded Jews are Polish. Even challah is not universal!