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Group bills its Sephardic and Mizrahi trip to Israel as a first

Participants will learn an “ignored and forgotten” history.

A Yemenite family walks through the desert to a reception camp set up by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee near Aden, Nov. 1, 1949. Credit: Zoltan Kluger/Wikimedia Commons.
A Yemenite family walks through the desert to a reception camp set up by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee near Aden, Nov. 1, 1949. Credit: Zoltan Kluger/Wikimedia Commons.

From May 29 to June 5, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) will host what it believes to be the first-ever trip to Israel for those who want to experience the country through the lens of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.

“There is an assumption that Zionism comes exclusively from the intelligentsia of Eastern European men, and so few know the role that Sephardi rabbis and thinkers had on influencing and shaping the ideas of [Theodor] Herzl’s modern Zionism,” a spokesman for the group told JNS. “We will explore this history, and the ignored and forgotten Sephardic rabbis who shaped modern Zionism.”

Harmful stereotypes surround Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in America, the spokesman said. Both groups are viewed as “primitive, uneducated and hyper-conservative,” he added. “This trip seeks to turn these racist misconceptions on their heads.”

“This trip will bring to life the central role of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews throughout Israel’s history and in society today,” Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA, stated in a release.

On the leadership trip, participants will meet Sephardi and Mizrahi politicians, artists, activists and community leaders, per the release. They will also visit “lesser explored sites” in Israel that illuminate Middle Eastern and North African Jewish life in Israel. The itinerary includes visiting the birthplace of the Israeli Black Panther movement, the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center and Old City Sephardi synagogues, per the JIMENA website.

The release added that more than half of Israeli Jews identify as Mizrahi or Sephardi.

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