Saturday, April 01, 2006

When Jewish means Ashkenazi

Loolwa Khazoom is right: Ashkenazi culture has taken over Jewish life. Is this not inevitable when Sephardim/Mizrahim form a tiny percentage of the Jewish diaspora? Ashkenazi tradition dominates in the US and Britain; but Sephardim do hold their own in Mexico, Italy and France. Neither does Loolwa's argument really apply to Israel, where the Mizrahim form around half the Jewish population.

"As a result of the racism and ignorance in the mainstream Jewish community, those of us in the Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ethiopian communities have learned embarrassment or contempt for our own heritage. Out of our desire to "fit in" - in other words, to become like the Ashkenazim - we have failed to pass on our tradition; and our tradition now is in danger of extinction.

"A number of Mizrahi/Sephardi young adults my age have shared the fact that they love Mizrahi/Sephardi tradition when they are exposed to it; however, they know virtually nothing
about the tradition, and they do not relate to the tradition as theirs. "I grew up in Ashkenazi services my whole life," one individual recently said, "so I relate to those services as my tradition. I do not recognize the prayers in [a Mizrahi/Sephardi] service, even though those prayers are part of my heritage..."

"The younger generations of Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ethiopian Jews face a crisis in identity. As such, our entire heritage faces a crisis of extinction:
Because the younger generation is ill-equipped to pass on our tradition, our tradition will die when the older generation passes on."

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