Sunday, April 22, 2012

New film focuses on the Jews of Sudan

  Good times in the Sudan

You might imagine 'The longest kiss in history' to be a romantic Chick Flick, but Frederique Morgan's new film is actually about the Jews of Sudan.

The “longest kiss in history” refers to the point in Sudan where the Blue Nile meets the White Nile. Why French filmmaker Frédérique Cifuentes Morgan included this riparian trivia in the title of her new documentary is not certain, since neither Nile has much to do with the subject of the rise and fall of Sudan’s Jewish population.

Originally consisting of eight families that immigrated to the region during the Turkish-Egyptian rule in the 1870s, the Jewish community remained relatively small (it never exceeded 1,000 members) and was primarily concentrated in the capital city of Khartoum. Sudan’s Jewish population grew primarily via immigration, mostly by Sephardic Jews, and many individuals found success in commerce and in administrative positions within the 20th century British colonial government. Anti-Semitism was relatively rare – the community never faced danger during World War II, and a special arrangement with Catholic schools offered educational opportunities for Jewish youth.

However, Sudanese independence in 1956 and the new republic’s focus on pan-Arab fellowship created an unpleasant environment, and by the 1960s the Jews of Sudan emigrated to Israel, Europe and the U.S. In 1977, the exiled Jewish community made arrangements with the Sudanese government to transfer the bodies from Khartoum’s Jewish cemetery for reburial in other countries.

The film is rich with interviews of many Sudan-born Jews who reflect with rueful happiness on their lives in pre-independent Sudan.

Read  article in full

1 comment:

MK Gross said...

Coincidentally, this week's Washington Jewish Week has an article that touches on the Jewish communities of sub-Saharan Africa: there are 230 Jewish cemeteries. A traveling rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader of the African Jewish Congress, travels to the existing communities in 13 African countries and annually inspects the cemeteries.

The article's author, Harvey Leifert, mentions "indigenous Jews" in Namibia, where he once lived. I myself have met Beta Israel Jews from Botswana, but I cannot tell if the author uses the term "indigenous" to refer to those of European or African ancestry. I found this article , but it lacks the name of the individual or organization who published it.