Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews could comprise the single largest ethnic component among US Jews, yet they are consistently undercounted, misunderstood, ignored and marginalised, argues JIMENA Executive Director Sarah Levin in this important article for Jewish Philanthropy.
For many years at JIMENA, Jewish foundations and partner organizations have asked us to provide demographic statistics on Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in North America. It’s been incredibly frustrating that we’ve never been able to adequately meet a single request for information as no empirical data on our communities exists. While Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews were intentionally excluded from the recent Counting Inconsistencies survey conducted by the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, the results of the study provided useful information affirming that Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews, like Jews of Color, have been vastly undercounted, miscounted and inconsistently included in Jewish demographic studies across the board.
Because so little reliable research has been conducted, JIMENA has relied heavily on anecdotal research and it’s very likely that Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews, and their descendants, constitute the largest ethnic minority group amongst American Jews. We know that Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews are occupying greater spaces in organized Jewish life and in Jewish Day Schools, yet Sephardic and Mizrahi projects, organizations, and thought-leaders are still underfunded, underutilized and at times tokenized. Jewish institutions, have yet to design much needed programs and policies to ensure the inclusion of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Most troubling, is that as attention towards Jewish diversity is finally growing, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish leaders are frequently left out of initiatives, conversations, and projects that address and advance issues of Jewish diversity and inclusion.
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