In honor of Mizrahi Heritage Month, CAMERA on Campus is thrilled to announce the start of the fourth installment of “Mizrahi Stories,” a human rights campaign dedicated to amplifying the voices of the Jews hailing from North Africa and the Middle East. These communities faced extraordinary challenges during Israel’s fight for survival in May of 1948 when they were soon after absorbed into the fledgling Jewish state of Israel, following a mass expulsion and persecution orchestrated by the Arab and Muslim world.
Our campaign involves a collaborative partnership with prominent Mizrahi and Sephardic advocacy organizations, including JIMENA, American Sephardi Federation Institute of Jewish Experience, Harif, SAMi, and Sephardic Community Alliance.
Unfortunately, 75 years after Israel absorbed these 850,000 Jews with nowhere to turn, assaults on the Jewish people have not ceased. In fact, the importance of a secure, independent Jewish state in the homeland of the Jewish people cannot be understated.
This November, we affirm a fundamental truth: That all Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel.
We make do on this promise in part by highlighting the stories of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, who, alongside Ashkenazi and Sephardic diaspora communities, played an essential role in the fulfillment of the Zionist Dream: the establishment of the State of Israel.
The cultures, languages, traditions, and Zionist philosophy of Mizrahim, a collective term for the Jews of the Orient, continue to be formative to the identity of Israel.
As Tom Yohay, Israel campus advisor for CAMERA on Campus, states, “Many Israelis dance to Mizrahi music, savor Mizrahi cuisine, and practice the Jewish faith rooted in Mizrahi tradition. As an Israeli, I have an identity that’s intertwined with these influences as well as Ashkenazi and Sephardic influences. In Israel, we stand united.”
By highlighting the nuances in Israel’s history and collective identity, the Mizrahi Stories campaign handily combats the absurd notion that Israel is a settler-colonial state, a trope commonly heard on college campuses.
“Rarely do anti-Zionists acknowledge the universality of Zionism, so we call on pro-Israel students to bring this to the forefront of the discussion,” said Sasha Chernyak, content and campaigns manager for CAMERA on Campus. “By highlighting the stories of Mizrahi Jews, we are taking an important step to disrupt their attempts to delegitimize our connection to the land of Israel. The fact is that Zionism is as important to the Jewish communities of Algeria and Yemen as it is to my Jewish community from Ukraine.”
At the heart of the campaign is MizrahiStories.com, a website that serves as a digital hub and museum profiling Mizrahi Jewish communities across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucuses.
CAMERA on Campus plans to feature educational content and testimonials highlighting the food, culture, and history of Mizrahim throughout the entire month of November. “Everything we post is intended to inspire and encourage others to share their own stories and to uplift the voices of the Jews of the Middle East,” said Hali Spiegel, campus director for CAMERA. “We have all become acutely aware of the prevalence of anti-Israel propaganda and antisemitism on social media; sharing engaging, factual content is an effective way to combat the virus of Jew-hatred that has taken hold on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”
Additionally, CAMERA on Campus Coalition groups and independent pro-Israel student clubs on college campuses also host Mizrahi-centered events with guest speakers, tabling on campus with Mizrahi Stories printable materials, and taking a public stand to support Israel.
“In light of the increased antisemitism and targeting of Jewish students, it is time for us to stand strong, to stand up for Israel, and to tell our stories. People need to know that all Jews are indigenous to the Middle East, including us, who never left to start with,” said Saul Hakim, the President of Binghamton University Zionist Organization. Saul is of Syrian Jewish heritage.
We invite everyone to follow #MizrahiStories on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and, of course, to explore www.mizrahistories.com, where one can find tons of educational content, information on upcoming events, and ways to get involved.