One-day conference presented by Dahan Center, ASF Institute of
Jewish Experience, Yeshiva University and Sephardi Heritage Project.
(Courtesy of The Dahan Center) In 2014, the Israeli government officially declared November 30 the Day of Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands. Programs commemorating the rich world that was and the tragedy of its loss are held across Israel. This is the second annual conference on those lost Jewish communities.
American Sephardi Federation, with Bar-Ilan University’s Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Culture, Society, & Education in the Sephardic Heritage and Yeshiva University, are bringing this commemoration to New York on December 2, 2019. Scholars, students and performers from Israel, the U.S. and Canada will explore the history and culture of the Jews from Islamic lands, their displacement, and their resettlement in Israel and elsewhere.
For thousands of years Jews have lived in Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Despite the long history, 1948-1967 marked the end of these Jewish communities across most of North Africa and the Middle East.
Among the distinguished speakers will be Rabbi Elie Abadie, MD, Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas, students from local Jewish high schools, and multidisciplinary artist Ms. Dana Avrish.
Rabbi Elie Abadie, MD, will open the conference discussing the compensation being sought. After 1948, life became extremely difficult for Jews across much of the Arab World, and many were expelled as “foreigners” despite their long history in those lands. They were forced to leave most of their material possessions behind and received little compensation for their properties, if any. Rabbi Abadie is working toward gaining compensation for these Jewish refugees and will discuss the progress and challenges.
Dana Avrish, a third-generation descendant of Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian Jews, curated the exhibit at the Tel Aviv Eretz Israel Museum, soon to become a traveling exhibit, “Leaving, Never to Return.” She created the exhibit from a very personal place: “I chose to translate my research about 11 Jewish communities in Arab countries into a creative, accessible and immediate means for many diverse populations. I was moved by the emotional, intimate and exciting responses I received from the viewers; above all was the sense of pride of finally bringing to the forefront their uniqueness, past and history that has been hidden from the pages of history. These days I continue with a mission to work for a worldwide exposure of the research and to expand the reach of the exhibition.” Avrish will share the journey of creating the exhibit, collecting the items and the stories, and the tremendous feedback that she has received from the thousands experienced through the
Closing out the day will be Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas. He will discuss and perform traditional Moroccan music, particularly as it played into Muslim-Jewish relations. Music is the international language, one that crosses time, space and religions. Thomas will present the beauty and significance of this art form.
Dr. Drora Arussy, director of the Institute of Jewish Experience, explained, “Working with the Dahan Center out of Bar Ilan University is a natural extension of our programming. Our missions are similar in that both the Institute and Dahan Center are working toward a better understanding of the greater Jewish experience, historic, religious and cultural, and encouraging a strong pride in Jewish identity in the next generation. This conference brings together scholars, youth and the general public of all backgrounds to highlight the beauty that was and the preservation of that vibrance for generations to come.”
Jews of Arab and Muslim Lands represent approximately 60% of Jewish Israel today. We have Jews across the Northeast who were exiled from their homes in the past 75 years simply for being Jewish. ASF Institute of Jewish Experience is dedicated to bringing to the public online and on-site programming commemorating, understanding and appreciating these lost worlds.