June 18, 2024
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Unleash the Power of Jewish Heritage

(Courtesy of American Sephardi Federation) It all started with the Yemenite Conference. A big dream, from a modest group of people, to discuss the Yemenite Jewish traditions and their shared values with Yemeni Muslim culture.

This big dream came to fruition and exceeded expectations. The conference was held on June 3-5, 2018 with over 30 lecturers from world-renowned scholars from the UK, France, Israel and of course, Yemen. And yes, the closing ceremony was held in the UN.

It was a big dream, but it was only the beginning. Immediately following the conference, American Sephardi Federation (ASF) was congratulated on the high level of cultural as well as academic exchange. Many people were looking for more. More content, more often, more accessible outside of New York, more opportunities to share in cultural pride, just more. And that’s when the bigger dream took root.

From the Geonim of Baghdad to the philosopher poets and scientists of al-Andalus, the Hachamim of Halab, the Kessim of Jerusalem, and the scholars and dancers of Salonika and Sana’a, the Jewish experience is a rich mosaic with tiles of many shapes, colors and sizes. In order to learn about the beauty in each of these tiles, American Sephardi Federation’s Institute of Jewish Experience (ASFIJE) has partnered with academics, educators, researchers, new media experts and scholars to create programs online and on location for continuing learners and students.

The first three 2-5 minute clips for integration into middle and high schools are already available online at InstituteofJewishExperience.org. When learning about the Queen of Sheba, isn’t it fitting to talk about the rich history of the Persian Jews? In the clip is a picture of the largest Star of David, one that can be seen from space, that is covering what is traditionally considered the tomb of Mordechai and Esther in today’s Iran. The original texts are incorporated with modern culture and patterns showing the full Jewish experience as a wide cross-cultural heritage. Modern culture is explored in the first ASFIJE snapshot, created by a classically trained Yemenite choreographer and dancer, explaining the meaning of some Yemenite dance and ending with practice steps. More snapshots will include further Jewish artistic culture.

The first three Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are being recorded now; The Crypto Experience, The Greek Experience and The Moroccan Experience. Each are developed by internationally renowned academics and scholars with some modern community members enhancing it with their personal stories. Participants are invited to understand the fuller Jewish experience and to understand how much richer that makes one’s personal identity.

All of this is in addition to the yearly conference,which this year will highlight Moroccan Jews and Muslims and is entitled Uncommon Commonalities. Taking place June 17-19, 2019, the conference will include exhibits and lectures at the Center for Jewish History as well as archived online for broader audiences.

ASF is launching the Institute of Jewish Experience (IJE), a centralized online resource for those wishing to learn about the customs, traditions, history and experiences of Jews from around the world. Today, waves of migrations, assimilation and extremism are sweeping the Jewish people. Therefore, the pledge for a bright future is dependent on the recognition of the diversity and multiplicity that forms the beauty of the Jewish experience. IJE seeks to educate a new generation and new audiences about diverse Jewish communities.

However, great Jewish education doesn’t happen on its own. It requires resources and support from people who care about creating a tangible connection that bridges our rich and complex history to build a better future. ASFIJE has the framework for success, but needs more courses, more outreach, more tools so that it can continue to ignite a passion for Jewish history that will never extinguish. This is an opportunity to bring knowledge and appreciation to a new generation and new audiences.

ASFIJE is launching a campaign to make this vision into a reality. This is an opportunity to be a partner in creating a brighter Jewish future by recognizing a diverse and beautiful Jewish past. This is the time to unleash the power of Jewish heritage.

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