19th Century Libyan Jews
19th Century Libyan Jews

JIMENA and Israel ramp up Mizrachi and Sephardic oral history project

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An organization dedicated to preserving the culture and history of Mizrachi and Sephardic Jews who were displaced from their countries of origin is teaming up with four Israeli entities to produce a collection of oral histories of Jews from Arab countries and Iran.

JIMENA, an international nonprofit based in San Francisco, will be partnering with Israel’s Ministry of Social Equality, Beit Hatfutsot: Museum of Jewish Peoplehood (Tel Aviv), Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Beersheva) and the Ben Zvi Institute (Jerusalem), the agency recently announced.

JIMENA stands for Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.

The new project is an outgrowth of JIMENA’s Oral History Program in California, which was launched in 2010 to record and preserve the memories of Jews born in the Arab world and Iran. The program is “inspired and guided by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation Institute,” a press release noted. “It gives former Mizrahi and Sephardic refugees an opportunity to assert and preserve their personal histories and rich traditions [from their former] countries.”

A significant part of the joint project will be the development by Beit Hatfutsot of a mobile application that will allow Israeli students to accumulate video testimonies of Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews. In partnership with JIMENA, that app will be translated into English so students in the United States can collect and add testimonies, as well.

JIMENA will integrate the mobile app into its “Journey to the Mizrah” curriculum that will be digitally distributed to Jewish day schools in North America.

“This innovative approach to oral history educates and enables a young, digitally connected generation of Jews to add the authentic voices of Jews from Arab countries and Iran to the historical record of Jewish life in the 20th century,” said Sarah Levin, JIMENA’s executive director.