Tag : Mizrachi

January 10, 2019 by

Mizrachi in Memphis

I grew up in a small, tightly knit modern-Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. My mother is half-Yemeni, half-Hungarian, and my dad is Kurdish (Iraqi Kurds). Aside from a few other people who came and went during my childhood, my parents, siblings and I were the only Mizrachim in our otherwise Ashkenazi community. In my 14 years of Jewish day-school education, I never once heard a Jewish educator utter the word Mizrachi. Still, from a young age, it was obvious to me that I was different.

When I got to college, I decided it was best for me to avoid Jewish spaces as a general rule. Not just the Orthodox ones, but all of ‘em. Still, there were certain special occasions during which, against my better judgment, I found myself in the Hillel House. Without fail, every time I entered that building I was asked, tersely, What are you doing here? or Who are you here with? The speakers’ confused and accusatory expressions suggested a deeper question: are you sure you meant to come here? You can’t be Jewish if you’re not white. Regardless of the denomination, “Jewish spaces” are almost certainly “Ashkenazi spaces.”

I never feel comfortable in those places.

Instead, I felt at peace with the shape of my eyes, the texture of my hair, and the color of my skin at a religious function in the United States only once. It was at an Eid event on campus. Nobody asked me who I was there with, even though I was really only there to accompany my friend Aisha; though everything I was seeing was new to me, nobody asked me if I was lost. The first time I would have been at a loss of words if someone asked me to justify my presence, I was not questioned: I could just be. For Mizrachi Jews (or any non-white Jews), I don’t think this feeling is possible in Jewish spaces in the U.S. right now.

RACHEL TSUNA, “A Mizrachi Jew in Memphis,” The Lilith Blog, November 29, 2018.

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The Lilith Blog

November 29, 2018 by

A Mizrachi Jew, from Memphis to Hillel

Zahava— with her mother who made kugel for shabbat and her father who went by Yonasan (not Yonatan); her pale, lightly freckled skin complimented by her dark, wavy hair (that was never certifiably curly but had the volume that suggested it easily could be); who had a grandfather on one side who was a holocaust survivor and a maternal grandmother whose accent was unmistakably “bubby,” especially when she tawked about her homemade applesawce—was my childhood neighbor, first best friend, and most accurate model of what it looked like to be an American Jew.

I grew up in a small, tightly knit modern-Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. My mother is half-Yemeni, half-Hungarian, and my dad is Kurdish (Iraqi Kurds). Aside from a few non-white folk that came and went during my childhood, my parents, siblings and I were the only Mizrachim in our otherwise Ashkenazi community. In my fourteen years of day-school education, I never once heard a Jewish educator utter the word mizrachi. From a young age, it was obvious to me that I was different.  

 

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