Shalom and Welcome to my Web Pages and Blog!

In this site I would like to tell you about my Jewish Rabbinic services that include helping young people to prepare for Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah (tutoring and teaching Hebrew, and preparing to read the script) , officiating Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah services, and wedding ceremonies. I also hope to make contact with people who would like to exchange ideas with me. My objective is to further understanding and dialogue with people of various backgrounds and faiths as well as publish my ideas and thoughts as a Jewish scholar and rabbi.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sephardic Perspective of Ashkenazic America

It is not surprising that those American Jews who are interested in their ancestry are accustomed to tracing their history back to the cities and villages of Eastern and Central Europe before the mass migration to America. Most of these Ashkenazic Jews are often interested not in the harsh reality of the shetel of the past, but in the nostalgic, romantic religious life which was swept away by time. Indeed, the American migration of the Ashkenazic Jewish population from the middle of the nineteenth century to present times has often left some vague memories colored with nostalgic flavors. This nostalgic perception of European Jews by their descendants is frequently unattached from the pogroms, discrimination and oppression, which were imposed on the Jewish population by individual, communal, governmental and non-Jewish entities.

In America today, some Ashkenazic American Jews continue to utilize Yiddish words and expressions in their vocabulary in the religious and cultural spheres; however, these Yinglish sounds and expressions are only the last songs of a rich Jewish heritage of past history. In summation, the factual truth is that the mass migration of Eastern and Central European Jews to the United States was largely motivated and triggered by difficulties, poor economic conditions and a depressive political situation.

Ashkenazic Jews and their descendants in the United States constitute now more than ninety five percent of the Jewish population of approximately five million. On the other hand, the Sephardic Jews and their descendants in the United States are not more than five percent of the Jewish population. This disproportionate statistic between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews in America can be extended to describe the entire Jewish population of the world at large. Sephardic Jews are only about fifteen percent of this population, while Ashkenazic Jews hold eighty five percent advantage in this demographic picture. To explain this statistical gap, it must be stated that many Sephardic Jews arrived in the United States from Arab, Muslim and Balkan lands at the end of the nineteenth century only by the thousands in comparison with millions of Ashkenazic Jews who settled here in the framework of the same times. Furthermore, among the approximate half million Israeli citizens who find themselves in the United States, the majority are also from Ashkenazic backgrounds. As a result of these historical events, the religious, cultural and economic contributions of Sephardic Jews in America are not playing a noticeable role in the educational Jewish structures of American Jews. Both Jewish day schools and Jewish supplementary religious schools have rarely mentioned the Sephardic tradition in their text books and curricula. Sephardic Jewry is often mentioned in the context of the arrival of the first Jews to the “New World” in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but not in relation to the nineteenth and twentieth century periods.

In conclusion, there are four Jewish centers in the world today. The United States and Eastern European countries are the locations of the two major Ashkenazic worlds, while Israel and France are the two principal centers of Sephardic Jewry. Even in Latin America, Ashkenazic Jews constitute more than forty percent of the approximate half million Jews, leaving Sephardic Jews again in a status of minority on the demographic scale. While many Jewish educators, politicians and historians articulate the term “klal yesral” (inclusion of all Jews), one sad reality is that Sephardic Jews, as a minority in the Jewish world, have often been mentioned in “exotic” and “mythological” contexts unrelated to their actual flesh and blood human existence. Realism may dictate the need to grudgingly accept the theme of majority discrimination of events and historical interpretation of the life of minorities, but Sephardic Jews need to reject this uncomplimentary notion and educate their fellow Ashkenazic Jews about their often unnoticed, incredible achievements as well as their challenges, plights and difficulties in a Jewish world with Ashkenazic dominance.

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