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Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Scars of Discrimination Don't Disappear

I wasn't raised aware that there were different sorts of Jews, from different ethnic groups. In New York we only knew that either you were a Jew, or you weren't. There certainly wasn't any prejudice or ranking among Jews.

It never ceases to amaze me how different things have been for other Jews, especially in Israel. A few months ago, it took me a bit to realize that someone was insulting me by calling me Ashkenaz, to show that I'm not as generous as she is. I asked her if she would accept it if I insulted her by her family's ethnic identity? I told her that I wasn't raised that way and never speak to people that way. She finally apologized, and then we made a point of having a friendly conversation.

Tonight there is a television show about the late and great singer, Jo Amar, who passed away just over a week ago. It's on Chanel One's "Jewish Home" program. They had on some other Sfaradi (North African, like Amar) stars to interview about him. I don't think the producer/director expected the interview to go the way it did (paraphrasing):

"Jo Amar would have been more successful if he had been given the support that an Ashkenaz performer got."
"He was held back."

The resentment was so strong; you'd think it had happened today. We have to be so careful about what we say and do to others.

There are two types of Mitzvot (G-d giving commandments) those between Men and G-d and those between Man and his fellow Man (people and people.) Repentance for sins between man and G-d is relatively easy, but getting forgiveness from other people is much harder.

Y'hi Zichro Baruch--L'Ilui Nishmato

May his memory be a blessing,

and may this elevate his soul.


josh said...

But in the past, the centralized Israeli media did discriminate against Sephardi performers and people.

Batya said...

No doubt, but I found it so interesting that the young mc's seemed so shocked by the vehemence in the answers.

Netivotgirl said...

I hate to put a damper on your optimism.... but this anti-sephardic nonsense STILL goes on! From young relatives studying in varied institutions, I hear that whether it be a Charedi yeshiva or at Bar Ilan University... it is always there lurking beneath the surface.

There is a clique of Ashkenazi elite, for example, in much of the media. (I myself heard one radio announcer jokingly say, "....we here are all mostly from Polish backgrounds...")

That's not to say that Sephardim themselves are free of this hateful vice. You very often will find a "tension" between Moroccan and Tunisian Jews, for example, which after 31 years of marriage to a Moroccan I still cannot fathom.

It may be politically incorrect to call a spade a spade (no pun intended :) but this vice sadly is NOT a thing of the past!

josh said...

I think the intentions have changed though. In the past, it was a plain superiority thing. White over the 'black' Jews.

Now though, with the renewed Sepharadi awareness and power, the Ashkenazim have less time to worry about their superiority and more time to be scared about their slow slide into defeat.

On the other hand, the Sepharadim have been scared and are not all reawakening back to pure God-fearing faith. The spite is so deep.

Batya said...

Esther, Josh, you're both right. I was projecting. Plus, on the show, the MC's were so unprepared for the resentment, it was almost humorous.

Hadassa said...

Netivotgirl, after 31 years of marriage to a Moroccan, and living in Netivot, you STILL can't tell the difference between a Tunisian and a Moroccan? It's a bit like the difference between a Californian and a New Yorker. It is very unfortunate that the differences cause tension.
The Sephardi-Ashkenazi discrimination is a much more serious problem.

Batya said...

Hadassa, I love that comparisan. Actually, my grandchildren are Tunisian via their father.
You should know that some people can't differentiate between New Yorkers and Californians. A new formerly American woman came to live in Shiloh, and all sorts of people insist that we're very similar. But she's from CA and I'm from NY.

Hadassa said...

Muse, my husband had to explain to someone here that although he and X are both from America, X is from California and he is from New Jersey, so it's as if they are from different countries. I can't imagine that the Sabra believed him. (I honestly think that my comparison of personality types is accurate. Both types have merits and aspects to improve.)

We're all in Israel! It's time to stop all these foreign divisions! There's nothing wrong with eating gefilte fish with s'hug! More importantly, we should respect each others' customs until the Mashiah comes. Points of halacha should be debated in a dignified manner.

Batya said...