JIMENA’s mission is to achieve universal recognition for the heritage and history of the 850,000 Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish refugees
In the early 20th century, under the heavy weight of Anti-Jewish governments and policy, nearly one million Jews from the Middle East and North Africa had their property confiscated, basic human rights stripped, and were systematically persecuted and victimized. Ultimately these Jews were forced to flee their homes and surrender their nationalities, becoming the “Forgotten Refugees” of the Middle East and North Africa. UN House Resolution 242 asserted that Jews fleeing Arab countries were ‘bona fide’ refugees, yet the international community, the media and North American educational systems have continuously ignored their plight and their losses.
Revisionist history of the Middle East conveniently excludes the fact that over half of Israel’s Jewish population live there not because European atrocities during World War II, but because of Anti-Jewish Arab governments who dispossessed and displaced their native Jewish populations following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Adopted narratives of the Arab-Israeli conflict fail to address the fact that Israel was the largest refugee camp in the Middle East, providing safe haven to some 650,000 dispossessed Middle Eastern and North African Jewish refugees whose ancestors had a continuous presence in the region for over 3,000 years.
Incorporating the Sephardic and Mizrahi experience into mainstream North American Jewish life, enriches Jewish communities, strengthens cultural continuity with Israel, bridges gaps between Jewish and Middle Eastern communities and emphasizes Jewish entrenchment in the Middle East.
JIMENA tells the story of the Jewish refugees through a 40-member, eye-witness Speakers Bureau which provides Israel advocacy and speaker training seminars and lectures to students and adults; JIMENA EXperience Social Digital Preservation Project, which is documenting and sharing former refugees telling their story of displacement; and various student and adult engagement projects such as Mimouna Celebrations, Henna Ceremonies and Mizrahi Shabbat events.
Since JIMENA’s formation, we have launched numerous campaigns and projects to ensure that the history of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is well documented and included in discourse involving Middle Eastern refugees. Members of JIMENA’s Speakers Bureau have shared their personal stories with the UN Human Rights Council, US Congressional Human Rights Caucus, European and Italian Parliaments, Israeli Knesset, British House of Lords, over 80 Universities in North America and hundreds of organizations. As the only organization in North America focused on educating and advocating on behalf of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the Israeli government has requested that JIMENA continue to play a key leadership role in international initiatives to advance this issue.
Each month, the JIMENA website receives over 200,000 hits from around the world attesting to international interest in our organization. We have led a number of effective Jewish refugee advocacy training seminars, educating students and adults on how to incorporate the issue of Jewish refugees into a broader discussion of how the Middle East has developed today. Since our formation, we have become a leader of the Jewish multicultural movement and have successfully created cultural continuity between Jewish communities in Israel and the United States. We have produced hundreds of cultural events, introducing and engaging with a diversity of audiences in the ancient and beautiful traditions of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews.