Kol Yisrael Arevim ZeBazeh:
“all of the Jewish community is responsible for one another” (Talmud Shevuot 39a). I use this phrase all the time in my work, most specifically when I am talking about the Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning Program. As we enter our fourth year of the program, I am delighted to help our teens understand the importance of global Jewish relationships, and am eager to watch them form new friendships with teens just like them on the other side of the world.
This week, I will have a unique opportunity to put this direction into practice. Every two years the Federation brings all the faculty and coordinators of the program together (from both Los Angeles and Tel Aviv) for some shared learning. We discuss program logistics, share best practices, problem-solve and learn from one another. This summer, we are traveling to Thessaloniki, Greece and Sofia, Bulgaria. Our gathering comes with a new learning outcome: to study and uncover the forgotten and often ignored history of the global Sephardic Jewish community. Our Jewish history textbooks are often written from an Ashkenazi-centric perspective, specifically focusing on Jews who made their way to Eastern Europe, unfortunately glossing over or omitting the histories of Jews expelled from Iberia (now Spain and Portugal), who eventually settled in the Ottoman Lands. The Jews of these lands had distinct culture, a complicated relationship with Zionism, and suffered incredible losses during the Holocaust. It’s time to unearth these stories and work them into the narratives we study on a regular basis.
I look forward to a week of learning with my colleagues and bringing back some of this hidden history to our students!
Jessica Shamout, M.Ed.
Director of Jewish Education