fbpx
Saturday, October 31, 2020

My Grandparents Were Victimized by Nazis. Why Am I Afraid to Call Myself the Grandson of a Survivor?

Print This Article

Every year, a group of a few dozen mostly older Jewish people comes together around June to hold a ceremony. No Israeli politician ever finds time to join them. Perhaps they are busy. Still, it is strange that out of a 120 members of parliament, not one finds this gathering important enough.

Every year, one survivor will get up to the microphone and speak. A heavy Iraqi accent will make it difficult to understand what he or she is saying. Like clockwork, the speaker will start tearing up as they share the horrors they have endured, likely when they were just a teenager. In the burning sun of the peripheral town of Or Yehuda, Israel, they will read a prayer for those who did not survive, conclude the ceremony, and walk back to their homes.

On the walls of the small Heritage Center for Babylonian Jewry, where this ceremony takes place, there’s one testimony from 1941. It is old, and a few of the letters are missing. It reads:

The door suddenly broke open.
My mother stood by the door and I stood behind her …
Our neighbors ente[r]d, and so did other Arabs …
My mother said to them (in Arabic):
“The house and everything in it is yours. Just don’t hurt us.”
They started taking out objects one after the other.
In the midst of the looting, a policeman in uniform entered …
He stood there and cursed our religion and
Palestine (in Arabic). Mother kept begging …
He shot her in the head and she fell.
I fled and stood behind the policeman.
My olde[r] sister ran towards her: “Mother, mother!”
(A rioter was standing on the roof) he took hold of my younger brother and wanted to slaughter him …
My (other) sister begged:
“Child, child, why are you killing him?”
My cousin wanted to go upstairs. The rioter opened her belly
and everything fell out.

The reason that this ceremony – unlike many of the other ceremonies for victims of anti-Semitic violence – does not get any serious recognition, even in Israel, is that it memorializes the invisible: the Mizrahi community, the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa.

This ceremony commemorates the two days of violence that the Jewish community in Iraq faced in June 1941, known as the “Farhud” (in Arabic: violent dispossession) and the public hangings of Jews in Iraq in the 1960s and ’70s.

During these massacres, Iraqis killed hundreds of Jews and tens of thousands were injured. But our story – my grandmother’s story – was never told.

But the truth is, that while I know the history of pain my Ashkenazi friends’ grandparents endured, they don’t know mine.

For this year’s ceremony, the group invited me to speak. When they introduced me, they referred to me as a grandchild of a survivor. Being “grandchild of a survivor” is a title many of my friends in Israel have − all of them Ashkenazi Jews whose grandparents survived the Holocaust. However, I’ve never been included in that group. It didn’t matter that my relatives, too, had survived the Nazis. My Tunisian father’s grandparents were sent to a forced labor camp of the Vichy regime during the Holocaust. They were due to be shipped to death camps in Europe. My Iraqi grandparents also were victimized by the Third Reich; they survived the Farhud, which was incited by Nazi supporters in the regime.

But the truth is, that while I know the history of pain my Ashkenazi friends’ grandparents endured, they don’t know mine. While I know the names of the death camps and the horrific violence that happened to the Jews in Europe, my friends don’t even know what the Farhud was.

It breaks my heart. It should break every Jewish person’s heart.

I am not sure if there’s an intentional agenda behind erasing the Mizrahi Jewish community’s history from international academia and public discourse. Our exclusion does not feel deliberate on most days. But when we point out our absence from the conversation and are shamed as “divisive,” it’s hard not to see this erasure as an act of malice. As a grandson of a survivor, I have a responsibility to keep trying to get the world to bear witness, just as I have to the many Ashkenazi Jews who were slaughtered in the Holocaust.

Every Mizrahi Jew feels personally responsible for building the memorials that are never financed, writing eulogies that are never published, and bearing witness for our dead the world does not want to see.


Hen Mazzig is an Israeli writer, speaker and activist and a senior fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute. Follow him: @HenMazzig

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

38th World Zionist Congress Bridges Partisan Divide, Despite Initial Divisions

(October 30, 2020 / JNS) The 38th World Zionist Congress concluded recently with the largest American delegation ever as Jews from across the religious...

Blue Öyster Cult’s Eric Bloom on the New Album “The Symbol Remains,” His Jewish Roots, Ronnie James Dio & More

Hailing from New York, hard rock pioneers Blue Öyster Cult initially garnered huge critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase built on songs like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla”...

I Don’t Want to Exercise

If possible, in the mornings, try and do something for someone before you do something for yourself, even if it’s feeding a stray cat. It gets you out of yourself.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom Set to Write *NSYNC Movie Musical

Rachel Bloom is transitioning from a crazy ex-girlfriend to *NSYNC super-fan. The Golden Globe and Emmy winner tweeted Oct. 29 that she will be...

What the AIDS Crisis Taught Me About COVID-19

As I endure the COVID-19 pandemic with my partner Danny and our son Kevin in our downtown Los Angeles apartment, I cannot help but...

A Heated Conversation About Wearing Masks

The heating repairman knocked on my door at 9:00 a.m. which in Soprano Time is the middle of the night but that is neither...

A Moment in Time: Taking Responsibility for our Actions

Dear all, As I was changing Maya this week, Eli was crawling around on the floor. I heard a few harmless sounds and thought nothing...

2020’s Latest Trick: Bringing Back the Dead

Rapper superstar Kanye West, running as an independent candidate for president of the United States, interrupted his campaign this week to give his wife Kim Kardashian a hologram “performance” from her late father, Robert Kardashian, in honor of her 40th birthday.

Biden’s Iran Plan is Best

For a counterpoint, see "Trump's Iran Plan is Best." Five years ago, I wrote that “it is in our vital interest to stop Iran from getting the...

Trump’s Iran Plan is Best

The election choice between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden will have major consequences for U.S. national security interests as they relate to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Culture

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom Set to Write *NSYNC Movie Musical

Rachel Bloom is transitioning from a crazy ex-girlfriend to *NSYNC super-fan. The Golden Globe and Emmy winner tweeted Oct. 29 that she will be...

‘TrueFuture Israel’ Showcases Israeli People, Places and Cutting-Edge Tech Innovations

While Israel is widely known for its rich history and culture, it has also become a leading center of health and medical technology, developing...

Amal and George Clooney Honored at Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance 2020 Gala

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance honored Amal and George Clooney with the 2020 Humanitarian Award at its virtual gala on Oct. 28.  Hosted...

Digital Platform Blends Technology and Spirituality for Easy Online Services

In 2011, Rabbi Daniel Medwin had an idea to digitize prayerbooks and project them onto a screen using a PowerPoint slideshow format. He never...

Oscar Isaac to Play Jewish Superhero

Oscar Isaac, who portrayed an Israeli Mossad agent in “Operation Finale” in 2018, will star in the Disney+ series “Moon Knight” as a Jewish...

Latest Articles
Latest

38th World Zionist Congress Bridges Partisan Divide, Despite Initial Divisions

(October 30, 2020 / JNS) The 38th World Zionist Congress concluded recently with the largest American delegation ever as Jews from across the religious...

Blue Öyster Cult’s Eric Bloom on the New Album “The Symbol Remains,” His Jewish Roots, Ronnie James Dio & More

Hailing from New York, hard rock pioneers Blue Öyster Cult initially garnered huge critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase built on songs like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla”...

I Don’t Want to Exercise

If possible, in the mornings, try and do something for someone before you do something for yourself, even if it’s feeding a stray cat. It gets you out of yourself.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom Set to Write *NSYNC Movie Musical

Rachel Bloom is transitioning from a crazy ex-girlfriend to *NSYNC super-fan. The Golden Globe and Emmy winner tweeted Oct. 29 that she will be...

What the AIDS Crisis Taught Me About COVID-19

As I endure the COVID-19 pandemic with my partner Danny and our son Kevin in our downtown Los Angeles apartment, I cannot help but...

Hollywood

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom Set to Write *NSYNC Movie Musical

Rachel Bloom is transitioning from a crazy ex-girlfriend to *NSYNC super-fan. The Golden Globe and Emmy winner tweeted Oct. 29 that she will be...

Oscar Isaac to Play Jewish Superhero

Oscar Isaac, who portrayed an Israeli Mossad agent in “Operation Finale” in 2018, will star in the Disney+ series “Moon Knight” as a Jewish...

Jon Stewart to Return to TV in Apple TV+ Series

Emmy-winning writer producer, director and “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart will return to television with a new one-hour, multi-season current affairs series for Apple...

Podcasts

Good Grief! It’s Our Bagelversary!

 It's our first Bagelversary! The Bagels have been podcasting for a year now (check out last year's Halloween episode for our humble beginnings and...

Pandemic Times Episode 100: Who’s Better for Israel, Trump or Biden?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. A conversation with political editor Shmuel Rosner on the upcoming U.S election, a new survey on anti-Semitism...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

x