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JIMENA: Expanding its Role as an Educational Leader

July 27th, 2023

As the leading voice for Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, JIMENA is expanding its role as a thought leader and resource hub for the Jewish community and the field of Jewish education. While JIMENA has always worked to educate alongside its advocacy efforts, today the organization is in the midst of a strategic plan designed to deepen and grow its role in this critical area so that Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews and their histories are more fully included in American Jewish life.

JIMENA’s newest resource, Distinctions: A Sephardi and Mizrahi Journal, addresses contemporary Jewish concerns through a classical Sephardi and Mizrahi lens. The online quarterly publication offers fresh and impactful content that elevates the perspectives and raises the profile of Sephardi and Mizrahi people and communities. Distinctions’ inaugural Summer 2023 issue focuses on antisemitism, with a special introduction by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, as well as a featured story by Sharon Nazarian, who has worked on international affairs as a senior vice president for the Anti-Defamation League. Each issue of Distinctions will be framed around a theme of communal interest to Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. 

Distinctions is designed to push our community forward, to uncover people and perspectives on issues that for too long have been ignored. JIMENA believes that to genuinely change internal Jewish narratives and attitudes — and to become more inclusive and respectful of Sephardi and Mizrahi people and communities — we need this new platform.
– Ty Alhadeff, JIMENA’s director of education and director of JIMENA’s Sephardic Leadership Institute

JIMENA’s growth as an educational leader and expert is timely and fills a previous void in the field. To help advance the White House’s recently released U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, JIMENA curated a collection of lesson plans and educational units on antisemitism and Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, all of which are available at no cost to state departments of education, school districts, and individual schools.

These resources will help students understand the many ways antisemitism manifests and the diversity of Jews impacted by it. We were privileged to be a part of the development of the National Strategy. Now we need to play a role in its implementation. It is our hope to raise the funding to produce more lessons on Nazi camps in North Africa, the Farhud in Iraq, Convivencia as a model to fight antisemitism and bigotry of all forms, and other country-by-country lessons.
– Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA

JIMENA also has undertaken major efforts to help New York and Los Angeles Jewish Day Schools better integrate Sephardic and Mizrahi students, culture, and content. The projects began recently with an assessment of Day Schools in those cities to determine what types of interventions school administrators and educators need to create more inclusive classrooms. The assessments’ findings will enable JIMENA to design the right training for Jewish educators and administrators.

Over the next few years, as JIMENA grows, so too will its leadership development programs and knowledge-base it can share with the field. In particular, JIMENA commissioned a research team under the direction of Dr. Mijal Bitton to conduct the first-ever demographic study of Sephardic Jewish Americans. The research is designed to help inform professionals, educators, leaders and scholars about who Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in America are and recommendations for their representation and inclusion in Jewish life, among other key outcomes.  

Learn more at jimena.org. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of JIMENA.