The goal of the Mizrahi Dance Archive is to create one virtual space where information on dances from Jewish communities around the Middle East and North Africa can live on for future generations. Our mission is to help preserve, celebrate and bring a new light to the stories, cultures, and history of Mizrahi Jews.
Documentation of specific Jewish dances is hard to find. This project is open to all contributors to add any information or family memories they can! Contact us here.
Movement is an inner and outer body experience where you can connect with yourself and others in a profound way. What better way to connect to your heritage, culture, and religion than through the joy of dance. Visit our event page to stay up to date on the next Mizrahi dance online programing!
Who are Mizrahi Jews?
Graph created by Hen Mazzig
Mizrahi Jews, Hebrew plural Bene Ha-Mizrah (“Sons of the East”), also called Oriental Jews are Jews from: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and Uzbekistan.
For centuries Jews co-existed for the most part peacefully with their various neighbors across North Africa and the Middle East. Jewish communities thrived from the Atlantic Ocean to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, from Casablanca to Alexandria and Baghdad.
Today, these communities have all been nearly driven to extinction. Within one generation, from 1948 to 1973, nearly 1 million of these people were displaced, many becoming refugees. They were forced to leave the land their families had been living on for more than 2000 years. In the wake of the Holocaust, the establishment of the state of Israel, and the rise of Arab nationalism, the Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews in North Africa and the Middle East were increasingly subjected to pogroms, riots, arrest and detention. Some families chose to leave willingly while others were painfully forced out, most with nothing but a change of clothes.
To learn more about the Mizrahi Jewish experience,
Growing up in Queens NY, I was so blessed to be surrounded by such a diverse and multicultural world. I grew up around a variety of Mizrahi communities and found my love for Middle Eastern music and dance through family, friends, and celebrations. Without realizing the significance at the time, I went back to Israel multiples times a year and always found myself in belly dance classes. I loved dancing to songs in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic dialects. My connection to Mizrahi music and dance was there, I just didn't have a name for it quite yet! As I spent my adult years becoming a professional Raqs Sharqi (belly dance) instructor and performer and I started to learn and perform Iraqi folkloric dance which led me to do deeper research into my own family's history. Our family's original last name was "Baswari" literally meaning "from Basra". I was amazed as I collected info on the history, the beauty, and the sadness behind these untold stories of Iraqi Jewry. This opened my eyes to the greater Mizrahi story and I immediately delved into hours of reading, attending online lectures, and searching for videos online of anything Mizrahi history and dance related. I was so excited to finally merge my two passions in life: dance and Judaism.
However, finding info that matched this specific combination was really difficult. We are so lucky to have incredible music, recipes, and literature that was passed down through the generations. However, when it comes to dance, there has not been a lot of documentation. This led me to create the Mizrahi Dance Archive. I am on a mission to not only collect and organize what info we have out there of specific Jewish community dances from MENA countries but also to bring these dances back to life and to use Mizrahi dance as a tool for deeper Jewish education.
Read her recent interview with the Chatham Arts Council on her work fusing her passions of dance and Judaism during COVID.
For more info on my dancing, visit www.bellydancingwithjackie.com