Since Biblical times, from Abraham’s journey to Egypt and the later Israelite captivity under the Pharaohs, the Jewish People have had close ties with Africa. Some Jewish communities in Africa are amongst the oldest in the world, dating back more than 2,700 years (Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria). Today, Jews and Judaism in Africa show an ethnic and religious diversity and richness almost unparalleled on any other continent.
The Jewish Africa Conference is bringing together a circle of emerging entrepreneurs, communal leaders, and prominent scholars who will analyze a broad spectrum of issues pertaining to the history and contemporary role of Jews in Sub-Saharan and North Africa, as well as the need for Jewish voices in African civil society, the development and preservation of Jewish space, perspectives on old and new African Jewish identities, and relations between Jews and non-Jews.
Provisional List of Select Participants
Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila (Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Africa), Dr. Aomar Boum (“Jews of Timbuktu”), Dr. Marla Brettschneider (The Jewish Phenomenon in Sub-Saharan Africa), President Magda Haroun (Egyptian Jewish Community), Vice President Samy Ibrahim (Drop of Milk Association), Dr. Ephraim Isaac (From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African Americans), Abere Endeshaw Kerehu (Jewish Community in Ethiopia), Dr. André Levy (Return to Casablanca: Jews, Muslims, and an Israeli Anthropologist), Dr. Yoram Meital (“Synagogues and Jewish Heritage in Modern Egypt: Re-configuring Past and Present”), Director Tali Nates (Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre), Houda Ougaddoum (Association Mimouna), Dr. Tudor Parfitt (“The Jews of Sub-Saharan Africa: Myth and Reality”), Ilona Remy (“The Place of the Igbo in the Israelite World”), Diplomatic & Parliamentary Liaison Chaya Singer (South African Jewish Board of Deputies), and Dr. Shalva Weil ("The Beta Israel of Ethiopia until 1991: Identity, History, and Unique Customs")
Description of ASF-Mimouna Partnership
The American Sephardi Federation, a partner of the landmark Center for Jewish History, proudly preserves and promotes the history, traditions, and rich mosaic culture of Greater Sephardic communities as an integral part of the Jewish experience. The ASF hosts high-profile events and exhibitions, produces widely-read online (Sephardi World Weekly and Sephardi Ideas Monthly) and print (The Sephardi Report) publications, supports research, scholarship (Broome & Allen Fellows and Scholars), the Institute of Jewish Experience, and the National Sephardic Library & Archives, and represents the Sephardi voice in diplomatic and Jewish communal affairs as a member of the World Jewish Congress and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Association Mimouna is a Moroccan NGO that derives its name from a unique Moroccan Jewish celebration of liberty and community. Moroccan Jews would often invite their Muslim neighbors to join their post-Passover festivities. Association Mimouna was founded in 2007 at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI) by Moroccan Muslim students who take pride in this shared symbol of Moroccan heritage and strive to preserve and promote the history of Morocco’s ancient Jewish community. The New York Times described Mimouna’s conference commemorating Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust and honoring King Mohammed V for his refusal to assent to the persecution of Jews during the Vichy occupation as “the first of its kind in an Arab or Muslim nation and a sign of historical truth triumphing over conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic dogma.”
The American Sephardi Federation and Association Mimouna are partnered to celebrate Judeo-Moroccan history, traditions, and culture, as well as the Moroccan culture of co-existence. Since 2014, we have created a series of major events in New York City, including the Moroccan-Jewish Caravan, “From Casablanca to New York: A Night of Moroccan Culture,” the 20th and 21st Anniversary Editions of the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, and an event with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations featuring the General Secretary of Muslim World League to honor the heroism of Muslims who protected Jewish communities and/or saved Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. These events have been both well-attended and were featured in leading publications, such as Tablet Magazine, CS Monitor, and the Times of Israel. Our work together preserving Jewish historical sites in Morocco, via a mutual partner, the Diarna Geo-Museum of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Life, has also been featured in The New York Times.
Opening Cultural Evening
6:30PM Steinberg Great Hall, Blavatnik Gallery, and Batkin Mezzanine Exhibitions & Ethiopian Reception
7:30PM Welcome (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Moses, The African: Jewish Leadership Awards Ceremony
The Past & Present of African Jewish Communities
9:00AM Registration & Refreshments (Steinberg Great Hall)
9:30AM Opening Remarks (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Dr. Ephraim Isaac Director, Institute of Semitic Studies
Eliseo Neuman Director, AJC's Africa Institute
Avigayil Benstein President, World Union of Jewish Students
10:30AM Historical Survey of Sub–Saharan African Jewish Life (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Dr. Shalva Weil The Beta Israel of Ethiopia until 1991: Identity, History, and Unique Customs
Dr. Aomar Boum Saharan Judaism: Voices from Africa’s Margins”
Dave Bloom The Life and Times of the Zimbabwe and Zambian Jewish Communities
Carol Castiel The Jews of Cape Verde
12:15PM Ethiopian Lunch (Steinberg Great Hall)
1:15PM Exhibit Tour/Talk (Steinberg Great Hall and Batkin Mezzanine)
Dr. Jay A. Waronker "www.africansynagogues.org"
2:15PM Contemporary Life of North Africa Jewish People & Sites (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Magda Haroun Egyptian Jewish Sites and People Today
Dr. Yoram Meital Mr. Cohen does not pray here anymore: Synagogues and Jewish Heritage in Egypt
Rabbi Levi Banon Contemporary Jewish Life in Casablanca
Peter A. Geffen The American Jewish Student in Africa: Building World Consciousness in Morocco 2006–2019
3:45PM Coffee Break (Steinberg Great Hall)
4:00PM Contemporary Life of Sub–Saharan African Jewish People & Sites (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Abere Endeshaw Kerehu The Face of Ethiopian Jewry
Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom Preserving Ethiopian Jewish Culture and Traditions
Chaya Singer The South African Jewish Community from a Political Perspective
Ilona Remy The Place of the Igbo in the Israelite World
Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila Jewish Life in Central Africa
Maguy Kakon Experiences as the first Jewish woman to run for a seat in Moroccan parliamentary elections
Jewish Africa Film Festival "In Honor of Kulanu’s 25th Anniversary"
7:00–9:00PM Gabrielle Zilkha "Doing Jewish A Story from Ghana (2016)"
David Vinik and Debra Gonshor Vinik "Yearning to Belong (2007)"
9:00AM Registration and refreshments (Steinberg Great Hall)
9:30AM Encounters between Jews and non–Jews in Contemporary Africa (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Samy Ibrahim An Egyptian Perspective
Houda Ougaddoum Re–acquainting Moroccan youth with its Jewish component
Dr. Tudor Parfitt The Jews of sub–Saharan Africa: Myth and Reality
Dr. Marla Brettschneider Recent Trends in Group Conversions
Dr. Andre Levy Some thoughts on the Jewish–Muslim relationship in contemporary Morocco
11:30AM An Introduction to the Atlas of Jewish History and Diarna Geo-Museum of North African & Middle Eastern Jewish Life (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Eddie Ashkenazie & Jason Guberman-P.
12:15PM Jono David/HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library Presentation(Forchheimer Auditorium)
1:00PM Yosef Abramowitz,- The Future of Jews in Africa
1:15PM Strategic Planning Lunch: Focus Groups Developing Plans & Projects for the Future of Jewish A Africa (Steinberg Great Hall)
Mehdi El Bayad and Reda Eyed
3:00PM Presentations of Focus Groups for the Future of Jewish Africa (Steinberg Great Hall)
Mehdi El Bayad and Reda Ayadi
4:30PM Closing Remarks (Forchheimer Auditorium)
Jewish Africa Film Festival "In Honor of Kulanu’s 25th Anniversary"
7:00–9:00PM Joshua Kristal’s "Lost/Found: The Jews of Madagascar (2016)"
Jeff Lieberman’s "Re–Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria (2012)"