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Monday, June 19, 2006

Study Released On Ashkenazi Feelings Of Superiority

The results of this study can't come as a shock to very many people who follow the travails Sephardim living in Israel face:
According to a study presented during a Van Leer Jerusalem Institute conference Monday, Ashkenazim consider their culture superior to that of the Sephardim.

Additional studies on the matter indicate that people of Ashkenaz origin tend to refer to themselves as “Ashkenazim,” while Sephardim usually define themselves as "Israelis.”

The number of Sephardim who deny their origin is larger than the number of Ashkenazim who are reluctant to admit to their European descent, the studies reveal.
I mean, why wouldn't Israelis admit to being of Sephardic lineage? Simply because they were prevented from attending their school of choice? Or perhaps because they are being barred from living in their neighborhood of choice:
Meet Rav and Shmuel Street in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Sefer in central Israel: A corner street, a great view, and lots of children with side curls playing around. But there is something else this street has: It is the only street in Israel where Jews of Middle Eastern descent are not allowed to move to.

The Brachfeld neighborhood's reception committee decided to ban additional Sephardic families from entering streets and buildings in which 35 percent of the tenants are Sephardic.

The reception committee recently decided that there are too many residents of Middle Eastern descent in some of Brachfeld's streets and buildings. Therefore, Sephardic Jews wishing to live in the town cannot live on Rav and Shmuel Street and are directed to other streets.
Reading this, does anyone have to ask why Sephardim are tragically feeling it necessary to cover up their rich heritage?

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this fascinating. On a religious level, I would think that Ashkenazim (except perhaps Briskers) would feel inferior to Sephardim.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

These things are cyclical--unfortunately. Today it is apparently Ashkenazim who feel superior. Yesterday it was Sephardim.

See "Benjamin Disraeli and the myth of Sephardi superiority" by Todd Endelman in Jewish History 10:2 1996 or "The Myth of Sephardi Supremacy" by Ismar Schorsch in Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, 1989 (also available in Schorsch's 'From Text To Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism').

Basically it seems that whichever culture ends up more Western and more wealthy avails themselves of the opportunity to look down upon those who are or seem less Western and less waelthy, and therefore more uncouth.

Don't forget that plenty of Sephardim in New York and New Jersey don't labor under the idea that they are inferior from Ashkenazim. If anything, the contrary.

That said, of course racism is deplorable even if we can chart it and point to past precedents or current reasons.

5:19 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Actually, even excluding Shas due to its political nature, there has been a tremendous outpouring of Sefaradi heritage publications and other works with special Yeshivot and publishing houses sponsored by wealthy French, Central/South American (like Panama) Jews, in addition to the Halabi families of Brooklyn.

5:22 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Don't forget that plenty of Sephardim in New York and New Jersey don't labor under the idea that they are inferior from Ashkenazim. If anything, the contrary.


I agree completely, and was musing on that while writing this post.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Jewish Blogmeister said...

Great post. Actually I always found it interesting how certain sects of sefardim do and don't get along. E.g. The syrians and persians are both generally wealthy but do not get along. The Syrians and the Eygptians do get along.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Jewish Guy said...

Sfardim are inferior. So are Chassidim, Hungarians and all Galitzianers. The only Jews of any real class are Litvaks and Yekkes. God save us from the rest of you.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

As a Yekke-Litvak, i'd like to officially disown "jewish guy".

6:46 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

unless he was joking.

in which case one or both of us need a sense of humor transplant

(how stereotypical!)

6:47 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

unless he was joking.

in which case one or both of us need a sense of humor transplant

(how stereotypical!)


I thought he was joking.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

I have never understood this whole Israeli Ashkenazi/Sefardi thing. I don't know if its that I don't really value my own Ashkenazi heritage much (as separate form general Jewish heritage), or that any mention of Sefardim in yeshiva usually revolved around differences in minhagim and seemed to imply that in general sefardim were ever so slightly more "authentic" or something (or that was my impression).

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But really, I mean- Ashkenaz or Sephard- all Israelis are just...

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

only difference between shefardim and azkanazim is that sefardi men phisically beat their wives and azkananazi women emotionally beat their husbands

9:57 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon 9:57: stop already with the BS.

Orthomom-Thanks for more information. It is hard to believe that segregation is still alive and well.

10:38 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

only difference between shefardim and azkanazim is that sefardi men phisically beat their wives and azkananazi women emotionally beat their husbands

9:57 PM


Enough.

10:56 PM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

When I lived in the US, the Sefardi culture was viewed as rich and exotic. In Israel there is no concept of political correctness and people make no secret of their disdain for sefardim at school meetings, for example. The north Africans who came to Israel in the 50s were sent to live in "maabarot" (transit camps that eventually became slums) and their children were forced to attend secular schools. The community has never recovered educationally, culturally, or economically.

12:15 AM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

I posted about the situation in my neighborhood here: http://mominisrael.blogspot.com/2006/06/tale-of-two-schools.html

1:09 AM  
Anonymous Safranit said...

I lived in Beit Shemesh in 1990-91 when it was primarily Sefardi. I definitely was made to feel put down as the "opressor" of the Sefaradim. It was an interesting role for me, considering I really didn't know there was a difference. (I wasn't from a religious family, and I thought a Jew was a Jew---how naive)

Anyway, it is sad to see how big the divisions are. My husband prays at a mixed minyan both shacharit and mincha, and enjoys the differences. I think there are many customs of the sefaradim which make more sense than the way we do it (and I'm not even referring to kitnyot).

It will get better....I hope.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

Does anyone know of current statistics on Sefardi and Ashkenazi ancestry among Israelis?
I was wondering how many people have mixed ancestry nowadays and what the overall numbers are.

2:56 AM  
Blogger JH said...

As other stated, ashkenazim are probably jealous of the richer and stronger heritage and therefore ashkenazim have a complex and bully sephardim...

8:42 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

" lived in Beit Shemesh in 1990-91 when it was primarily Sefardi. I definitely was made to feel put down as the "opressor" of the Sefaradim. It was an interesting role for me, considering I really didn't know there was a difference. (I wasn't from a religious family, and I thought a Jew was a Jew---how naive)"

Thank you for encapsulating the core reason for American Jews to NOT move to Israel until Moshiach comes.

As insane as is American society, here there are at least opportunities to carve one's own identity; you can breath even if you choose not to affiliate yourself with any of the established specified shards of the Jewish spectrum of political, ancestral, or religious affiliation.

In Israel, one would dare not commit at their own peril. Failure to label oneself is to cause oneself and one's family the misery of wandering throughout life as an Israeli as a stateless nobody bereft of identity or friends.

Neurotic societies are typically comprised of neurotic people. Welcome to Israel.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>As other stated, ashkenazim are probably jealous of the richer and stronger heritage and therefore ashkenazim have a complex and bully sephardim...

I'm afraid I've got to dispute that. By what possible yardstick do Sephardim have a richer and stronger heritage than Ashkenazim? It shouldn't be necessary to put either one down in order to lift up the other one.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny how things change. When I went to the Yeshiva of Flatbush 25 years ago, The Syrians all considered themselves far superior to the Ashkenazim, partly because of their extreme wealth. The goal for all the girls in my grade was to snag a Syrian husband (a few did, and renounced their Ashkenzic past). Then I went to Barnard, where no one ever heard of Syrians. The prize there was a Hungarian husband.

11:14 AM  
Blogger kollel mama said...

In England as well, the Sfardim are "put down". In America this is not so, as stated before,BUT there IS plenty of anti semitism and other racism. In Israel, it's Jews putting Jews down.

11:16 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Both Ashkenazim and Sephardim have rich heritages and a lot to offer to the observant world.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Both Ashkenazim and Sephardim have rich heritages and a lot to offer to the observant world."

Oh really? And there I though the myopic chareidim were right and their peasant descendants who crawled out of Europe were superior. Silly me.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me but it seems that the differences in heritage, particularly as between different subgroups of Ashkenazim (Hungarian v. Polish, etc.) are largely a non-issue for my generation (mid 20's or so). Making distictions based on where in Europe one's grandparents lived seems quite trivial and more than just a bit silly.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'goal for all the girls in my grade was to snag a Syrian husband'

I know a 20something who has said she wants to marry a Dutch Sefardic Jew so she can eat dairy an hour after meat and eat kitniyot on Pesach.

2:36 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

not that it makes any of this ok but the askinazim of the First Aliyah (1882-1903)and of early assent were treated like this by the sefardim, to the point where nonsefardic shcehta was deemed unkosher by the turks

2:37 PM  
Blogger Jewboy said...

While racism is always tragic, it's especially tragic when it occurs between members of the Jewish nation. Had this occured in America, Kiryat Sefer's exclusionary practices would be ruled unconstitutional.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe if the israeli's in question would hang out in the upper alphabet streets of brooklyn for a while (ave.'s p,q,r,...)and take day trips to deal in their spare time the sight of all the extremely wealthy, beautiful and thin s.y.'s (syrians) would change the way they think.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous baby rabbi said...

Charlie, the custom of waiting one hour between meat and milk is unique to the Ashkenazic community of Holland, and is mentioned by the Rema in his commentary in Yoreh Deah 89:1. The Portuguese community of Amsterdam always waited 6 hours, as per the instructions of the Mechaber there.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Ricky Ricardo said...

Do you want to hear something weird, sad, and disgusting at the same time. We have a friend whose last name is Jablon who lives in Israel. He is married with a family and they are super charedi and they are ashkenazi. This friend changed his last name to Yablonsky because he was afraid that his kids would not be allowed into good yeshivas because yeshiva admissions office would see the last Jablon and assume he is Sefardi. The funny thing is that so far, he only has girls.

(http://mazel123.blogspot.com/).

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see this is a very old blog but I'll leave a comment anyway.

I'm an American of Ashkenazi heritage and my family is secular. My uncle, by marriage, was Sephardic and also secular. This fact was basically a non-subject in my family. If it ever came into the conversation, it was simply mentioned with an aura of curiosity. In other words, we just viewed Sephardic jews as jew who had a culture which we really didn't know all too much about. We never saw them in any negative light or in any sense of less than or better than Ashkenazi jews.

On the subject of Ashkenazi jews and class and culture. My great grandmother was a Russian jew who's native languages were Russian and Yiddish, yet she also spoke German fluently. When I asked my grandfather how she came to speak German he said that in her day "Germany was the cultural center of Europe and one was considered well educated if they spoke German"

I think, in general, though the Ashkenazi jews of Europe were oppressed, and contrary to popular belief, often poor and illiterate in many cases, they still had a lot of pride and dignity. Unfortunately I think that has spilled over to the current racism and prejudice we see today.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

B"H"

I am a Sephardic Jew and grew up that way here in the United States. We never ate kitniyot on Pesach and still hold that tradition to this day. In my community in Brooklyn, NY it was only the Syrians who ate Kitniyot. This was a well known fact.

Now...What is this big division among Ashkenzim and Sepharadim accomplishing in Israel and abroad? I'll tell you what....ABSOLUTELY NOTHING other than sowing the seeds of our destruction. Everytime this type of rift grows, it brings our people closer to our destruction and further away from Hashem. Has anyone cared to open up the Shulchan Aruch to try and understand how it is we as Benay Yisroel are supposed to live? Regardless of whether you are Sephardic or Ashkenaz. Has anyone ever stopped to think about what Hashem thinks about this division of his children? I am sure he must detest seeing his Benay Yisroel in-fighting while simultaniously embracing customs and practices of goyim. All you have to do is go back and read Milochim (Kings) in the Tanach and you can once again realize where we went wrong and where we continue to go wrong. It is because so many of our people have swayed away from observing our laws and beautiful ancient way of life that we have dischord amongst our own people.
Has it ever occurred to anyone that we are all Jewish? I could be angry for a number of reasons...the bigotry of certain Ashkenazim, the slavery imposed on Sepharadim by Ashkenazim in Israel's pre and post 1948 period. The communism that they so openly embrace...etc... etc...The insulting of Sephardic as kushim which is closely compared to the N-word that we despise so much in the United States. Miraculously enough I do not subscribe to divisions in Judaism. I am actually a member of the Chabad which is primarily Ashkenaz. They embrace me just as much as I embrace them.
The point is that we have enough enemies out there waiting for the opportune time to wipe us all out. In addition to the arab nations (sons of Ishmael), Amalek is also out there waiting for just the right time and just as they attacked us as we left Eygpt, they wait today for the right time to strike. Amalek in the modern day is what I believe to be the islamic nation of Iran.
It goes beyond "can't we all just get along?" It goes beyond being politically correct...being Jewish is NOT politically correct. Those that continue to embrace the idoltrus ways of the Ba'al (idoltrus ways of goyim) are those that sadly cannot or are unwilling to meditate in prayer long enough to feel the presence of Hashem.
To all of my brothers and sisters, Sephardic and Ashkenaz alike...I love you all...CHAG SAMAICH!!! Please return to Benay Yisroel as one and stand together...give up the divisions...religious or not, it doesn't matter. First, we need unbreakable solidarity within our people in order to take the next step which will be the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Bet Hamigdash speedily in our days...Amen

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even today the descendants of the Sephardim who would love to convert back to Judaism are put down by the Ashkenzim Rabbinate. How sad given the fact the Jews are disappearing from the world.

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Anonymous nelsonsamuel@yahoo.com said...

Father Jacob (Israel)had 13 children. They were neither askenazi nor sephardi. Moses the Prophet took the Hebrews out of Egypt not askenazi nor sephardi, just Israelites (descendants of Jacob). There is no genetic gene called the Jew Gene, Askenazi Gene or the Sephardi Gene. We are all Jews (current name for descendants of Jacob). There are rich and poor, short and tall, beautiful and not so beautiful and smart and stupid among all Jews. Finally, there will be a mixing of both groups to the point where no one will be able to trace there background and maybe the Jews will remember that they are all descended from Father Jacob.

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Anonymous Stump of Jesse said...

I have to agree with some of these intelligence. There will be a mixing of both groups to the point where no one will be able to trace background, much less be able to think that they will be good enough when all fall short. It is to say that DNA switches are either 'on' or 'off' with those who might have rather parade that they come from some jewish hybred or the Levitical lines. Not to say that they possess the gifts that they possess but what is a gift if it is not generously used and shared? People will be grafted in or easily grafted out by their poor choices, or pride out of no where; for it is written that no arrogance could ever be where G-d is.
It doesn't pay to compare and contrast ourselves til we are so green we are turning blue. Sordid grudges and strange judaic
vendettas are not a valid reason for spying out mysterious Diaspora's you are trying to get to the bottom of.

If anything discomforts us we are taught to bring it to G-d himself.

Can we bold enough to ask that personal question instead of festering over it for twenty years?
Could it be rightful that any should fear being put in check by a Gentile noble? Is it polite to lift the skirts of another?

Do we now dare to rise above the knowledge of our Creator? Are we so disturbed and confused that we would use our very professional license to invade the privacy of other people in the world and it might not be ever found out?

Could we be more worried that our brother would know his G-d before we get to know him more personally?

Maybe it is best not to interfere with what G-d has joined together. Well, one fine day someone from above will ask you why you interfered and where our disturbing grudge came. With so many tribes at odds with one another; why would one more jew join in the strive in the world?

How should we then consider amongst our own who practice judaism; from a more liberated place? How could we not know we also sharpen from bretherine whom are blessed by humilities found by Grace.

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