The Other Jews: A Sephardic Journey of Culture, Country and Ethnic Identity
Sidell, Leah J.
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Israel is in many ways my inspiration, and is the primary source of motivation behind my research on Sephardim. Living in Jerusalem for three months the summer of 1997, working with both native Israelis and recent immigrants, I experienced the true diversity of the Jewish people. I worked as an English tutor at a community center in my neighborhood. My neighbors were poor Russian Jews living in tenement housing and rich British,· American and Canadian Jews living in multimillion dollar homes. I lived with Jews from as familiar as Syracuse, New York to as far off as San Paulo, Brazil. Diversity became the rule, likeness the exception in terms of cultural and historical life experiences. Yet no matter what cultural boundaries existed, these borders were constantly crossed by our Jewish ethnic solidarity. Throughout my experiences in Israel, my definition of what it means to be Jewish was constantly challenged. Walking down the street in downtown Jerusalem, my eyes would wander through the crowds of Israelis, looking for cultural symbols or clues, trying to understand the puzzle of mainstream Israeli secular society and its extremely religious counterculture. I soon realized how culturally biased and misguided my perceptions were of Israelis and Palestinians alike.