The goal of the Mizrachi 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 Mizrachi 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 resource page to find an active Mizrachi dancer near you or one who teaches online!
Who are Mizrachi Jews?
Graph created by Hen Mazzig
Mizrachi Jews, Hebrew plural Bene Ha-Mizraḥ (“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/Mizrachi Jews in North Africa and the Middle East were increasingly subjected to pogroms, riots, arrest and detention.
Jews were stripped of their citizenship, belongings and livelihoods. Communal life was restricted, schools and synagogues confiscated and cemeteries destroyed. These communities had to painfully leave, most with nothing but a change of clothes.
To learn more about the Mizrachi Jewish experience,
Growing up in New York City I was so blessed to be surrounded by such a diverse and multicultural world. I found a love for Middle Eastern dance through family, friends, and celebrations. I never thought much about my own background besides having an Israeli family. As I spent years dancing and becoming almost a full time Raqs Sharqi (belly dance) instructor and performer, I was introduced to Iraqi folkloric dance. I had an instant connection with the movements and music and started to look into my family's original last name "Baswari" literally meaning "from Basra". I was amazed as I learned the history, the beauty, and the sadness behind these untold stories of Iraqi Jewry. My new passion would not stop! I spent hours reading, attending online lectures, and searching for videos online of anything Mizrachi related. I was so excited to 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 Mizrachi 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 collaborate and connect Mizrachi dancers who are teaching and performing all over the world TODAY. Our dances are still alive and thriving and it's my dream to continue to grow this virtual library for future generations to come!