Fighting and Proud Mizrahi Jew

Take a look at Hen Mazzig’s Instagram biography and you’ll get a taste of who he is: “I love being Jewish 10 times more than anyone hates me for it. Son of Amazigh + Iraqi refugees.

The young influencer has more than 155,000 followers between Instagram and Facebook, and he spends his time posting his support for Israel and his defense of the Jewish people. Now he has published “The Wrong Kind of Jew: A Mizrahi Manifesto,” a book that is part memoir, part proclamation about how Mizrahi Jews are often misunderstood and not included in mainstream-dominated conversations. Ashkenazim on our community.

“Because of my Mizrahi heritage, I do not fit into what many people consider to be the secular cultural tenets of Judaism,” he writes. “I love bagels, but I don’t consider them my cooking. I have no opinion on Katz’s Deli or whether or not they are better than Langer’s…I don’t live up to expectations of what it looks, sounds, thinks and means Jewish.

Mazzig started writing his book four years ago. It started as a memoir, then turned into a passionate plea for Jews of Mizrahi descent.

“I felt my love for the Jewish people and Jews of Mizrahi identity very strongly, and I wanted people within and outside of our Jewish community to see us,” he told the Journal. . “I really think that by seeing Mizrahi Jews and understanding our history, we become stronger as a Jewish community.”

The author’s family lived in the Middle East for thousands of years in Muslim and Arab countries and faced discrimination and persecution, like the Jews of Eastern Europe.

“They lived like second-class citizens,” Mazzig said. “You were protected until they didn’t want you protected.”

Mazzig’s grandparents were in Tunisia during World War II. There, the Vichy French government that controlled North Africa made them, and the other Jews there, work in forced labor camps.

Other family members were in Iraq during the Farhoud in 1941, a pogrom that resulted in the death of 150 to 180 Jews. Rioters injured hundreds more, raped women, and looted about 1,500 homes and businesses.

According to Mazzig, Mizrahi Jewish history, including what happened in Tunisia and Iraq, is often not included in the conversation about Jewish oppression and anti-Semitism in general.

“We hear a lot about the Holocaust and Soviet Jews,” he said. “One community that has been largely ignored is the Mizrahi Jews. I struggle with that, and in the book I dig deep into why we’re being ignored.

In his book, Mazzig writes, “Not only are we unfamiliar, but our culture is breaking stereotypes and unspoken rules. Meanwhile, our story derails the narrative that many want to propagate about Jews, anti-Semitism and, most controversially, Israel. We shatter the expectations of many about Jews and race, the Middle East and religion, and even politics and oppression.

Fortunately, the response from the Ashkenazi community has been positive.

“So many Ashkenazi Jews who are my friends are interested in this story and want to discuss it,” Mazzig said.

Currently, Mazzig divides his time between Tel Aviv, where he works at the organization he founded, the Tel Aviv Institute, and London, where his partner lives.

In addition to publishing about Mizrahi Jews and Israel, the author, who is gay, also discusses LGBTQ+ issues. One thing that bothers him is when people accuse Israel of “pinkwashing,” or promoting the country’s LGBTQ+ rights and support while “covering up” for other atrocities they are supposed to be committing.

“It really erases the achievement of brave LGBTQ leaders in Israel to say we are pinkwashing,” Mazzig said. “It’s very hateful and sinister.”

Constantly, Mazzig receives threats online for being pro-Israel, Jewish, gay and Jewish, Mizrahi and a gay Israeli.

“I feel like I’m going numb,” he said. “I have to remember that my grandparents went through much worse.”

Right now, being a Jew online is especially frightening, given the anti-Semitism coming from celebrities like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, who have huge followings. Although Mazzig is worried, he doesn’t like the current approach we’re taking on the matter.

“People watching from the sidelines don’t understand why what Kanye said was anti-Semitic,” he said. “We need to educate them and explain why. In London, a black British fashion blogger was engaging in hate speech and failed to acknowledge it. She completely changed and said she was very pro-Jewish and could see us in a different light. My approach is to always lead in kindness and not cancel people out. We should not consider people as anti-Semites. We should see them as people trying to unlearn anti-Semitism.

Mazzig knows what it’s like to build bridges – when he served in the Israel Defense Forces, he helped Palestinians build infrastructure in Ramallah.

Mazzig knows what it’s like to build bridges – when he served in the Israel Defense Forces, he helped Palestinians build infrastructure in Ramallah. Now, in addition to conversing with people on the “other side” to fight anti-Semitism, he hopes he can inspire others to stand up for what they believe in.

“Everything I do is for the Jewish people,” he said. “My mission is bigger than me as an individual. This is to support one of the most marginalized groups in human history.

On college campuses, where he encourages students to become activists, he tells them something that can be applied to anyone fighting for a cause.

“We are doing something huge here,” he said. “We’re doing something bigger than ourselves, and it’s worth the discomfort we have to endure.”

“The Wrong Kind of Jew: A Mizrahi Manifesto” is available on Amazon.

About Wesley V. Finley

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