NEW YORK (Feb. 2)
Ambassador Ovadia Sofer, an Iraqi-born member of Israel’s United Nations Mission, deplores the lack of active involvement by Sephardic Jews in Jewish community affairs, a phenomenon he finds both in Israel, where Jews of Oriental background comprise the majority of the population, and the U.S. where they constitute only two percent of the Jewish population.
Sofer explained the reasons for this situation at a luncheon held here yesterday by a group of women who hope to launch a systematic program of Sephardic activities in the U.S. The luncheon was attended by Mrs. Liliane Winn, president of the American Sephardic Federation, and was addressed, in addition to Sofer, by Mrs. Kitty Dukakis, wife of the Governor of Massachusetts.
Sofer said Sephardic Jews in Israel and the U.S. lacked organizations because organizations were not part of the pattern of Jewish life in the countries they came from. “The lack of persecution of the sort experienced by Ashkenazic Jews in Europe made the organizational networks which Ashkenazim perfected unnecessary in the Sephardi communities,” the UN envoy said. “Thus Sephardim were ill-equipped to manifest themselves as an entity when they arrived in the predominantly organized Ashkenazi societies of Israel and the U.S.”
INCREASED CONSCIOUSNESS URGED
He noted that he “never sees these women-or for that matter any Sephardim” at any of the functions he attends. He urged increased Sephardi consciousness not only in Israel but in the U.S. “because Sephardim who are lost as Sephardim, but their children are frequently lost as Jews.”
Mrs. Winn told the gathering, “The only way we can be effective is if we act as the force which inspires America’s Ashkenazic majority Jews are anxious for more information about Sephardim in Israel’s social context but Sephardic Jews are not organized to provide it. “It is the role of the women to set the ball rolling.” She said.
Mrs, Dukakis, who is partly of Sephardic origin, said her primary concern with Israel in for the Oriental and Sephardic communities. She said she chose to circumvent the established Jewish organizations “which would only make me woman of the year’ and not allow me to focus my attention on the things which I consider most important.”