This is a guest post from Daniel Levy

I just love being Sephardi (my family is originally Turkish). In fact, I find it to be one of the simple pleasures in life! Below are some comic observations on being a Sephardi, or Mizrahi Jew. Funny thing is most of it’s true for me!

1. You refer to Arabs, Kurds and Turks as “cousins”

2. You like the sound of spoken Arabic

3. Your synagogue’s chazzan sounds like he’s chanting in Arabic most of the time. And you love it!

4. If you don’t hate Arabs your relatives are not only unable to understand why, but will quite possibly see you as a traitor and want to disown you

5. When you announce to your family that you’re learning Arabic, you get knowing nods and comments such as “Sensible; know your enemy”

6. In your family supporting the two-state solution is tantamount to betraying Israel

7. You have a natural sense of rhythm when dancing to Middle Eastern music

8. Your iPod has all the standard Arabic pop anthems (Amarain, Habini El Nour El Ain and Ya Tabtab) on one playlist

9. You lip sync to them in your room, hoping your family doesn’t find out

10. You see denying the supremacy of Mizrahi music as cultural heresy and a sure sign of being a musical philistine

11. At least one person in your family plays the darbuka

12. You listen to trance remixes of selichot from the Yamim Noraim on a regular basis (think Meydad Tasa and Itzik Kalla)

13. You have said trance remixes of selichot from the Yamim Noraim on your phone

14. You wonder why you get strange looks when people on the bus hear your ring-tone. They obviously don’t appreciate Moshe Giat and Zohar Argov…

15. You don’t clap normally (usually it’s slightly offbeat with hands held high overhead)

16. You can do that weird finger-click (don’t even ask for an explanation – you either know what I’m talking about or not)

17. When you go to a family simcha most of the guests over fifty have a foreign accent

18. At weddings and engagement parties you join in with Mabruk Alek

19. At such smachot you’ll find elderly Persians/Afghanis/Iraqis/Kurds/Moroccans/Egyptians or Syrians doing traditional dances surrounded by admiring teenagers filming it on their iPhones

20. You call a really good party a “hafla”

21. Whenever you get invited to a party the first thing you ask is “Who’s bringing the arak?”

22. You’re disappointed when there isn’t any

23. You get overly excited when someone pulls out a shisha pipe at a party. If you’re really drunk you also start singing “nagila hallelujah”

24. At least one close family member or friend is, or has been a devout Kahanist at some point in their life

25. You have a strong dislike of visibly fake tan

26. You laugh at people who can’t take spicy food

27. You know how hard it is to make a decent Jahnun, having tried and failed to do so

28. You feel guilty calling chamin “cholent”

29. You like eggs in your chamin

30. You make shakshuka on a regular basis

31. You’ll only use shop-bought harissa or schug in a real emergency

32. No-matter how much you want to visit your grandparents’ birthplace you know that if you do being, butchered by anti-Semitic locals is more than a slight possibility

33. You find Yiddish-accented Hebrew unintelligible

34. You kiss on both cheeks

35. “Marrying out” to an Ashkenazi is unthinkable, but someone in your family has still done it.

20 Responses to “Being a Sephardi/Mizrahi Jew”

  1. F Callen says:

    Please, what to you mean about the finger-click thing? How do you do it?

  2. Shmuel says:

    LOL! Excellent read.

  3. Simon says:

    This is only one school of Sephardism. Someone needs to do this about the Spanish & Portuguese….

    Here’s a few to start:

    1) You feel underdressed at a formal occasion without your top hat
    2) You have a great surname like Nunes Gomez de la Costa
    3) It’s Yangakob, not Yakov.

    • Chas Newkey-Burden says:

      Haha, I particularly like number one!

    • Daniel Levy says:

      Love it Simon! Do you go to Lauderdale Road? Your suggestions really sound a lot like it :p

      • Sam says:

        Thank you, Simon. Sephardic means Spanish, and we kindly extend the term to include our Portuguese and other Iberian brethren.

        You forget, however,

        4) It is not ‘Gut Shabbes’ it is ‘Shabbat Shalom’ or failing that ‘pleasant sabbath to you.’ Yiddish is out. No exceptions.
        5) all other branches of Judaism are inferior to yours. This does not need explaining as it is demonstrably true. If this is not obvious to you without an explanation I conclude you are subconciously biased. Please, there’s no need to be jealous.
        6) The Mahamad is always wrong
        7) Washers are called lavadores
        8) Bendigamos can be sung in place of the proper prayers in grace after meals.

        That is all, really. If anyone disagrees they are clearly living in a state of denial. Good day to you all *tip of the top hat*

  4. JayinPhiladelphia says:

    Shakshuka is the single greatest thing in the world. That is all…

  5. Michelle Huberman says:

    No 36. You always kiss the mezuzah when you walk into your home, or infact any building that has a mezuzah on the door!

    No 37. Every sentence is finished with B’ezrat Hashem.

    No. 39. All the women in your family know how to ululate at a simcha to a distinctly Arabic LILILILILILILILILI!

  6. Zahava says:

    -you pick up Arabic swear words and phrases from your elderly relatives that wouldn’t even make sense if said in English, and when used in front of said relatives will cause them to act shocked and demand to know who taught you that.
    -a Middle Eastern accent you never knew you had appears out of nowhere when speaking to certain relatives.
    -most likely one of your names is an object of ridicule from some family members; confuses Ashkenazis; and arouses suspicion from Israeli airport security.
    -”just close family” at a Shabbat or Chag meal means 40 people
    -why talk when you can shout?
    -you sing selichot at shul on Simchat Torah, because the tunes are that good

  7. Bataween says:

    Great read, Daniel Levy is a very talented young man!

  8. Yuval says:

    you do realize that’s describing most Israelis and also – they think they’re unique in doing so. I have family members from all (and I mean ALL, yes including Ethiopians) the tfuzot (thank GOD that is Ben Gurion for the Ma’abarot) and thay all (ALL) act like that when it’s needed and they ALL act like total Yekes when that is required.

  9. AKUS says:

    “35. “Marrying out” to an Ashkenazi is unthinkable, but someone in your family has still done it.”

    Great one!!

  10. Avigail says:

    “You find Yiddish-accented Hebrew unintelligible”

    Yes, so true! Yakoyv? Who’s that? I was recently at my local, ahem, Chabad rabbi’s home this past Shabbat, where his son told me, “You speak funny Hebrew.” I guess it’s a two-way street. Still, I have to admit to a perverse enjoyment of all the weird vocabulary during services, knowing that we Kurdish Jews would never sound so, ehh, comical (except to Ashkenazi children. Ashkenazi adults just look at you with suspicion – what is that about? Perhaps it was the finger-snapping ;) ). Shaloym!

  11. A.F. says:

    I married a Sepharadi. One of her cousins said I don’t look Israeli because I am pale even for the Hungarian Jew that I am…

  12. Gerardo Cohen says:

    hahahahaha I cant stop laughing! Hugs from Mexico City! Shavua Tov LeKulam!

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