Getting Myself Edumacated

by Loolwa Khazzoom • April 25, 2012 • Jewish Multicultural Corner

Years ago, back in the 1990s, I was thirsty for knowledge about Ethiopian Jews. I had grown up in circles with Jews from Iraq, India, China, Mexico, Gibraltar, you name it. But not Ethiopia. In 1991, during Operation Solomon, I was ecstatic about the opportunity to meet and embrace the heritage of Ethiopian Jews.

The problem with Jewish education back then, as now (though it’s better), was this: Jewish educators are a product of their own Jewish education. In that Jewish education, they learn about Jews from Poland, Russia, and Germany. They learn little or nothing, however, about Jews from Egypt, Brazil, or Afghanistan. So how can they turn around and teach about any of those Jewish community histories, religious traditions, intelligentsia, culture, etc?

Which all goes to say, my education in Jewish multiculturalism was from the live classroom of hanging out with all the non-Ashkenazi Jewish separatists – the ones who dared to identify with their heritage and hang on to their culture, to varying degrees. As a child, I thought old people were totally awesome. I loved hearing their stories. Old people were so much more interesting than kids, because old people could teach me songs and tell me about the life experience of Jews from every corner of the globe.

Except Ethiopia. I didn’t have anyone to ask about Ethiopia.

Here’s the thing: We have to take responsibility for what we don’t know – meaning, we have to go out and find the way to know about it, whatever it takes. In my case, that effort came in the form of accosting an unsuspecting Ethiopian-Israeli wearing a kippah, in the stairwell of Hebrew University, back in the mid-1990s. I figured, he has a kippah, so he’s religious; therefore, he’ll know where I can go to an Ethiopian synagogue. He did. He also thought I was a nut job, but he quickly got over that, once he saw my earnest quest to learn.

I have so many stories about that journey. But one story at a time. I’m making the effort to put aside time each day to record the million stories from my journeys through life, and to organize my articles in one place. To keep that commitment, I have to make sure I make each installment small and therefore manageable. But stay tuned…




One Response to “Getting Myself Edumacated”

  1. Jimmy Holley
    Jul 07, 2012

    Please contact me I desire to help the Ethiopian Jews.



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About Loolwa

Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

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