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January 24, 2003

And the ones discussed here live in New York. The Jews of the Arab world: A Community Unto Itself
They speak Arabic. They listen to Arabic music. They eat Arabic food. Were you to pass by an Arab Jewish synagogue during prayer, you would hear strains of music by Om Kolthoum, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, and Sayed Darwiche. And yet, here in New York, they are not considered a part of the Arab American community – by Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, or even by themselves (for the most part). Why not?

In an effort to understand another fragmented community of people from Arab lands here in New York, we have chosen to delve into a subject matter that, for many members of this community, is very sensitive and provocative. It is not our intent to provoke, rather, to illuminate so as to satisfy our own curiosity and, in so doing, provide our readers with food for thought.

Locating statistics which detail Arab Jewish immigration to New York proved extremely difficult, so much so that even the individuals we interviewed could not give us figures as to how large this community is. We know that approximately 800,000 Arab Jews lived in the Middle East prior to 1948 and that, today, there are approximately 8,000 Arab Jews left in those countries.

We know that there was an Arab Jewish community in New York prior to the establishment of Israel and that the Arab Jews who managed to emigrate here from Israel were absorbed by that community. These two groups, however, have completely different experiences and memories of their lives in Arab countries prior to coming to New York.