Thousands to join global Kaddish prayer marking destruction of Middle East, N. African Jewry
Over 100 organizations and communities have signed up to take part in the mass Kaddish – mourners’ prayer – Initiative that will also include a special memorial prayer
By ILANIT CHERNICK
“We have seen with pained hearts, the murder of our brothers and sisters and the burning of our synagogues and our Torah scrolls by the hands of our Arab neighbors amongst whom we have dwelt for generations and they have banished us from living peacefully in their lands.”
These are the words of a heart-wrenching memorial prayer that will be said as part of this year’s global Kaddish Initiative around the world.
Established in 2017, the Kaddish Initiative marks the horrific expulsion and exodus of almost a million Jews from Arab countries and Iran. It represents the eradication of the oldest communities in the Diaspora, which disappeared in almost an instant.
According to the organizers, this year’s Kaddish Initiative will be said on November 28 as it’s the Shabbat closest “to November 30, which is the Day to Commemorate the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from Arab Countries and Iran, a date officially marked by the State of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”
This date was chosen because it was a day after November 29, 1947, when the UN Partition Plan was passed, and the Arab League and its member countries increased the persecution of their Jewish citizens.
Explaining its roots, the organizers said that the Kaddish Initiative began “when the person who ran the Miss Iraq beauty contest lost their funding and sponsorship when that year’s winner took a selfie with Miss Israel.”
“The person learned that the first Miss Iraq was Renée Dangoor, who was crowned in 1947 in Baghdad, and her son, David Dangoor, is a prominent philanthropist and businessman, living in London,” the organizers said.
Sass Peress, a cousin of Dangoor’s was contacted, and in return, he asked if the person could send some photos of his grandfather’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Sadr City, Baghdad.
“When he realized the state of the cemetery and cemeteries in Jewish communities around the Arab world, which could not be visited by relatives, he formulated the idea of a mass Kaddish for those who could not physically visit their departed loved ones,” the organizers added.
The initiative, they said, is “a testament to Jews buried in no longer accessible cemeteries in Arab countries.”
Speaking about the event, Peress said that this is “more than a religious event, the recitation of the mass Kaddish and Azkara are an important display of solidarity with the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, and our history should be acknowledged and never forgotten, to make sure it is never repeated.”
Over 100 organizations and communities in Israel, the US, South Africa, Canada, Australia and across Europe have signed up to take part in the mass Kaddish – mourners’ prayer – that will also include a special memorial prayer. Umbrella organizations representing Swiss, Australian and Canadian Jewry are also taking part along with numerous synagogues across the world.
Maccabi World Union, the Jewish organization with the largest active membership in the world at over half a million, and the European Jewish Congress, the organization representing all Jewish communities in Europe, the American Zionist Movement, representing dozens of Zionist organizations across North America, are also all participating.
In a letter supporting the initiative, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich said that “a fundamental cornerstone of the Jewish tradition is our collective memory.”
“Therefore,” he said, “I call on Jewish communities around the world to join in this global Shabbat of Remembrance. By reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish and memorial prayer on the Shabbat of November 28, we will stand united in solidarity in honor of those we cannot physically pay our respects to.”
Ranging from ultra-Orthodox, Hasidic, Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi communities, some 11,000 rabbis and community leaders from all continents have already downloaded the special memorial prayer, known as an Azkara.
This year Dangoor made it his mission to reach out further than they have before to Jewish communities about the event and to encourage organizations around the world to participate and to create a wider awareness of this crucial part of Jewish history.
“Unlike the case of other Jewish tragedies, there is no communal showing of religious solidarity for the exodus and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries,” Dangoor explained. “It is vital, thus, that this be a widely recognized initiative to say these prayers annually in synagogues and Jewish institutions in Israel and around the world.”
“Even in communities where there are few Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, these prayers and a display of religious solidarity are vital for breaking down the barriers between our different communities,” he concluded.
To take part in the initiative, go to: https://www.kaddishinitiative.com/
*Featured Image: Iraqi-Jewish refugees stand in a refugee absorption camp. established in Israel in 1950.(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)