By Brandon Hatter
On Thursday, the Broncos for Israel club and Cal Poly Pomona Hillel hosted an event called “The Untold Stories of Jewish Refugees,” which addressed the persecution and expulsion of approximately 800,000 to 1 million Jews from Arab nations during the 1940s to late 1970s.
The event featured guest speaker Shir Mnuchin, whose own family became refugees after fleeing to Israel from their home in Iraq.
CPP’s chapter of Hillel is a club dedicated to connecting and solidifying the Jewish community on campus, as well as a center for students to learn more about Judaism and its culture.
Now in its first year as a chartered club, Broncos for Israel aims to familiarize the campus population with Israel in a positive way.
“A lot of what we hear [about Israel] is very much based on the conflict,” said fifth-year industrial engineering student Doron Feuer, who is the president of Broncos for Israel. “What we focus on is showing that there’s more to Israel than the conflict, and more to the conflict than what we see in the media.”
In addition to the two clubs, the event was also sponsored by the non-profit organization StandWithUs. The organization aims to enhance Israel’s image in the eyes of the world.
Julian Ross Markowitz is a research and strategy associate with the organization, and attended and helped to organize the event.
“We believe that education is the road to peace, so we strive to educate people around the world about Israel; the country, its history, and its uniqueness,” said Markowitz about StandWithUs. “We also educate people about issues that are controversial, but we make a point never to take a side. People from all sides come to us to learn and then form their own opinions on these issues.”
Shortly after receiving her degrees, Mnuchin began traveling to communities and universities across the United States, sharing her and her family’s story, and educating audiences about Jewish refugees.
Mnuchin spoke about the persecution of Jews in Arab nations beginning in 1948, after Israel gained its independence. Due to a rise in anti-Zionist fervor among many Middle Eastern governments, Jewish communities were subjected to violence, frozen assets and bank accounts and had their property taken away.
With the situation growing direr as the years went on, the threat to their livelihoods forced Jewish people to flee from their homes. Most of the refugees fled to Israel. The population nearly doubled, putting economic strain on the newly independent state.
Mnuchin’s mother Linda was born in Iraq in 1950. After 20 years of persecution and denial of basic rights, her mother fled to Israel with her family. Mnuchin’s grandfather, who had decided to stay, was abducted and murdered only two years after they had left Iraq.
With the details of his death remaining unknown, Linda, who had become a journalist, began writing articles about her father that were sometimes published in Arab outlets. She was eventually contacted by a Muslim journalist from Baghdad who wished to help her uncover the truth behind her father’s murder.
Mnuchin ended the lecture by showing the audience a small segment from “A Shadow in Baghdad,” a 2013 documentary by director Duki Dror about Linda’s experiences and search for the truth.
“We live in such a knowledge-based world,” said Mnuchin. “We Google everything that we don’t know, yet we don’t know much about our own families. So before we even start searching about different populations or societies elsewhere in the world, we have to first understand what our own stories are. And we all have a story.
“I encourage students and other people I meet to learn more about their own personal identity, and then go elsewhere and search about others.”
Club and audience members were also willing to give their thoughts on the presentation.
“I thought it was a very interesting event and I learned a lot,” said Adrienne Naor, a second-year business student and the club’s secretary. “It now makes me want to go and learn more about other people’s narratives and stories. The more we learn about others, the better our world will be.”
Jordan Aharoni, a fourth-year animal science student and Broncos for Israel’s vice president, said that events like Mnuchin’s talk add to the college experience.
“Your education does not begin and end in you major,” said Aharoni. “Events like this that talk about, in my eyes, a monumental event in history that many people don’t know about, is important for raising awareness and worth mentioning in an academic setting.”
Brandon Hatter / The Poly Post
The Untold Stories of Jewish Refugees
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