A Sephardi Sea
Jewish Memories across the Modern Mediterranean
Published by: Indiana University Press
A Sephardi Sea tells the story of Jews from the southern shore of the Mediterranean who, between the late 1940s and the mid-1960s, migrated from their country of birth for Europe, Israel, and beyond. It is a story that explores their contrasting memories of and feelings for a Sephardi Jewish world in North Africa and Egypt that is lost forever but whose echoes many still hear. Surely, some of these Jewish migrants were already familiar with their new countries of residence because of colonial ties or of Zionism, and often spoke the language. Why, then, was the act of leaving so painful and why, more than fifty years afterward, is its memory still so tangible?
Dario Miccoli examines how the memories of a bygone Sephardi Mediterranean world became preserved in three national contexts—Israel, France, and Italy—where the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa and their descendants migrated and nowadays live.
A Sephardi Sea explores how practices of memory- and heritage-making—from the writing of novels and memoirs to the opening of museums and memorials, the activities of heritage associations and state-led celebrations—has filled an identity vacuum in the three countries and helps the Jews from North Africa and Egypt to define their Jewishness in Europe and Israel today but also reinforce their connection to a vanished world now remembered with nostalgia, affection, and sadness.
Note on Transliteration
Introduction: Being Jewish in the Mediterranean
1. Writing Exile
2. (In)tangible Heritages
3. An Unfinished Present
Conclusion: Afterlives of exile
Micoli has done a masterful research on the many forms of North African and Middle Eastern Jews post-colonial exiles. Digging in the depth of this memory lane, he presents the full texture of their narratives throughout the Mediterranean sea and shows with many luxurious details and stories, how their many migrations from its southern shores to the northern ones, redefined their identity, after the Shoah. A Sephardi Sea shows the centrality of this memory of migration and exile in the making of Sephardi and Mizrahi identities, with the Mediterranean sea at its center, and main site. It fills and immense gap in our knowledge of yet a little known exodus. Miccoli proves to be an avid interpreter of the present, with its many acute observations of Jewish Muslim mixed associations of migrants as sites of the future of Europe. A must read.~Yolande Cohen, Université du Québec à Montréal
In A Sephardi Sea, Miccoli took upon himself an important task that combines different scholarly approaches in an attempt to better understand the modes and practices that maintain the identity of communities in times of drastic changes - namely migration. This is not a history book, but rather an attempt to document the way migrants, men and women, negotiate between the past- looked upon nostalgically - and the present. Between official and non-official attempts to maintain identities and connect the past with the present. The interaction between time and space add to our understanding of ways of coping with trauma of migration.~Esther Schely-Newman, The Hebrew University