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The Sephardim of Sydney

Coping with Political Processes and Social Pressures

Naomi Gale is Coordinator of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ashkelon Academic College, an adjunct of Bar-Ilan University. She is the author of Violence Against Women: Normal or Deviant Behavior? (Heb.), and was the recipient of a Golda Meir Post Doctoral Fellowship and a Sir Zalman Cowen Post Doctoral Research Grant, both taken at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Sydney Jewish community is dynamic and vibrant, with many communal, social and religious institutions. This book investigates the Sephardic community of Sydney – their history, their experiences as new immigrants in a host society after arriving from traditional Moslem cultures, as well as the changes they have undergone since they arrived in Australia. The Sephardic community comprises about 5,000 of the 50,000 Jews in Sydney, whose majority reside in the eastern suburbs, in Sydney's multicultural inner?city “ethnic belt”. Although the Sephardim share some cultural features with the Jewish majority, there are substantial differences: they emphasize their cultural heterogeneity. Their experiences are viewed through the prism of their relationship to both the Ashkenazim and the larger Anglo-Australian society. Their inability to acculturate and assimilate into the Ashkenazi and Australian groups contributes profoundly to their self-image and to ethnic marginalization.

A negative ethnic identity and self-rejection, enhanced by rejection from the Ashkenazim and Australians, has a major impact on their everyday life and their perception of their social standing, especially on the younger Sephardic generation. This issue has been particularly relevant since 1988, when the Australian government moved to restrict Asian immigration. This became a media issue, with the Ashkenazim taking the side of white Australians and seeing themselves as superior to the Afro-Asian Jewish Sephardim, who are viewed as “Asians” by both the Ashkenazim and the white majority. The result is a sense of “double rejection”, which pervades this group’s political and social standing.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-035-4
Hardback Price: £49.50 / $69.50
Release Date: May 2005
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Tables, Figures and Maps

1 Ethnicity, the Ethnic Group and Ethnic Identity
Research Trends
Ethnic Identity: Operational Definitions
Acculturation, Assimilation, Pluralism and Multiculturalism
Ethclass Subculture
Problems of Identity Crisis
Summary and Conclusions: Are the Sephardim of Sydney a Social or an Ethnic group?

2 The Sephardim of Sydney
Socio-Ethnic Structure
Ethnic Division and the Organizational Structure
The Sephardic Communities of the Middle East and Asia
The Jews of Egypt
The Jews of Iraq
Social Changes and Religious Orientation in Iraq, Egypt and Turkey
The Jews of India
The Jewish Community in Cochin
The Jews of Bombay
The Jews of Calcutta
Summary and Conclusions: Past and Present Degrees of Communality and Religiosity

3 The Immigration of Sephardic Jews to Australia
Australian Immigration Policy
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry
Summary and Conclusions: Facing up to the Wider Australian Society

4 The Sephardic Family
The Social Structure
Divorce: Past and Present
Choosing a Partner
Relationships between Family Members
Familial Authority Today
The Socialization of Children
Occupation and Socialization
Kinship Relationships
Summary and Conclusions: Changes in Kinship Ties

5 Residence, Social Mobility and Ethnic Identity
Socio-Geographical Distance and Patterns of Kin Contact
Upward Mobility and “Ashkenization”
Change of Reference Groups
Summary and Conclusions: Becoming a Minority within a Minority

6 Religious Organization and Secular Power
The Rabbi: A Socio-Political Figure Control of Liturgy
The Clash between Religious Law and Social Norms
Segregation of the Sexes in the Synagogue
Dominance by the Laity: The Sunday School Curriculum
The Naming Ceremony for a Baby Girl
Religious Rituals for the Birth of a Boy
Intergroup Conflict – Intergenerational Power Struggle within the Executive and the Religious Committee
The Generation Gap and Acculturation
The Youth Organization
An Inter-ethnic Conflict
Religious Observance
Summary and Conclusions: The Dilemma of Continuity, Identity and Power

7 Conclusion: A Paradoxical Community Status Anxiety and Marginality

Appendix: Methods Used in the Collection of Data

Provides valuable insights into the dynamics of the formation of Sephardic Jewish identity.
Professor C. Kessler, The University of New South Wales

A valuable study of the problems facing a migrant ethnical community arriving in Australia.
Professor R. Gabbay, The University of Western Australia

A commendable example of ‘salvage ethnography’.” Professor S. Deshen, Tel Aviv University


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