To the best of my knowledge, I’m fully Ashkenazi, and I can’t help but feel intense longing for the Sephardic/Mizrahi experience. Of course I know this is a case of “the grass is always greener,” but by virtue of living within the bounds of the Muslim world for centuries, Sephardim and Mizrahim preserved a Middle Eastern culture which feels lost by Ashkenazim. I’m frankly jealous of those Sephardim and Mizrahim who were born into such a rich Mediterranean and/or Middle Eastern culture.
It feels as if Ashkenazi cultural identity centers around the religion, whereas a Mizrahi Jew has both their national culture (e.g. Moroccan or Yemenite) and religious culture to draw from. For example, though my ancestors lived in Russia and Lithuania, I don’t consider myself Russian or Lithuanian—but I know Persian Jews who are very proud to be both Persian and Jewish. I know Ashkenazi culture is rich, but shtetl life can feel so disempowering to hold onto as a legacy.
These feelings were sparked by spending substantial time in Israel and dating a Persian Jew. Both were my first exposures to a dominant non-Ashkenazi Jewish culture—and the traditions I got to partake in were beautiful! I also realize that my longing stems greatly from the throngs of anti-Zionists who attempt to sever the Jewish connection to the Middle East. Their twisting of history just gets to me sometimes.
Anyways, as I’ve been growing more observant, I’ve found myself gravitating much more towards Sephardic liturgy (to be clear, not nusach sefard) and customs, but I hesitate to buy a Sephardic siddur as that feels appropriative and inauthentic.
I’d love Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi input on what I’m feeling. I’d also appreciate any resources on Ashkenazi culture that ppl could point me to. And again, I don’t mean to put down my own ancestry or traditions. I’m a Kohen and a descendant of survivors of pogroms and the Holocaust. I’m proud to be a Jew, and I passionately consider all of am yisrael to be one. I just can’t help this longing for the alternative experience.