“My family is Mizrahi, meaning my Jewish ancestors lived in Western Asia and North Africa. I can trace my roots back to Bukhara, Persia, and Yemen. As a Mizrahi Jew, I grew up with so many rich traditions. On Shabbat, we prayed with beautiful and unique melodies that made me feel connected to my community. On Passover, we hit each other with oversized scallions while singing ‘Dayenu,’ a song about miracles. Some believe this tradition reminds us of the miracle of being freed from the lash of oppression. My siblings and I would scream and laugh as scallions flew everywhere.
“Traditions like these were always a part of my life. They continued to be a part of my life when I enrolled at Hunter College in Manhattan. But this was a big shift for me. For the first time, those around me were surprised to find out I was Jewish. I realized this was an opportunity to teach people that there’s no template for what a Jewish person looks like. After all, college campuses are the perfect places to learn.
“That’s why I decided to become a Sephardi and Mizrahi Inclusion Board Member at Hunter Hillel. I’m actively involved in planning events that foster community and understanding, including a Purim event celebrating Persian Jews. My goal is to continue creating a space where Sephardi and Mizrahi students feel represented. Together, we’re celebrating our rich history and culture and learning to educate others about Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews.” — Asia Esther Akperov, Hunter College
As told to Alexandra Goldberg, writer for the Hillel International Writers Program.