Ancient Traditions of Yemenite Jews

An international conference exploring the contemporary impact in Israel and America of the ancient traditions of the Yemenite Jews took place August 27, 2000 in Queens College’s LeFrak Concert Hall. Featured were panel discussions with leading experts, along with Yemenite Jewish art and music. The conference was titled On Eagles’ Wings: The Dynamic Culture of Yemenite Jews.

Participants: Avigdor Kahalani, former member of Israel’s Knesset and Cabinet, gave greeting. Conference participants were the distinguished scholars Professor Ephraim Isaac, President of the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America; Professor Nitza Druyan, Chair, Education Committee of the Yemenite Federation of America; Professor David Weiss-Halivni of Columbia University; Dr. Aharon Gaimani of Bar-Ilan University; and Professor Rueben Aharoni of Ohio State; rabbis including Dr. Rasson Arussi, President of Halichot Am Yisrael and Chaim Ben-Tsur, Executive Director of the Association of Jewish Yemenites in the United States; artists such as Zion Ozeri; and performers such as Lior Adaki and Zvia Bar.

Program: Individual sessions focused on the rich and unique history and culture of Yemenite Jews; on their several mass migrations from Yemen to Israel and the U.S.; the process of their absorption in Israel and on their distinctive style of Torah scholarship and rabbinical leadership. Co-sponsoring the event was the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America and the Queens College Center for Jewish Studies.

Dr. Nitza Drugan, the organizer of this conference said: “The first significant group of Yemenite Jews arrived in Eretz Yisrael in 1881 and waves followed throughout the next decades,” said Nitza Druyan, co-chair of the conference. In 1949-50, almost all remaining Jews of Yemen were airlifted to Israel, a total of 45,637. This historic mass immigration “On Eagles’ Wings” also became popularly known as “the Magic Carpet” aliya.


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