Being an Afghani Jew has been a very important part of my identity development. There are so many parts to my heritage in which I have found a great source of belonging and connection, which I have not been able to find in other parts of my life. Growing up my father has always put the Afghan traditions at the forefront of our home, and had instilled in me the importance of the beauty in this heritage.
Until this day, my family celebrates all the Jewish holidays with the colorful and rich tradition of the Afghan Jewish people, and it made our lives very meaningful. I remember as a child bragging to my friends in school about the exciting things that went on at my family’s Pesach Seder. My friends got very excited about the prospect of having a fun and active Seder and would even invite themselves over because they wanted to have this unique experience as well.
Almost ten years ago my father began traveling to Afghanistan to see what remains of the original Afghan Jewish communities in Kabul and Herat. What he found were remnants of what was once a vibrant and active Jewish community. One of the most valuable things that my father brought back with him from his trips, were photographs of the Jewish cemeteries that still stand in Herat and Kabul. Although some of the graves have been vandalized and there have been many years of minimal upkeep, to me these were the most beautiful images. Seeing the Hebrew letters and the names of my ancestors who kept the same traditions that I keep to this day, really hit home the importance of my heritage. To me it was no longer just a fun tradition, it became very real and clear that what I do, and my family does, is something that has been done for generations upon generations. This tradition has kept our people together and strong, even in the face of adversity and hardships that took place over the years in Afghanistan. We are a rare and unique people, and seeing these photos reminded me of this fact.
This coming October, my husband and I are expecting our first child (Be’ezrat Hashem). Although my husband is Ashkenazi, and our home is a combination of our different traditions, I have thought long and hard about how I want to pass this heritage on to my children. I want them to grow up knowing the unique background that they come from and how important it is to keep this tradition and heritage alive. I hope to instill the passion for the Afghan Jewish community in my children, just as my father instilled it in me.
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- Esther Frogel
I was asked to write an essay about what it means to be a Jew from an Afghan descent.
When observing myself and my close family and thinking what qualities we have that have to do with our afghan heritage there are two main things that I have noticed:
First, the love for books and the respect for them. One of the strongest memories that I have from my grandfather Z"L was his love for books; every time I came to visit he would take out a book from his library and hand it to me for keeping. His work was in the book industry, he passed that love for books to my father and he has passed it on to me.
The second is the custom to open your house to guests. I have found that my grandmother, my father and many others of my family members (including myself) have many memories of having guests on weekends and holidays.
These two qualities are very important to me and have shaped me into who I am today.
- Micky Rabi