The World Jewish Congress hosted Daisy Aboudi, Founder of Tales of Jewish Sudan and Deputy Director of Sephardi Voices UK, for the latest installment in the WJC WebTalk series.
Aboudi, a historian and descendant of Jews from Sudan, opened the conversation by providing an overview of the history of Sudanese Jewish community, noting that Jews in Sudan were free to practice Judaism until the late 1800s when the Mahidist government mandated all residents to convert to Islam.
Upon the British Empire assuming control of Sudan in 1898, some families chose to convert back to Judaism, Aboudi said. Though Jews were not involved in Sudanese politics, “socially, and in terms of business and economics, they were very integrated.” Aboudi noted, adding that the community was united by their own unique Sudanese Jewish culture. While there were no formal Jewish communal institutions in Sudan until the official establishment of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium of 1899 over Sudan, individual Jews had resided in Sudan for years prior. At its peak in the 1950s, 250 Jewish families lived in Sudan.
While many Jews tried to flee the newly independent Sudan in the immediate aftermath of the Suez Crisis in 1956, it was difficult to obtain exit visas, forcing some Jews to leave illegally; violence escalated against the Jewish community as a result of the Six Day War.
Aboudi noted that radio stations incited violence against Jews and accusations circulated of Jews being Zionist spies. Graffiti was found all over Jewish sites and Jewish men were arrested and only released after the war ended. Aboudi noted that while the community experienced some antisemitic sentiment and certain policies were directed against non-Muslims, there were “no laws against Jews in Sudan, ever.”
Following the 1967 Arab League’s meeting in Khartoum, where the infamous 3 No’s on normalization with the State of Israel were declared, the remaining Jews in Sudan mostly fled as refugees to Switzerland and Israel. Today most of the Sudanese Jewish diaspora reside in the United Kingdom, United States, Israel and Switzerland. Emphasizing how tight knit the Sudanese Jewish diaspora remains, Aboudi noted, “eventually everyone in Sudan, all the Jewish community, is related to each other eventually. I can pick anyone and find a connection, even if it is by marriage."
Aboudi closed by answering viewers’ questions about the current state of the Sudan Jewish community. She lamented that the community’s lone synagogue in Khartoum, was sold to a bank and later demolished. Moreover, many community records remain inaccessible beyond the few that the Jewish community took with them when they fled. However, following Sudan’s signing of the Abrahamic Accords, the transitional government of Sudan has begun restoring the Jewish cemetery still standing in the capital city.
About WJC Webtalks
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world to cancel in-person gatherings, the World Jewish Congress sought new ways to shift its activities into the virtual arena to ensure that ongoing discourse surrounding issues central to the Jewish people could continue amid social distancing restrictions.
The WJC WebTalk series was launched in early April 2020, shortly after the pandemic brought public activity worldwide to a standstill. The series aims to bring voices of our communities and key partners directly into homes around the globe.
For the past year members of WJC’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps have hosted one-on-one conversations on Zoom and Facebook Live on a wide range of issues including the efforts to combat antisemitism, the latest developments in Holocaust education, Israel’s battle to end the bias at the Human Rights Council, the effects of COVID-19 on Jewish communities, and more.