"The film is only the latest salvo in an ongoing public-relations campaign from JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), an organization that fights to raise public awareness of those refugees and the torment they endured long ago, " writes Daniel Pine of the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.
“This documentary will spread far and wide,” says Joseph Abdel Wahed, an Egyptian-born Jew and co-founder of JIMENA. “Finally viewers will see the other side of the story, a story that has not been told.”
The Forgotten Refugees blends personal interviews and rare period-footage to recount the long, sad story of the new Jewish exodus. Moraga resident Wahed is one of several refugees interviewed, all of whom recount similar tales of anti-Semitism and ultimate exile.
Another is San Rafael resident Regina Waldman. Born Regina Bublil in Tripoli, Libya, she is today an outspoken human rights advocate and JIMENA member. “We were indigenous to the region,” she says. “We were there over 2500 years ago. We were natives.”
(...) Wahed benefited from a Sorbonne education, becoming chief economist with Wells Fargo Bank after moving to the United States in 1962. He is now retired, but remains active with JIMENA and the Jewish Community Federation.
As successful as he has been in his adopted country, Wahed remains stung by the treatment he and so many other Jews received. “At first I went through anger,” he says. “All that’s left now is hurt. I don’t have any hate, but I hurt that my own [Egyptian] people would do this for no reason. We broke no laws, we committed no crimes.”
Waldman feels similar pain. Unlike Wahed who has visited Egypt several times over the years, she is not ready to visit Libya again. But she has worked hard to rid her heart of bitterness.
“I take a strong position against violence and hatred,” she says. “It took me several years, until I had my own children, to make peace and forgive the perpetrators..”
Wahed echoes the sentiment. Despite the hardships of youth, he is proud of his own success and of the Mizrahi Jews around the world. With the release of The Forgotten Refugees, he believes others will be, too.
“It’s a compelling story, especially when you compare it to the parallel story of the Palestinians. We weren’t showered with money from the EU or the U.N. We did it on our own. We rolled up our sleeves, tightened our belts and worked very hard wherever we went.”