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  • Julia Hajibay-Piranesi

Shiriyah Public Speaking Winner- Day 1: Supporting One Another

As we gather for our annual Shiriyah, I want to take a few moments to reflect on the power of unity and the challenges that many of our Jewish brothers and sisters faced during their immigration to Israel in the 1950s and '60s. The journey of many Jewish immigrants hailing from Arab countries in the '50s and '60s was a difficult one, filled with emotional and physical struggles. Many of these families were forced to flee their homes in the face of violence and persecution, leaving everything they knew and loved behind in search of safety and security in Israel. Once in Israel, these immigrants faced a new set of challenges. They were often met with discrimination and prejudice, and struggled to integrate into Israeli society. They had to overcome a language barrier, cultural differences, and a lack of resources to establish themselves and create a new home in Israel.

While Herzl and others had been laying the groundwork outside of Palestine for a state, many Jews were immigrating there from Europe in waves called aliyot. The first wave, known as the “First Aliyah,” took place prior to political Zionism, in the late 1800s. Most of these new immigrants came from Russia and Yemen. The Second Aliyah, which took place prior to World War I, was almost exclusively made up of Russian Jews, following pogroms and anti-Semitism in their country. Inspired by Socialism and Jewish nationalism, this group established the first kibbutzim and embarked on a journey to revive the Hebrew language.

When war broke out between Israel and the surrounding Arab states in 1948, many of the Jews living in Arab countries fled to Israel under the threat of persecution and a desire to fulfill the Zionist dream. As anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism increased in the Arab world, Jewish emigration continued into the early 1970s. Many were forced to abandon their properties and belongings before leaving. Today, there are only a few, very small Jewish communities remaining in the Middle East outside of Israel.

Despite these obstacles, the Jewish immigrants from Arab countries banded together to form tight-knit communities, supporting one another through thick and thin. They found strength in their shared cultural traditions and religious beliefs, and worked tirelessly to build a new life in their new home. Their journey serves as an inspiration to all of us, reminding us of the power of unity and the importance of supporting one another. It is this spirit of community and togetherness that allowed our senior class to achieve a remarkable victory in this year's Shiriyah. And it is this same spirit of unity that we must carry forward as a grade. As the great African proverb goes, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." By working together and supporting one another, we can achieve great things and make a lasting impact in our communities and beyond.

While our grade consists of a variety of cultures and traditions, we've learned to come together over the years and unite as one, similar to the Jewish Immigrants. The Mashadis showed us how to unite as a playgroup, the Bukharians dazzled with their "16 and married" strategy, the Ashkenazies proved that eating rice on Pesach is forbidden, and the Israelis taught us how to raise our future children as strict parents. Together, we formed a formidable grade. We've learned that when we come together as a cohesive unit, we can achieve great things. So as we united as seniors and came together to win this year's Shiriyah, let us also take a moment to remember the struggles and triumphs of those who came before us. Let us honor their strength and resilience, and let us continue to support one another and work together to build a brighter future for all.

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