A Jewish Refugee Remembers


By Leon Wahba

A couple of weeks ago Congress passed Resolution HR 185 acknowledging the injustices committed by Arabs against the Jews then living among them. I applaud the actions of our Congress. I resent the fact that the media in particular, and the world in general, have paid little or no attention to this important piece of legislation. Attached is a letter I addressed to the Editor of my hometown's daily newspaper, the Courier-Journal. Enjoy!

Leon Wahba  



A Jewish Refugee Remembers

April 26, 2008

I am but one of nearly 1 million Jewish refugees from the Arab world who were compelled to leave their homes, separate from their families and emigrate to distant and unknown new lands. Anti-Jewish riots and discriminatory government measures during and directly following the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, '56 and '67 resulted in a huge exodus of Jews from Arab countries throughout the region. As the tension between Israel and its Arab neighbors intensified, confiscation of private property, limitations on employment and incitement to violence against local Jewish communities was the norm.

We were a close-knit extended family that had been living in Cairo, Egypt, for generations. When we arrived in Louisville in 1959, we were warmly greeted at the train station by members of the local Jewish community, and through the Jewish Community Federation of Louisville we were provided with housing, jobs and assistance in settling into our new home. It was this kind assistance that I have tried to pay back over the last 49 years.

My cousins from the Cairo of my childhood now live in Israel, Australia, Canada, France, Belgium, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as the United States. In each case, their stories greatly resemble mine; local Jewish families helping their fellow Jews from all parts of the world. Today, thanks to the generosity and support of fellow Jews, I and each and every one of the nearly 1 million Jews from Arab countries, have all been safely and comfortably settled. We are loyal, patriotic and contributing citizens of each of the democratic nations that provided us a haven from Arab anti-Semitism. Today, not a single one of us lives in a hate-breeding, squalid refugee camp.

The recent resolution passed in the U.S. Congress (H.R. 185) acknowledging the injustices committed against Jews from Arab lands was long overdue. Neither I nor the resolution, however, asks the government of Egypt or any other Arab country for any direct compensation or other financial reparations for myself or my community.

I would much prefer instead for the Arab world, much of it rich in oil money, to provide their Palestinian brethren with the same kind of compassion and support that the Jews from around the world so generously provided their co-religionists from Arab countries.


Louisville 40245