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News and Views

Afghan Jewish Community Hosts Ambassador Jawad

As part of the Embassy of Afghanistan’s ongoing public diplomacy campaign, Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad traveled to New York from November 27-29 for a number of meetings and media engagements. The Ambassador discussed the current state of affairs in Afghanistan with the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and the National Review, as well as New York Times columnist Frank Rich and producers at CBS’ 60 Minutes. He appeared on the Bloomberg TV program Night Talk for an in-depth discussion with host Mike Schneider. Additionally, the Ambassador met with the curators and senior staff of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center.

On the evening of November 27, Ambassador Jawad met with the Afghan Jewish Community in Queens, New York. The Ambassador was hosted by community leader Jack Abraham, who is also President of Congregation Anshei Shalom and an active advocate for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. A traditional Afghan feast (both Kosher and Hallal) was served to over 300 guests. The emotion and energy of the event was best expressed by a teenager who approached the Ambassador upon his arrival. “Thank you so much for coming. I am so proud to be Afghan. Afghanistan is my country and you are my Ambassador,” he said, enthusiastically shaking hands and leading the Ambassador into the hall.

Since the time of Alexander the Great, Afghanistan has been the home of a diverse population, a harmonious patchwork of civilizations, ethnicities and religions. Afghanistan was home to a vibrant Jewish community for hundreds of years—possibly as far back as the 8th century CE—yet this vital component of Afghan history and culture often escapes the attention of historians of the Middle East and South Asia.

Congressional Representative Gary Ackerman was also in attendance, and spoke to the audience about Afghanistan’s importance in U.S. foreign affairs. Ambassador Jawad discussed the mosaic of cultures and civilizations that defined Afghanistan, a mosaic that was splintered by thirty years of war. “The tragedy of Afghanistan has been your tragedy, but the triumph of Afghanistan has been your triumph as well,” said the Ambassador. “I hope that some of you will be able to travel to Afghanistan some day soon to witness firsthand the country’s rebirth. You are all sons and daughters of Afghanistan.” Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the U.N. Zahir Tanin expressed his hopes that this would be the first of many events celebrating bringing together Afghan citizens and expatriate Afghan-Jews.

Ambassador Jawad met individually with each guest, who expressed great pride in their Afghan heritage, many of whom wished to return to Afghanistan one day. They reminisced about their lives in Afghanistan, fondly remembering their friends and neighbors, and describing the country’s atmosphere of tolerance and respect. “We are all Afghans,” was a constant refrain, in the Kabuli and Herati dialects of Dari, one of Afghanistan’s national languages, which is still spoken by the older members of the community. The evening ended as it began, with speeches, stories, attan, music and celebration.

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