A new English version of the app was released last month.
A new English version of the app was released last month.

New app makes it easy to preserve Jewish refugee stories

JIMENA, an S.F.-based international organization that works for the recognition and rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran, has released an English version of an oral storytelling app called “Seeing the Voices.”

Developed in partnership with Israel’s Ministry for Social Equality, the app was released last month on World Refugee Day, June 20. It is available for both iPhones and Android phones.

According to JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), the app “is part of a $2.6 million initiative … to build an international oral history archive of Mizrachi and Sephardic Jews sharing their personal stories. Until now, the stories of Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East have been largely neglected, contributing to a lack of international awareness and recognition for their personal and communal experiences and losses.”

Not only can users of the app watch and listen to archived interviews, but they also can record their own interviews with Jewish refugees and add them to the growing database. Users of the app “are provided with a step-by-step guide and questionnaire to conduct and video record testimonies with their phones. Each interview collected with the [app] is automatically added to Israel’s official database of testimonies and made available for viewing online.”

Founded in 2002, JIMENA creates educational resources and programming to address the repression of Sephardic and Mizrachi stories.

Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA, said in a press release that the app “puts the power of storytelling in the hands of family members, friends and schools who have limited access to film technologies. It ensures that the [refugees’] stories … can be quickly collected in record numbers and are preserved in perpetuity without limitations.

“Now there is no excuse,” she added. “English speakers must do our part to document the testimonies of our Jewish family members and friends who carry unknown stories and tremendous legacies from the Middle East and North Africa.”

“Seeing the Voices” is available in Apple’s app store and from Google Play. For links to each site, or for more information about the app got to jimena.org.

Tova Ricardo
Tova Ricardo

Tova Ricardo is a student at Columbia University and the former youth poet laureate of Oakland. She was J.'s 2019 summer intern.