Syrian-Jewish cookbook exudes aromas of the past

In her beautiful book Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews, Poopa Dweck, a first-generation Syrian-Jewish American, describes the customs and traditions of the Jews of Aleppo. Though the book is primarily a cookbook, it also describes the community’s history and customs, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The foundation for the Great Synagogue in Aleppo is believed to have been laid by King David’s general, Joab ben Seruya (circa 950 BCE), after his conquest of the city. It is still sometimes referred to as Joab’s Synagogue.

“With the adoption of Christianity as their official religion, the Romans placed restrictions on Jews. These were lifted with the Arab conquest in 636, when Islamic caliphates began ruling the region. From the seventh century until the end of Ottoman rule, the Jewish community was self-governed. This entitled the Jews to freedom of religion, a separate court system and military protection.

“With the arrival of Iraqi Jews fleeing the Persians during the eighth and 10th centuries, Aleppo’s Jewish community began to grow.

“For many years, the Jews lived comfortably under Muslim rule, secure in their place as dhimmi, a protected people. Living in a non-democratic state, both Jews and Muslims remained apolitical.”

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