Aleppo Jews prayed: ‘Next year in Manchester’

This article from Middle East Eye takes an interesting look at the Syrian-Jewish community of Manchester established by 19th century traders like Abraham Batis. But the antisemitic riots which devastated the Aleppan community in 1947 are passed over in silence, and the Baathist regime’s more recent oppression of the remaining Aleppan Jews attributed to a ‘multi-ethnic diversity lost to war’. (And there are odd mistakes: the industrialist Joe Dwek is called Dewek). 

More than 150
years on from Batis’s voyage, this town also served as the final escape route
for Aleppo’s last Jewish family, who were reportedly smuggled
out of Syria and into Turkey with the help of an Israeli-American businessman
and moderate rebels from the Free Syrian Army late last year.

That crossing
effectively ended 3,000 years of Aleppan Jewish history – another element of
Syria’s uniquely multi-ethnic, diverse history lost to war. 

But the UK –
and Manchester, specifically – retains its own place in the history of the
Syrian Jewish diaspora, one with parallels to the modern-day migration flows
arriving on Europe’s shores.

Jewish family in Damascus (Photo: Wikicommons)

Down leafy
streets and Georgian terraces with bourgeois English gardens and driveways,
it’s not immediately clear that Didsbury in south Manchester was, until last
century, a hub for immigrants from around the Middle East.

In the
so-called “millet of Manchester,” historian Fred Halliday wrote
in the 1990s, food was one way multiple cultures mixed: “Kibbe and mujadarra on
Saturday, English roast and apple pie and milk pudding on Sunday.” Even up
until after the Second World War, it was common to hear Arabic spoken in the
streets of Didsbury.

Tucked down a
residential side street is the Shaare Hayim Synagogue, a solemn-looking,
900-capacity temple that first opened in 1927 and later became a hub for
descendants of the many “oriental Jews” who moved to the UK’s industrial
heartland between the mid-19th and early 20th century.

South
Manchester was already home to Sephardic Jews, descendants of Jewish families
originally expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 1400s. But they were later
joined by Mizrahi (Arab) ( actually oriental – ed) Jews from the Middle East.

The Great Synagogue in Aleppo as it looked in 2011. The article makes no mention that rioters damaged it badly in 1947

Many of them,
like Batis, came from Syria in the hope of establishing themselves in the heart
of the UK’s industrial revolution.

Today at Shaare
Hayim, Jews with origins in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and – since the late
20th century – Iran sing and pray alongside the descendants of Syrian migrants.
During the 1990s, the community amalgamated a series of mostly Syrian breakaway
synagogues, whose congregations hadn’t thought much of the austere ceremonies
presided over by Spanish and Portuguese Jewish immigrants.

Read article in full

Abraham
Batis is said to be the first Syrian Jewish trader to make it from
Syria to Manchester, arriving in the northern British town in 1843.
Batis was originally from Kilis, now on the Turkish side of the frontier
with Syria. In recent months, the border town has treated war wounded, hosted thousands of refugees and suffered cross-border fighting.

More
than 150 years on from Batis’s voyage, this town also served as the
final escape route for Aleppo’s last Jewish family, who were reportedly smuggled
out of Syria and into Turkey with the help of an Israeli-American
businessman and moderate rebels from the Free Syrian Army late last
year.

That crossing effectively ended 3,000 years of Aleppan
Jewish history – another element of Syria’s uniquely multi-ethnic,
diverse history lost to war.

But the UK – and Manchester,
specifically – retains its own place in the history of the Syrian Jewish
diaspora, one with parallels to the modern-day migration flows arriving
on Europe’s shores.

Down leafy streets and Georgian terraces with
bourgeois English gardens and driveways, it’s not immediately clear
that Didsbury in south Manchester was, until last century, a hub for
immigrants from around the Middle East.

In the so-called “millet of Manchester,” historian Fred Halliday wrote in the 1990s, food was one way multiple cultures mixed: “Kibbe and mujadarra on
Saturday, English roast and apple pie and milk pudding on Sunday.” Even
up until after the Second World War, it was common to hear Arabic
spoken in the streets of Didsbury.

Tucked down a residential side
street is the Shaare Hayim Synagogue, a solemn-looking, 900-capacity
temple that first opened in 1927 and later became a hub for descendants
of the many “oriental Jews” who moved to the UK’s industrial heartland
between the mid-19th and early 20th century.

South Manchester was
already home to Sephardic Jews, descendants of Jewish families
originally expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 1400s. But they were
later joined by Mizrahi (Arab) Jews from the Middle East.

Many of them, like Batis, came from Syria in the hope of establishing themselves in the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution.

Today
at Shaare Hayim, Jews with origins in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and –
since the late 20th century – Iran sing and pray alongside the
descendants of Syrian migrants. During the 1990s, the community
amalgamated a series of mostly Syrian breakaway synagogues, whose
congregations hadn’t thought much of the austere ceremonies presided
over by Spanish and Portuguese Jewish immigrants.

– See more at:
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/disappearing-migration-routes-brought-aleppos-jews-manchester-1199438840#sthash.1iv07yc1.dpuf

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