Month: November 2019

This Shabbat, 38 synagogues will recite prayers for dead in Arab lands

Update: the total is 44 plus one church*

This shabbat, prayers will be recited in synagogues around the world  for Jews killed in Arab lands and those buried in cemeteries inaccessible to relatives.

Baghdad Jewish cemetery

This is the second year running that this initiative is taking place. As at 9 am GMT the number of synagogues planning to take part in the mass kaddish, or Hashkaba, was 38, or about three times as many as took part last year.

 The man behind the initiative is Sass Peress, a Jew living in Montreal. It grew out of a  project to clean up Sass Peress’s grandfather’s grave in the Jewish cemetery in Baghdad.

This year Shabbat falls on 30 November, the date designated as ‘Jewish Refugee Day’.

“The specific date for the commemoration was chosen as the day following the November 29th anniversary of the passage in 1947 of the UN Partition Plan, which recommended the establishment of two separate states, Jewish and Arab, in the territory of British Mandatory Palestine, because “the measures taken by the Arab League and its member states against their Jewish communities began then,” explains Ashley Perry, President of Reconectar and Director General of the Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Communities, who was involved in legislating the Knesset bill with then-MK Shimon Ohayon.

This year, the participating synagogues include Ashkenazi as well as Sephardi congregations, thus demonstrating solidarity across the diaspora and in Israel.

The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, Montreal
Chabad NDG, Montreal
Montreal Open Shul, Montreal
OR Shalom, Montreal
OR Hahayim , Montreal 
Shaar Hashomayim , Montreal
Mile End Chavurah Group, Montreal
Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation, Montreal
Kehila Synagogue, Toronto
Melech Israel, Toronto 
Congregation Beth Hamidrash, Vancouver
Kehillat Beth Israel, Ottawa
Hillel Lodge, Ottawa
Temple Israel, Ottawa
S&;P Holland Park Synagogue, London
Wembley S&P Synagogue, London
Lauderdale Road S&P Synagogue, London
Bevis Marks S&P Synagogue, London
Neveh Shalom, David Ishag Congregation, London
Ohel David, London
Temple Buffault, Paris
Temple Rodef Shalom, Alexandria, Virginia
Magen David Sephardic Congregation, San Francisco
Khalal Joseph, Los Angeles
Temple Israel, Columbus, Ohio
Chavurah Shir Ha-Yam , San Diego 
Sherith Yisrael, New York
Babylonian Jewish Center, Great Neck, New York
Bene Neharayim, Iraqi Synagogue, New York
Bnei Israel, Boca Raton , Florida
Edmond Safra Synagogue, Aventura , Florida
Temple Shalom, Port Charlotte, Florida
Tifereth Israel, Des Moines, Iowa

Chabad, TMR

Beth Tikvah, Montreal

Congregation Chazin Ovadis, Lakewood, NJ, USA

Zayit Raanan, Efrat

Shirat David, Efrat

Shaare Ratzon, S&;P Synagogue, Old City of Jerusalem

Kehillat Lechu Neranena, Buchman, Modiin

New North London Masorti

Sephardic Minyan at Beth Sholom Congregation, Potomac, Maryland, USA

*Missione de L’Annunziata, Montreal, CA 


Rabbi Joseph Dweck, senior rabbi at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation in the UK, has composed a special prayer for the occasion:

תפלת אזכרה על מגורשי ישראל מארצות ערב

ֱאלֵֹהינוֵּואלֵֹהי ֲאבוֵֹתינוּ ָכּתוּב ְבִּדְבֵריְיֶחְזֵקאלְנִביֲאךָ)כא:יאיב(:”ְוַאָתּה ֶבן ָאָדם
ֵהָאַנח ְבִּשְׁברוֹן ָמְתַנִיםוִּבְמִרירוּת ֵתָּאַנח ְלֵעיֵניֶהם
.ְוָהָיה ִכּייֹאְמרוּ ֵאֶליךָ ַעל ָמה
ַא ָתּה ֶנ ֱא ָנח ְו ָא ַמ ְר ָתּ ֶאל ְשׁמוּ ָעה ִכי ָב ָאה ְו ָנ ֵמס ָכּל ֵלב ְו ָרפוּ ָכל ָי ַד ִים ְו ֵכ ַהת ָכל רוּ ַח
ְו ָכל ִבּ ְר ַכּ ִים ֵתּ ַל ְכ ָנה ַמּ ִים ִה ֵנּה ָב ָאה ְו ִנ ְה ָי ָתה ְנ ֻאם ְי ָי ֱאלֹ ִהים

וַּבֲעווֹנוֹתנו ָעָשׂהְיי ֲאֶשׁרָזָמם ִבַּצּעאְמָרתוֹ ֲאֶשׁר ִצָוּהְוָרִאינוּ ִבּדָאבוֹן ִלבינו ֲהִריַגת
ַא ֵחינוּ ְו ַא ַחיּו ֵתנוּ וּ ְשֵׂר ַפת ָבּ ֵתּי ְכֵּנ ִסיּוֹת ְו ִס ְפֵרי תּוָֹרה ִבּיֵדי ְשׁ ֵכֵננוּ ָה ַעְר ִבים ֶשׁשכננוּ
ָתִּמיד ְבִּקְרָבָתם

ְיתוֹ ִמים ָה ִיינוּ ְו ֵאין ָאב ִא ֹמּ ֵתינוּ ְכּ ַא ְל ָמנוֹת׃ ַא ָתּה ְיי ְלעוֹ ָלם ֵתּ ֵשׁב ִכּ ְס ֲאךָ ְלדֹר ָודוֹר׃
ֲה ִשׁי ֵבנוּ ְיי ֵא ֶליךָ ְו ָנשׁוּ ָבה ַח ֵדּשׁ ָי ֵמינוּ ְכּ ֶק ֶדם׃

ֵאל ָמ ֵלא ַר ֲח ִמים שׁוֹ ֵכן ַבּ ְמּרוֹ ִמים, ַה ְמ ֵצא ְמנוּ ָחה ְנכוֹ ָנה ַעל ַכּ ְנ ֵפי ַה ְשּׁ ִכי ָנה, ְבּ ַמ ֲעלוֹת
ְקדוִֹשׁיםוְּטהוִֹרים ַכּזַֹּהר ָהָרִקיַע ַמְזִהיִרים ֶאתְנָשׁמוֹת ַאֵחינוְּוַאְחיוֵֹתינוּ

ְוֶשִׁנְּרְצחוּ ַעלְיֵדי ַאְכָזִריםְואוְֹיִבים ָבֲּאָרצוֹת ַהַהגרים
.ֶנֶהְפכוּ ַאְרצוֹת ְמגוֵּריֶהם
ְלִכְבְשֵׁני ֵאשְׁוַאְנֵשׁי ְשׁלוָֹמם ַלֲעִריִצים
.ְיִהיָרצוֹן ִמְלָּפֶניךְָיָי ֱאלֵֹהינוּ, ַבַּעל ָהַרֲחִמים
ֶשַׁתְּסִתּיֵרםבֵּסֶּתר ְכָּנֶפיךָ ְלעוָֹלִמים
,וְּצרוֹר ִבְּצרוֹר ַהַחִיּים ֶאת ִנְשׁמוֵֹתיֶהם,ייהוּא
, ְבַּגן ֵעֶדן ְתֵּהא ְמנוָּחָתם, ַוַיַּעְמדוּ ְלגוָֹרָלם ְלֵקץ ַהָיִּמין, ִויֻקַיּםבּנו ִמְקָרא
ֶשָׁכּתוּבוָּבא ְלִציּוּןגּוֵֹאלָיֵגלַיֲעקֹבִיְשַׂמחִיְשָׂרֵאל ְבּשׁוּבְיָי ְשׁבוּת ַעמּוֹ
ְונֹאַמר ָאֵמן

“Our God and God of our fathers, it is written in the words of Ezekiel your prophet (21:11-12) :

“And you, O mortal, sigh; with tottering limbs and bitter grief, sigh before their eyes. And when

they ask you, ‘Why do you sigh?’ answer, ‘Because of the tidings that have come.’ Every heart

shall sink and all hands hang nerveless; every spirit shall grow faint and all knees turn to water

because of the tidings that have come. It is approaching, it shall come to pass—declares the Lord


And for our iniquities, the Lord has done what He purposed, has carried out the decree. We have

seen with pained hearts the murder of our brothers and sisters and the burning of our synagogues

and our torah scrolls by the hands of our Arab neighbours amongst whom we have dwelt for

generations. We have become orphans, fatherless; Our mothers are like widows. But You, O Lord,

are enthroned forever, Your throne endures through the ages. Take us back, O Lord, to Yourself,

And let us come back; Renew our days as of old!

Lord full of mercy Who dwells in the heights, give rest on the wings of the Divine Presence,

amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky to the souls of our brothers and sisters

who died and who were murdered by the hands of cruel enemies in the Arab Lands. Our dwelling

places became fiery furnaces and our friends turned to foes.

May it be Your will, Our Lord, that their souls be bound up in eternal life. God is their allotment.

And may they rest peacefully in their lying place.

And may God’s promise be fulfilled that a redeemer shall come to Zion, O that the deliverance of

Israel might come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, Jacob will exult,

Israel will rejoice. And let us say, Amen.”

Global kaddish planned (Jerusalem Post)

Let’s show communal solidarity on 30 November 

Charges likely to be dropped against Paris murderer

The family of Sarah Halimi suffered another setback when it looked likely at a hearing this week  that charges would be dropped against her murderer. The Jewish Chronicle reports:

Sarah Halimi, murdered in April 2017

Local prosecutors in Paris initially argued that Kobili Traoré should be put on trial for his actions.

 But they were opposed by the more senior procureur général, which argued Traoré should be hospitalised.

 The different opinions come after separate panels of psychiatrists concluded Mr Traoré had suffered a psychotic episode after a massive use of cannabis, but disagreed over whether he was partially aware of his actions.

 During an earlier hearing, Halimi family lawyer Gilles-William Goldnadel asked Traoré: “Do you think you should be tried? And get a sentence for what you have done?”

 Witnesses told Wednesday’s hearing that shortly before Ms Halimi was thrown from the balcony Traoré shouted “a woman is trying to kill herself”.

Her family’s lawyers said it proved Traoré was already planning his defence.

 Mr Bidnic said there were “no good solutions in the case”, adding: “This is Sarah Halimi’s tragedy, her family’s tragedy and this boy’s tragedy, although I’m not comparing the two. Sending him to hospital is not ideal nor sending him to prison.”

 He said Traoré, who remains in a psychiatric hospital but is receiving limited amounts of medication, is “still a threat”.

 Francis Szpiner, another Halimi family lawyer, said the case was setting a historic precedent: “You’re saying that people can walk free after carrying out criminal action just because they were allegedly not aware of the effects of drugs or other substances?

“Will this also apply to drunk drivers who kill children on the road?”

The court will rule on December 19 on whether Traoré should face trial.

Read article in full

More about the Halimi case

In the Middle East, there are only conquerors and conquered

The only way for a dhimmi people to survive in the Middle East is to defeat its foes, argues Nave Dromi in this must-read article in JNS News. Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries know this truth:

Nave Dromi

On Nov. 30, we will remember them on the Day of Commemoration for the Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Iran. We will remember their history, culture and tradition, maintained under difficult circumstances, and also their ethnic cleansing.

 However, there are also lessons we need to learn.

Those of us whose origins are in lands now known as Arab countries and whose families were dhimmis understand well this history of defeat.

 Perhaps this is why, according to numerous surveys, Jews whose origins are in the Middle East and North Africa are disproportionately more hawkish than others—they understand, better than most, that in this region there are only two types of people: the conquerors and the conquered.

 They lived as the conquered for far too long, and that is why they push harder for Israel to defeat its enemies and those who seek to turn us once again into a stateless people.

 We have seen in recent years how the stateless are treated, whether it is the Kurds in Turkey, Syria or Iraq, the Christians in Egypt or the Yazidis in Iraq, among others.

 This was the lot of the Jewish people for 1,300 years in the region.

When Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, and Islamist regimes like that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, talk about destroying Israel, their goal is to undo what they see as the unnatural emergence of Jewish sovereignty on territory previously conquered by Islam.

 They see Israel as dar al-harb (literally, “land of war”), territory ruled by non-Muslims that was previously governed by Muslims and which must be reclaimed in battle. A cursory examination of the Hamas Charter, or the comments of leaders like Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, prove that for them, this is a very real religious obligation.

 For Israel to survive in such a region, with such enemies, it unfortunately must prove itself on the battlefield by defeating its foes.

The only reason Islamist extremists do not try to reclaim Spain or parts of the Balkans that were also once under Islamic rule is that they do not believe they can.

 Sadly, for many regimes and Islamist organizations in the region this is not true of Israel; they believe Israel can and will be defeated.

Read article in full

Arab states are claiming the heritage of their expelled Jews

Update: US government urged to protect heritage of Jewish refugees in Arab world 

Arab states are legitimising the theft of their Jewish cultural heritage under cover of international law, instead of restoring Jewish property to their expelled Jews, argues Lyn Julius in JNS News. It is a worrying trend that Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Yemen are also queuing up to sign such legitimising agreements with the US.

 Please sign thisJIMENA petition asking the US to rethink its position regarding minority rights to their heritage.

On or around Nov. 30, Jewish communities around the world will be holding events to remember the mass exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.

Almost a million people were displaced in the past 50 years, leaving billions of dollars’ worth of property behind.

Not only have Arab governments never compensated Jews for their stolen homes and businesses, they are waging a pernicious campaign to claim communal property and Jewish heritage as their national patrimony.

 Synagogues can’t be moved and clearly, it is better for Arab states to preserve them as memorials to an extinct community than not at all. However, these states are also declaring Torah scrolls, communal archives and books to be part of their cultural heritage.

 For instance, the Egyptian government claims that all Torah scrolls and Jewish archives, libraries, communal registers and any movable property over 100 years old are “Egyptian antiquities.” However, Jews consider Torah scrolls their exclusive property. It is forbidden to buy or sell them. Fleeing Jews have often prioritized scrolls and books over their personal possessions.

 What does international law have to say? The Hague Convention of 1954 “protecting cultural property in conflict” was brought in to stop the massive looting that has always occurred in war and specifically during WWII. There is also the post-colonial understanding that the new states that emerged in the 20th century have ownership of their own cultural heritage; the days when Britain could ship the Elgin Marbles from Greece, or Napoleon could plunder ancient Egyptian obelisks as “war booty,” are over.

 In Egypt, registers of births, marriages and deaths of Jews from Alexandria and Cairo dating back to the middle of the 19th century were once kept in the two main synagogues in each city. But in 2016, government officials took away the registers to be stored in the Egyptian National Archives.

Egyptian Jews living abroad cannot even obtain photocopies of certificates, often the only formal Jewish identification Egyptian Jews have to prove lineage or identity for burial or marriage. Repeated efforts since 2005 to intercede with the Egyptian authorities have come to nothing.

 Egyptian government policy has been backed by the tiny remnant of the country’s Jewish community. Its leader, Magda Haroun, intends to leave the community’s assets to the government. She has even suggested that two paintings in the Louvre once owned by an Egyptian Jew should find their way back to Egypt.

 Under the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, thousands of books, manuscripts and other documents were seized from Jewish homes, schools and synagogues and stored at the headquarters of Iraq’s secret service in Baghdad. In 2003, the archive was discovered in the flooded basement after the building was bombed by the Americans.

 The Americans shipped the archive to Washington, D.C., for restoration and hastily signed a diplomatic agreement promising to return the material to the Iraqi government. The United States spent over $3 million to restore and digitize the archive, which has since been exhibited across the country. The collection includes a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Jewish mystical text Zohar, as well as more mundane objects such school reports and a Baghdad telephone book.

 Although tens of thousands of Iraqi documents were shipped to the United States, the Iraqi government has only formalized its claim to the 2,700 books and 30,000 documents of the water-stained archive, which it claims are the country’s “precious cultural heritage,” a last emotional link with its ancient Jewish community and a reminder of Iraq’s former diversity.

 The Iraqi Jewish community in exile has been waging a bitter battle to recover the collection and prevent it being sent back to Iraq. They say that to return the archive, which was seized from Jewish community offices, schools and synagogues, would be like returning property looted by the Nazis to Germany.

 The Iraqi and Egyptian cases are symptomatic of a larger problem. Since 2004, the United States has been bound by law to impose import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material that constitutes a country’s cultural heritage and has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to this effect with Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Libya.

 In January 2018, the International Council of Museums released a “Red List” for Yemen aimed at protecting Hebrew manuscripts and Torah finials from leaving the country. All but 50 Jews have fled the country, taking what possessions they could, but even these ultimately could be returned to Yemen.

 “These MOUs claim to be about [stopping] looting, but their broad scope and limited evidence of success suggests their real impact is providing a legal vehicle to legitimize foreign confiscations and wrongful ownership claims. … The MOUs are based on a flawed premise. It is the heritage and patrimony of 850,000 indigenous Jews who fled their homes and property under duress,” said Sarah Levin of the California-based Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA).

 It is understandable that the international community should wish to prevent the looting and smuggling of ancient artifacts and their sale on the international art market. That is how Islamic State financed much of its conquest of northern Iraq and Syria. But there is a distinction between theft for financial gain, and legitimate salvage of Torah scrolls or books taken by fleeing Jews to be used for prayer.

 Eight Sumerian artifacts sold to the British Museum were recently sent back to Baghdad. But the Iraqi-Jewish archive does not belong to some long-extinct civilization—some of the owners are still alive.

 International law is based on the outmoded assumption of territorial sovereignty. It needs updating, specifically to resolve the tug-of-war between minority and national heritage, where the minority has been persecuted and displaced.

Read article in full

Also at The Algemeiner

How Iran discriminates against Jews and other minorities

Must-read by Karmel Melamed  in the Times of Israel detailing the built-in discrimination, both in civil and criminal law,  prevailing in Iran against Jews and other minorities. 

Every synagogue must contain a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini, architect of the Islamic revolution

Since 1979, the Iranian regime has been ruling Iran by Shiite Islamic Sharia laws. As a result of these Sharia laws, non-Muslims can be subjected to mass punishment and exile, even in their own lands which have fallen under Islamic rule. Under the current Iranian regime’s constitution non-Muslims are identified as different “nations” even if they live within the boundaries of Iran.

While the constitution does recognize some individuals as second or third-class residents, there are also many “unrecognized” minorities in the document, referring to non-Muslims who do not have any human, legal or civil rights at all. According to these laws, non-Muslims are all “infidels” who are either the “tolerated infidels” with limited rights, or “enemy infidels” with no rights. Jews, traditional Christians such as Armenians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, as well as Zoroastrians, are considered as recognized minorities or tolerated infidels.

 However religious minorities who are Bahais’, Buddhists, Hindus, or atheists are unrecognized minorities with no rights.

Muslims who have converted to Christianity are considered as apostates and face the threat of the death penalty if they are discovered to have left the Islamic faith by the Iranian regime.

 While one may argue that the Iranian regime affords a limited number of minorities such as Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians some protection under the law, this is inaccurate because Iranian judges are allowed to directly rule on the validity of any law in the country based on the random authoritarian edicts of major Shiite Mullahs whenever the actual laws are deemed inadequate or “un-Islamic”.

This factor, in essence, means even recognized religious minorities have no rights at all, including the right to life, marriage, education, work or even burial in “Islamic land” if an Iranian judge or mullahs randomly considers the law or situation to be “un-Islamic”.

Perhaps one of the worst discriminatory aspects of the Iranian regime’s jurisprudence is its asinine constitution when it comes to the country’s religious minorities.

Sadly in the constitution, every time a certain right is expressly given to “Muslims” as it pertains to civil and criminal laws, it clearly means that those rights are being withheld from the country’s religious minorities. The following are just a few of the major discriminatory aspects of the Iranian regime’s constitution with regards to non-Muslims living in the country:

Read article in full


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.