Tag: Jews of Syria

Farewell to US philanthropist who helped rescue 400 Syrian Jewish brides

Stephen Shalom, a leading Sephardi philanthropist, has died aged 93, JTA reports. His greatest achievement was to rescue 400 unmarried Jewish girls from Syria in 1977. Born in Brooklyn of parents from Aleppo, he fought to dispel the myth that Mizrahi Jews were intolerant of Arabs. (With thanks: Nancy)

(JTA) — Stephen Shalom, a leader of the U.S. Sephardic Jewish community who promoted Middle East peace and religious tolerance, died at 93.

Stephen Shalom z”l (Photo: Sephardic Heritage Foundation)

Shalom died Sunday, his family said in a statement.

The heir to a handkerchief manufacture fortune, I. Shalom, now known as New York Accessory Group, Shalom was at different times in his life a leader of major Jewish and pro-Israel philanthropies. They included the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York (now the UJA Federation of New York), the World Sephardi Federation and Israel Bonds. He was also involved with the American Jewish Committee; HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group; the Jewish Agency, and the Joint Distribution Committee.

Shalom said the accomplishment of which he was most proud was working with Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., with the blessing of President Jimmy Carter, to bring 400 Jewish women who wanted to marry within their faith to the United States from Syria in 1977.

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Amnon Shamosh changed the image of the Levantine Jew

The death has been announced of  leading Israeli author Amnon Shamosh, aged 93.

Amnon Shamosh was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1929, and came to pre-state Israel as a child. He fought in the 1948 War of Independence in the elite Palmach unit and later became one of the founding members of Kibbutz Ma`ayan Baruch. A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Hebrew and English literature, Shamosh  taught at a regional high school and served as its principal. He was also been UNESCO`s special envoy to French-speaking countries in Africa.

Shamosh began his literary career at age 40, and writes poetry and prose for both children and adults. His novel, Michel Ezra Safra and Sons was adapted for TV. Shamosh received several literary prizes, including the Agnon Prize (1979), the Shalom Aleichem Award (1986), the ACUM Prize (1998) the President’s Prize (2001) and the Arik Einstein Prize (2014).

Michel Ezra Safra and sons was included on the Israeli high school curriculum.  For the first time the TV adaptation, made in 1983,  reflected the heritage of  middle class, prosperous, cosmopolitan, Middle Eastern Jewry, educated in French culture, and not the poverty-stricken Jews of the desert or the bled. From Syria the family was dispersed across the globe: its paterfamilias Safra was an observant Jew but an unscrupulous  businessman.

Syrian Jewess deceived into marrying Lebanese Muslim

For weeks, the story has been hogging the headlines of the Lebanese Muslim who posed as a Jew and married into an observant family in Brooklyn. The deception is all the more scandalous since the Syrian-Jewish community is bound by a takana or decree, forbidding marriage with non-Jews. Even marriage with Ashkenazim was not encouraged until recently. Jonathan Sacerdoti reports in the Jewish Chronicle: 

Ali Hassan Hawila at his wedding: he now wants to convert to Judaism to win back his bride

The father of an Orthodox Sephardi woman who discovered her husband was a fake Jew after their wedding has warned the groom to “back up a million feet” if he believes he can win his daughter back.

Ali Hasan Hawila had posed as an observant Jew for years before marrying his bride from the Syrian Jewish community of Brooklyn New York.

His true identity as a Lebanese Muslim who had not converted was uncovered just weeks after they got married.

Now the bride’s father, Yosef Kredi, has spoken about the terrible damage done to his daughter and the family by the deception.

Mr Kredi said: “He knows what he did. And he knew before, but he took a risk, he took the chance. He gambled on my account, he gambled with my money, with my own life he gambled.” He added: “He destroyed our life.”

Mr Hawila recently told the JC that he now wants to go to Israel where he intends to convert to Judaism so as to win back his bride.

Spluttering with fury and disbelief at Mr Hawila’s delusional hopes, Mr Kredi said: “I want him to back up a million feet, to go back to where he comes from, to go back as far as he can, not to come near us, not to call my daughter any more, not to try with anything.

“He called her sister last time. And even my daughter. Please, stay far from our family, please.”

Mr Kredi had even taken Mr Hawila to pray alongside him at his synagogue.

The distraught father said: “He acted one thousand percent Jewish.

“What he did is wrong. He passed his limit. He’s smart, but he’s not smart like this. No way what he did can be accepted.

“He hurt me, he fooled me around, he fooled my daughter, he fooled my family. He killed me.” Hawila, 23, adopted the first name Eliya when he emigrated from Lebanon to America in 2015. (…)

Born in Aleppo, Mr Kredi came to the United States in 1983. He said: “I’m from Syria. I was born with Arabs. I came from Arabs, we know the Arabs, we love the Arabs. They come to us on Saturday for Havdalah, they help us, we talk to them, we love them. In this community we have a lot of Arabs on Fifth Avenue.

“We go to them, they know us, we do business together, we joke together sometimes. I want the whole world to hear me. I’m not against anybody, I love everybody. I love the Arabs, I love the Jews, I love the Christians. I wish for everybody the best. But I don’t want nobody to come near my family if they’re going to fool me about like this.”

Mr Kredi’s daughter had met Hawila on a Jewish dating website, and believed him to be Jewish when they got married earlier this year.

Since his deception was uncovered, she has been living apart from him in a safe house, and has even lost her job as a result of all the public attention.

Mr Kredi said: “It’s going to take time. The pain is not going to go away for two, three, four months. This is big pain he caused. Hashem, he knows why this happened. Slowly everything’s going to go back to normal.

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Tablet article 


Brooklyn Jewish visitors were asked to return to Syria

Anxious for western support, the Assad regime has been encouraging Jews to visit Syria, and there is even talk of rebuilding important synagogues. VINEWS has reported an unusual visit by 12 US Jews  who left Syria as children. One (improbably) said that it was for cheaper dental care. Makor Rishon has reported that a group of Syrian-American Jews visited Aleppo last month.

The twelve Jewish visitors from Brooklyn at a restaurant in Damascus

NEW YORK (VINnews) — An unusual visit by 12 American Jews to their former homeland in Syria has led to questions about the Syrian government’s intentions regarding its former citizens.

The 12 visited a local restaurant in Damascus and met the few remaining Jews living in the Syrian capital. There was even a request that the group meet senior members of Assad’s administration in Damascus but the meeting did not eventually take place. However local residents welcomed the Jews and they said that “all of them understood from our speech that we were Syrian Jews. All of them remembered Jews. We went through the entire marketplace. The locals recognized us and said: Welcome, this is your country, why don’t you come back? See what happened to our country, please come back.”

One of the participants who chose to remain anonymous said that the goal of the visit was to undergo dental treatments which are substantially cheaper in Syria than in the US. However members of the Israeli Syrian Jewish community told Israel’s Kann news that the participants more likely wanted to make a visit to the place of their former roots.

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Paris ambassador calls on Jews to ‘save Lebanon’


The Syrian blood libel that never was

Few have not heard of the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840: Jews in Damascus were accused of a murder in order to use the victim’s blood to bake Matza. Innocent Jews were imprisoned, several were tortured or died. Moses Montefiore and Adolphe Crémieux embarked on a mission to entreat the Ottoman sultan to condemn future blood libels. But 13 years later, another Blood Libel was prevented in the city of Aleppo, thanks to a vigilant Jewish baker named Moosa. Halakha of the Day has the story:

Sir Moses Montefiore went on a mission to the Levant after the 1840 Blood Libel

The pleas of the desperate Jewish community of Syria for the influential European countries to intervene were ignored by the British and the French. Several community leaders and rabbis were tortured by the Turkish authorities in Damascus, who seized the opportunity to confiscate property and take by force the possessions of the most affluent families in the community. The Damascus Libel had devastating consequences for the local Jewish population …

A few years later, on the 13th of Sivan in 1853 in the city of Aleppo, a blood libel was avoided just in time. While there is not much documentation in this case as in the case of the Damascus libel, one known version is that on that date the dead body of a child, who died or was killed in dubious circumstances, was “planted” by a group of Gentiles in the house of the Jewish baker at midnight. The antisemites plan was to arrive in the morning with the police and accuse the baker of a ritual murder. Then, start riots, looting the community, etc. A Jewish baker was the perfect target for this accusation, since he would be held responsible for “using Christian blood to prepare matzot, or other ritual foods.”

Miraculously, the baker (named Moossa, Moshe in Arabic) woke up in the night. He discovered the body, understood the potential threat, and got rid of it.When the authorities arrived in the morning they could not find anything.The baker informed the rabbis of the city what had happened and the rabbis said that HaShem , in His mercy, had saved the Jewish community of Aleppo from a terrible tragedy, and instituted that the 13th of Sivan be remembered as “Nes Moossan” (The miracle that happened through Moossa) and in remembrance of this miracle, we skip the recitation of the Viduy (confession), and that is a significant act of liturgical celebration.

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