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September 17, 1971 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1971-09-17

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Syrian Jews in U.S. Retain:Umty

(copyright 1971. JTA, Inc.)
It is one of the last few remain-

ing homegeneous Jewish groups
in America. And it is one of the
most homogeneous Jewish groups
in, the world.
This is one description of the
- Syrian Jewish community, most of
whose 25,000 members live in and
around the Flatbush section of
Brooklyn and who, throughout their
and their ancestors' history in
America, have "stuck" together as
a unified Orthodox Jewish group.
Not only are Syrian Jews to-
gether in the winter, but most of
them even pack their beach towels
and- summer clothes and settle
down together in the same summer
resort at Bradley Beach, N.J.,
where they also built a synagogue
for their summer use; or to that
affluent Jewish community town
of Deal, N.J.; where many Syrian
Jews are now spending the stam-
mer months and are building a
Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht be-
lieves it is bucking the trend of
American Jewry. In the words of
this rabbi—a Lubavitcher Hasid—
"this Syrian Sephardic community
is the gulf stream passing through
the stormy waters of upheaval in
America today." This Syrian Jew-
ish community has "stability,
serenity and warmth," he added.
• • •
Unity always has been that way
with the Syrian Jewish community.
Ever since the time the Jews went
into exile, it is said, the Syrian
Jews did not mingle with anyone
-.else. Mainly residing in Aleppo
and Damascus, they remained
faithful to Judaism and did not
have the chance or experience of
other Sephardic Jews to inter-
mingle with others in Holland or
In the United States, they find
security by living and praying to-

gether. Most of their social life
is in the synagogue and the sYna-
gogue is the center of their life.
this now-affluent
commanity haserected several
marble-lined, million-dollar syna-..
gogues. The mother congregation,
as it is • called, with congregants
from Aleppo,- is Shaare Zion on
Ocean Parkway. It cost $1,000,000
to build 12 years ago and has
1,000 members, all of whom go to
the synagogue on the Sabbath.
• • •
Jews from Damascus attend
Cong. Ahi Ezer. Cong. Beth Torah,
a new congregation, is composed
of young adults. A. fourth syna-
gogue is Magen Davd. All these
synagogues are active centers of
Jewish life.
While others are worried about
assimilation or intermarriage,
Syrian Jews are not. Few Syrian
Jews—about 1 per cent—marry
Christians. -
The desire to educate children is
strong within the Sephardic com-
munity. The Syrian Jews believe
they will survive because their
Jewish education is strong. To give
their youth a firm foundation, the
community notes with pride that
85 •to 90 per cent of the Syrian Jew-
ish youth attend yeshivot. ■ Many
congregations in Brooklyn have
closed down their Talmud Torahs
and established day schools. Rabbi
Hecht voices the feeling of accom-
plishment and energy that marks
this community in its day school
program. He cites as example
Magen David Yeshiva at Avenue
P and Stillwell Ave. attended by
700 Syrian Jewish youngsters:
a high school, replete with all the
modern facilities, such as a gym,
will open there this year for Syr-
ian Jewish youths.
• • •
This is a community which
raises large sums for Israel, which




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built itself beautiful and modern
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Israel and throughout the world.
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This is a community which has
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organized senior citizen groups AthifilDithat=======lha.
and -which is sending young peo-
ple to Israel to study. This is a
group which is strong in religion
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and which, according to religious
scholars, "the permissiveness in
religion has only had a casual
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• •
The Ashkenazi Orthodox commu-
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nity in Brooklyn is quite pleased
to have the support of the Syrian
Jewish community. Perhaps about
20 per -cent of the Syrian Jewish
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youth marry Ashkenazi Jews. Yet
the Syrian Sephardic community
maintains good relations with" the
largest Ashkenazi group. Accord-
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ing to Syrian Jewish community-
leaders, the prior suspicion and
distrust between the two groups
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is gone.
- The main Syrian immigration
came to the United States between
1911 and 1920, with several hun-
dred families settling here. In the
New Year Greetings
first days, they resided around
Hester and Essex Streets on the
Lower East Side. They worked and
waited for the day they could
build their own house of worship.
Once they even rented space in the
Educational Alliance on East
Broadway on the Lower East Side
for their services.
"Our people always lived around
Best Wishes For the New Year
our synagogue," said one Syrian
Jewish community leader, "And
those synagogues moved to Wil-
liamsburg, to Bensonhurst and
finally Flatbush."
• • •
UN 4-3210
14711 W. 8 Mile Road
By the 1930s, Syran Jewish m-
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
migration almost ceased. After
•1948, with the establishment of the
state of Israel, the remaining
Syrian Jews were cut off from
the outside Jewish community.
There are about 3,500 Jews in
Syria today.
There are, of course, differences
in religious services—as the Syrian
Jews follow the traditional Sep-
hardic ritual. The chief rabbi of
the community is the elderly Rabbi
Joseph Kasin, a native of Jeru-
salem, who ig called ilaharn Bashi.
He addresses his congregation at
Shaare Zion in Arabic. But the
spiritual leader of Shaare Zion is
Rabbi Hecht. He has been with
this synagogue for 25 years. Al-
though he is Aihkenaii and a Lu-
bavitcher Hasid, he learned their
"customs and differences as I
went along," adding, "After all,
we have a common language, re-
ligion and study."
• • •
The older generation—which is
middle and upper class—still re-
tains an Oriental flavor. Some
still speak Arabic at home. But
the Syrian Jew also is ingrained
with a tradition for worldly things.
They travel a great deal and their
women, who are very attractive,
are, as one put it, "usually dressed
to kilt." The younger generation
has moved into the professions,
into investment and banking.
There are physicians and engi-
neers, too, alongside the many
wish all their relatives and friends
who are in textiles and the export
and •import business. They are
a year filled with health, happiness
"strong,willed people." They were
good businessmen in Aleppo and
and prosperity.
they brotight this skill here.
From the Jewish point of view,
the Syrian ^ Jewish community is
strong. As Rabbi Hecht put it
so well: "The - roots are so deep
that it would take a violent up-
heaval to rock this community.'






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