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August 03, 1984 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-08-03

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Friday, August 3,' 1984 45i 4- 1


famous Effendi Algazi," explains Be-
har, "and as World War I continued
to rage throughout Europe, my
father decided he did not want to
serve in the Turkish Army," (The
Turkish Ottoman Empire was an ally
of Germany until its collapse in
In 1915, the tottering Ottoman
Empire began a systematic persecu-
tion of the Christian Armenian
minority designed, in part, to remove
the attention .of the Turkish public
from a series of humiliating military
defeats. However, Behar presents an
interesting new historical perspec-
tive on this still-seething and emo-
tionally volatile controversy. She
maintains that Turkish. Jews aided
the government against the Arme-
nians. "My grandfather, my mother's
father, was chief of police in Urla,
and my mother distinctly remem-
bered that the Armenian community


there ws building up some sort of a
revolution to recapture their land
from the Turkish government. My
grandfather and the other Turkish
Jews were helping the government to
. prevent a revolution."
Nonetheless, when the opportu-
nity presented itself in 1915, Behar's
father and mother, along with her
mother's mother, swam across the
Aegean Sea to the Greek Mitilini Is-
lands. They were met by Behar's
mother's uncle, Benjamin Diaz. Be- -
liar's parents were married on the is-
lands and the couple's first child, was
born there.
"My parents stayed on the Miti-
lini Islands for a year," explains Be-
har, "because they couldn't get pas
sage to America. Haim, my father's
elder brother, had settled in Detioit,
but my father didn't know where in
America Haim was living. So he
placed ads in newspapers in all the

major cities of American until he
found Haim. When my parents came
to Detroit in 1916, all they brought
with them was my brother Max, their
traditions and the Ladino language."
Ladino is the ancient Judeo-
Spanish language which served the
Sephardic Jews as a universal' com-
munications tool in much the same
manner as .Yiddish served the
Ashkenazic. Like Yiddish, Ladino is
written in Hebrew characters, and at
the height of its popularity boasted a
rich literature of prayers, poetry,
folklore, midrashic tales and kab-
balistic or mystical writings. While
Yiddish has its recognized cham-
pions like Nobel Prize winner Isaac
B. Singer; very little is being written
or published in Ladino today.

According to Behar, her parents
"had a great need to find their own.
They did not fit in very well among

the Ashkenazic Jews because they
didn't speak the same language.
Even the melodies in the synagogues
were totally foreign to them. The
prayers were similar but the pronun-
ciation differed greatly. So my par-
ents established the first High Holi-
day services for the Detroit Sephar-
dic community. That first service
took place in my parents' home in
1917. The High Holiday services con-
tinued every year -- my father
served as cantor until he died, in
1962. Unfortunately, there was
never any time to build a synagogue
or to get the proper Sephardic He-
brew training for the children of our
little" community."
Indeed, Behar laments that
there has never been a traditional
Sephardic bar mitzvah ceremony in
Detroit (all bar mitzvahs of Sephar-
dim children have been held at Cong.

Continued on Page 53

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