Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Nisan 5768 - May 1, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Remaining Damascus Jews Hold Seder in City's Only Active Shul

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

An AP reporter visiting Damascus during Pesach met the last remaining members of the only surviving kehilloh in the Syrian capital after the late President Hafez Assad permitted Jews to leave the country in 1992. Seven mispallelim at Beit Knesset Al-Feranj, located in the city's ancient Jewish quarter, told the reporter they feel no religious discrimination.

One of the leaders of the Syrian Jewish community, Albert Qameo, 59, who has been organizing the tefillos since the local rov left the country in 1994, said that during the past 16 years 3,700 Jews have relocated to Eretz Yisroel and the US, but says he has no intention of leaving. "Here I was born and studied, and here is where I work. Also, we have an obligation to preserve our holy sites in the country."

Another worshiper, 41-year-old Yosef Hamdani, says the hostile relations between Syria and Israel have no effect on the authorities' stance toward Syrian Jews. "I'm on good terms with my Muslim neighbors," he said. "I don't feel I'm treated differently."

According to estimates, the Syrian Jewish community currently numbers 100. Most live in Damascus, with small pockets of Jews in the northern city of Aleppo (Halab) and the northeastern city of Qamishli, near the Turkish border.

The Syrian Jewish community, once the largest and most influential in the Middle East, was probably founded after Churban Bayis Rishon and has had a continuous Jewish presence ever since then. Numerous Spanish Jews arrived following the Expulsion in 1492. The status of Syrian Jews was worse than in other Muslim countries. In 1840 major pogroms were held following the Damascus Libel. With the start of the large Arab uprising in Eretz Yisroel in 1936, Syrian Jews, suspected of being Zionists, began to suffer extensive persecution. In 1943 Syria had a Jewish population of 30,000. After the 1947 UN decision to establish the State of Israel, the Jews came under attack, especially in Aleppo and Damascus, and much of their property was burned or destroyed. Most of the Jews fled in the following years of the few thousand who remained most escaped by the skin of their teeth in the early 1990s.


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