Syrian Jews

Syrian Jews

Syrian Jews (Arabic,يهود سوريون) derive their origin from two groups: those who inhabited the region of today's Syria from the ancient times and those Sephardim who fled to Syria after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492 AD). There were large communities in Aleppo and Damascus for centuries, and a smaller community in Qamishli. In the first half of the 20th century a large percentage of Syrian Jews emigrated to the U.S., Central and South America and Israel. Today there are about 25 Jews left in Syria, all of them living in Damascus [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3456146,00.html Prayer in heart of Damascus - Israel News, Ynetnews ] ] due in part to the efforts of Judy Feld Carr who claims to have helped some 3,228 Jews escape over 28 years since 1973. The largest Syrian-Jewish community is located in Brooklyn, New York, and estimated at 40,000; there are smaller communities elsewhere in the United States and in Latin America.

History

There are three basic components of the Syrian Jewish community.
#There have been Jews in Syria since ancient times: according to legend, since the time of King David, and certainly since early Roman times. Jews from this ancient community were known as "Musta'arabim" (Arabized Jews) to themselves, or "Moriscos" to the Sephardim.
#Many Sephardim arrived following the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and quickly took a leading position in the community.
#Still later, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some Jews from Italy and elsewhere, known as "Señores Francos", settled in Syria for trading reasons, while retaining their European nationalities.

candle: this custom was apparently established in gratitude for their acceptance by the older community.

In the nineteenth century, following the completion of the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869, trade shifted to that route from the overland route through Syria, and the commercial importance of Aleppo and Damascus underwent a marked decline. Many families left Syria for Egypt (and a few for Lebanon) in the following decades, and with increasing frequency until the First World War, Jews left the near East for western countries, mainly Great Britain, the United States, Mexico and Argentina. This pattern of migration largely followed the fortunes of the cotton trade, in which many Syrian Jews were engaged.

Beginning on the Passover Holiday of 1992, the 4,000 remaining members of the Damascus Jewish community (Arabic "Yehud ash-Sham") as well as the Aleppo community and the Jews of Qamishli were permitted under the regime of Hafez al-Assad to leave Syria for the United States provided they did not emigrate to Israel. Within a few months, thousands of Syrian Jews made their way to Brooklyn with the help of philanthropic leaders of the Syrian Jewish community. The few remaining Jews in Syria mostly live in Damascus.

Present-day Syrian Jewish communities

Israel

There has been a Syrian presence in Jerusalem since before 1850, with many rabbinical families having members both there and in Damascus and Aleppo. These had some contact with their Ashkenazi opposite numbers of the Old Yishuv, leading to a tradition of strict orthodoxy: for example in the 1860s there was a successful campaign to prevent the establishment of a Reform synagogue in Aleppo. Some Syrian traditions, such as the singing of Baqashot, were accepted by the mainstream Jerusalem Sephardi community. [Seroussi, Edwin, [http://www.piyut.org.il/articles/259.html "On the Beginnings of the Singing of Bakkashot in 19th Century Jerusalem"] . Pe'amim 56 (1993), 106-124. [H] ]

A further group immigrated to Palestine around 1900, and formed the Ades Synagogue in Nachlaot. This still exists, and is the main Aleppo rite synagogue in Israel, though its membership now includes Asiatic Jews of all groups, especially Kurdish. There is also a large Syrian community in Holon and Bat Yam.

Many Jews fled from Syria to Palestine during the anti-Jewish riots of 1947. After that, the Syrian government clamped down and allowed no emigration, though some Jews left illicitly. In the last two decades some emigration has been allowed, mostly to America, though some have since left America for Israel, under the leadership of Rabbi Albert Hamra.

The older generation from prior to the establishment of the state retains little or no Syrian ethnic identity of its own and is well integrated into mainstream Israeli society. The most recent wave is integrating at different levels, with some concentrating on integration in Israel and others retaining closer ties with their kin in New York and Mexico.

There is a "Merkaz 'Olami le-Moreshet Yahadut Aram Tsoba" (World Center for the Heritage of Aleppo Jewry) in Tel Aviv, which publishes books of Syrian Jewish interest.

Great Britain

The main settlement of Syrian Jews was in Manchester, where they joined the synagogues of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, which had a mixed congregation including North African, Turkish, Egyptian and Iraqi Jews as well as Syrians. There were and are two of these: one in north/central Manchester, which has since moved to Salford, and the other in Queenston Road, West Didsbury in the southern suburbs. A breakaway synagogue was later formed in Old Lansdowne Road with a more Syrian flavour, but it and Queenston Road have since merged. (They are still known as "Lansdowne Road synagogue" and "Queen's Road synagogue", after the names those streets bore in the 1930s.) There is currently an initiative to acquire a new site for a synagogue in Hale, to be nearer to the current centres of Sephardic (and general Jewish) population. There are still several Sephardim in the Manchester area, but many have since left for the New World.

United States

New York

Syrian Jews first immigrated to New York around 1908. Initially they lived on the Lower East Side; later settlements were in Bensonhurst and Ocean Parkway in Flatbush, Brooklyn, this last being the current center of the community. The community was formerly centered on the "Magen David" synagogue; today there is an array of different synagogues that service the community's many different needs.
*"Shaare Zion" on Ocean Parkway
*" [http://www.beth-torah.com/ Beth Torah] " on Ocean Parkway, for people living in and around the Avenue J area, Rabbi Ari Azancot
*" [http://www.kolisrael.org/ Kol Israel Congregation] " on Bedford Avenue, Rabbi Dr. Raymond Harari
*" [http://www.betyaakob.com/ Bet Yaakob] ", Rabbi Eli Mansour
*"Ahi Ezer" and "Shevet Achim" for Jews originating in Damascus
*"Bnei Yitzhaq" Sephardic Synagogue
*"B'nai Yosef Synagogue"
*"B'nai Binyamin on Ave O and East 8th
*"Magen David" of Magen David Elementary on S and McDonald
*" [http://www.ahaba.org Ahaba Ve Ahva] ", for Egyptian Jews, Rabbi Shimon Alouf
*"Har Halebanon" and "SLC" (Sephardic Lebanese Congregation), for Lebanese Jews
*Congregation "Ateret Torah" (Haredi), Rabbi Harary-Raful
*"Ohel Yeshua VeSarah", Ave O Synagogue, Rabbi Shemuel Beyda
*" [http://www.magendavidny.org/ Magen David of Union Square] ", in downtown Manhattan
*"Safra synagogue of New York" in Manhattan 63rd Street
*"Sephardic Synagogue", Rabbi Moshe Shamah
*"Bet Shaul U'miriam" for Sephardic Jews, Rabbi David Cohen
*"Shaare Shalom" in the Madison neighborhood, Rabbi Joe Dweck
*"Shaare Zion" of Great Neck, In Great Neck, Nassau County, Rabbi Nissim Levy
*Tiferet Torah Congregation" on East 3rd between P and Quentin Road, Rabbi Haber
*"Ribbi Yehuda ben Betera Congregation" (for Qamishli Jews), 2296 Coney Island Avenue, Rabbi Marco Nakash
*"Keter Zion" Torah Center, 1914 E. 8th Street, Brooklyn, NY (Haredi), Max Maslaton son of Rabbi Sion

There is also a [http://www.scclive.org/ Sephardic Community Center] , which is not a synagogue but a community center.

The community is characterized by multi-generational businesses; children are encouraged to stay within the family business. Those who pursue higher education are encouraged to remain within the familial structure.

New Jersey

The New Jersey community is mainly based in Monmouth County, especially Deal, Elberon, Long Branch, Oakhurst and Bradley Beach. This largely consists of an abundance of people who come there during the summer months though some live there permanently.

Synagogues include the following

*Deal Synagogue, Rabbi Isaac Dwek
*West Deal Synagogue, Rabbi Ezra Labaton
*Park Avenue Synagogue, Rabbi Shemuel Choueka
*Hathaway Synagogue
*Lawrence Avenue Synagogue, Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim
*Shaare Ezra, Cedar Ave., Long Branch, Rabbi David Nahem
*"Ahavah Ve Achva"
*West Long Branch, Rabbi Reuven Semah
*"Shaare Tefillah Bene Moshe" - Eatontown, Rabbi Moshe Douek

outh Carolina

*"Beth-El Synagogue" Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

California

A Syrian synagogue, Magen David of Beverly Hills, exists on Foothill Road (although not all members are of Syrian background).

Leadership

Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin was the spiritual leader of the united Syrian Community in New York until his passing in December of 1994. Today his son Rabbi Saul J. Kassin holds the title of Chief Rabbi.

As of 2008 there are no Conservative or Reform congregations affiliated with the Syrian community.

Latin America

Argentina

The largest Jewish community in Argentina is in the capital Buenos Aires. The majority are Ashkenazim, but the Sephardim, and especially the Syrians, are a sizeable community. Despite the fact that the Sephardim are a minority in the Argentine Jewish community as a whole, a majority of Orthodox (excluding Lubavitch) rabbis in Buenos Aires are of Sephardic descent. There are approximately 37,500 Sephardim in Buenos Aires.

Syrian Jews are most visible in the Once district, where there are many community schools and temples. For some decades there has been a good-natured rivalry between the "Shami" (Damascene) community of "Shaare Tefila (Pasito)" synagogue and the "Halebi" (Aleppan) community of "Sucat David" across the street. The most influential rabbinic authority was Rabbi Chehebar from the "Yessod Hadat" congregation on Lavalle street; he was consulted from all across the globe, and had an influential role in the recovery of parts of the Aleppo codex. There are many kosher butcher shops and restaurants catering to the community.

There were important communities in the Boca and Flores neighborhoods as well. Many Syrian Jews own clothing stores along Avellaneda avenue in Flores, and there is a community school on Felipe Vallese (formerly Canalejas) street. Some important clothing chains such as Chemea and Tawil, with tens of shops each, were started by Syrian Jews.

Brazil

The majority of the Syrian community of Brazil come from Beirut, Lebanon, where they had lived since their expulsion from Syria following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent violent anti-Jewish pogroms perpetrated by their Muslim neighbours. They left Beirut in wake of the first Lebanese Civil War.

Most Syrian Jews established themselves in the industrial city of São Paulo, being attracted there by the many commercial opportunities it offered. The community became very prosperous, and several of its members are among the wealthiest and the politically and economically most influential families in São Paulo.

The community first attended Egyptian synagogues, but later founded their own synagogues, most notably the Beit Yaakov synagogues in the neighbourhoods of Jardins and Higienopolis.

The community has its own school and youth movement, and claims a strong Jewish identity and low assimilation rate. The majority of the community affiliates itself with Jewish Orthodoxy, though few could be described as fully Orthodox.

There are approximately 7,000 Syrian Jews in Brazil.

Chile

In Chile, many Syrian Jews escaped from Syria and Palestine, provinces of the Ottoman Empire during the World War I. At present there are 2,300 Syrian Jews in Chile.

Mexico

There have been Jews from Damascus and Aleppo in Mexico City since the early years of the twentieth century. Originally they worshipped in a private house transformed in a synagogue - Sinagoga Ketana (Bet Haknesset HaKatan) located in Calles de Jesús María.

The first organized Jewish comunity in Mexico was Alianza Monte Sinai founded in 1912, mainly by Damascene families (together with a few Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews) and led by Isaac Capon. They later founded the first synagogue, Monte Sinaí, on Justo Sierra street in downtown Mexico City, originally led by Rabbi Laniado, which still holds a daily service of Minha. The Damascene community also bought the first Jewish burial place in Tacuba street in 1916, which is in use to this day and has been expanded by the recent purchase of the adjacent land.

The Rodfe Sedek synagogue, for Aleppan Jews, was established in 1931, largely through the efforts of Rabbi Mordejay Attie. This synagogue, known also as Knis de Cordoba, is situated at 238 Cordoba Street in the Colonia Roma quarter of Mexico City. At the time this neighborhood was home to the largest concentration of Jews from Aleppo in Mexico City. The first mikveh (ritual bath) in Mexico was established within the Rodfe Sedek synagogue. In 1982 a funeral house was built in the courtyard of the synagogue.

Also in the 1930s the members of Monte Sinaí established a large synagogue for Damascene Jews in the Colonia Roma area.

In 1938 Jewish immigrants from Aleppo set up Sociedad de Beneficencia Sedaká u Marpé, which evolved into a separate Jewish community: since 1984 it has been known as Comunidad Maguen David.

Monte Sinai and Maguen David are now the largest Jewish communities in Mexico, having more than four synagogues, a community center and a school each.

Some Lebanese Jews settled in Mexico during the 1980s, having escaped civil war at home.

Panama

Panama also received a large number of Syrian Jewish immigrants, mostly from Halab (Aleppo), where they constitute a largest group in Panama's 8,000 strong Jewish community. (There are also some Sephardim from Ladino-speaking Turkish backgrounds.) The Panamanian Jews are among the most united Jewish communities in the world - most attend the same synagogues irrespective of ancestry, intermarriage is extremely low and scholarship in Torah is growing quickly. This community is also known for the redistribution of its wealth among its own and needy around the world.

Traditions and Customs

Liturgy

There exists a fragment of the old Aleppo prayer book for the High Holy Days, published in Venice in 1560. This represents the liturgy of the "Musta'arabim" (native Arabic-speaking Jews) as distinct from that of the Sephardim proper (immigrants from Spain and Portugal): it recognisably belongs to the "Sephardic" family of rites in the widest sense, but is different from any liturgy used today.

Following the immigration of Jews from Spain following the expulsion, a compromise liturgy evolved containing elements from the customs of both communities, but with the Sephardic element taking an ever larger share. [The reasons for the dominance of the Sephardic rite are explored in Sephardic Judaism#Liturgy.] In Syria, as in North African countries, there was no attempt to print a Siddur containing the actual usages of the community, as this would not generally be commercially viable. Major publishing centres, principally Livorno, and later Vienna, would produce standard "Sephardic" prayer books suitable for use in all communities, and particular communities such as the Syrians would order these in bulk, preserving any special usages by oral tradition. (For example, Unicode|acham Abraham Unicode|amwi of Aleppo commissioned a series of prayer-books from Livorno, which were printed in 1878, but even these were "pan-Sephardic" in character, though they contained some notes about the specific "minhag Aram Tsoba".) As details of the oral tradition faded from memory, the liturgy in use came ever nearer to the "Livorno" standard. In the early years of the twentieth century, this "Sephardic" rite was almost universal in Syria. The only exception (in Aleppo) was a "Musta'arabi" minyan at the Central Synagogue of Aleppo, but even their liturgy differed from the standard in only a few details such as the order of the hymns on Rosh Hashanah.

The liturgy of Damascus differed from that of Aleppo in some details, mostly because of its greater proximity to the Holy Land. Some of the laws specific to Eretz Yisrael are regarded as extending to Damascus, [Other Israel-specific laws, such as omitting "tikkun Rahel" in shemittah years, were regarded as extending to Aleppo but not to Damascus, because of the tradition of David's conquest of "Aram Zoba".] and the city had ties both to the Safed Kabbalists and to the Jerusalem Sephardic community.

The liturgy now used in Syrian communities round the world is textually speaking Oriental-Sephardic. That is to say, it is based on the Spanish rite as varied by the customs of Isaac Luria, and resembles those in use in Greek, Turkish and North African Jewish communities. In earlier decades some communities and individuals used "Edot ha-MizraUnicode|" prayer-books which contained a slightly different text, based on the Baghdadi rite, as these were more commonly available, leaving any specifically Syrian usages to be perpetuated by oral tradition. The nearest approach to a current official prayer book is "Kol Ya'akob", but other editions exist and there is still disagreement on some textual variants.

The musical customs of Syrian communities are very distinctive, as many of the prayers are chanted to the melodies of the pizmonim, according to a complicated annual rota designed to ensure that the maqam (musical mode) used suits the mood of the festival or of the Torah reading for the week. "See Syrian Cantors and The Weekly Maqam.

Pizmonim

Syrian Jews have a large repertoire of hymns, sung on social and ceremonial occasions such as weddings and bar mitzvahs. Pizmonim are also used in the prayers of Sabbath and holidays. Some of these are ancient and others were composed more recently as adaptations of popular Arabic songs; sometimes they are written or commissioned for particular occasions, and contain coded allusions to the name of the person honoured. There is a standard Pizmonim book called "Shir uShbaha Hallel veZimrah", edited by Cantor Gabriel A. Shrem under the supervision of the Sephardic Heritage Foundation, in which the hymns are classified according to the musical mode (maqam) to which the melody belongs. As time passes, more and more pizmonim are getting lost, and therefore efforts are being made by the Sephardic Pizmonim Project, under the leadership of Mr. David M. Betesh, to preserve as many pizmonim as possible. This project set up a website www.pizmonim.com in order to facilitate preservation.

Baqashot

It was a custom in Syrian Jewish communities (and some others) to sing Baqashot (petitionary hymns) before the morning service on Shabbat. In the winter months the full corpus of 66 hymns is sung, finishing with Adon Olam and Kaddish: this service generally lasts about four hours, from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m..

This tradition still obtains in full force in the Ades Synagogue in Jerusalem. In other communities such as New York it is less widespread, though the hymns are sung on other occasions.

Pronunciation of Hebrew

The Syrian pronunciation of Hebrew is similar to that of other Mizrahi communities, and is influenced both by Sephardi Hebrew and by the Syrian dialect of Arabic. It does not reflect the formal rules for the pronunciation of Classical Arabic (tajwid) to the same extent as the pronunciation of Iraqi Jews. Particular features are as follows:

*ב ("Beth" without "dagesh") is traditionally /IPA|b/, but in Israel is often now [IPA|v] under the influence of Israeli Hebrew [No distinction was made between "beth" with or without "dagesh", but occasionally the sound of both letters slipped into [IPA|β] (bilabial v): Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.1.1.]
*ג ("Gimel" without "dagesh") is often pronounced [IPA|ɣ] , like Arabic غ (voiced velar fricative) [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.8.2.]
*ה ("He" with "mappiq") is often pronounced with a very short postpended schwa [IPA|ə] [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.11.2.]
*ו ("Vav") is pronounced [IPA|v] , not [IPA|w] [The [IPA|w] pronunciation occurred very occasionally, but was regarded as a mistake made under the influence of Arabic: Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.1.4 note 2. It is just possible that this was the older pronunciation, and was "corrected" to [IPA|v] under the influence of Turkish Sephardim.]
*ח ("Heth") is pronounced [IPA|ħ] , like Arabic ح (voiceless pharyngeal fricative) [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.10.2.]
*ט ("Teth") is pronounced [IPA|tˁ] , like Arabic ط (voiceless pharyngealized alveolar plosive) [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.6.1.]
*ע ("Ayin") is pronounced [IPA|ʕ] (this sound is sometimes described as "the sound of swallowing a grape, backwards"), like Arabic ع (voiced pharyngeal fricative), [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.10.1.] but this is less emphatic than in some other dialects
*צ ("Tsadi") is pronounced [IPA|sˁ] , like Arabic ص (voiceless pharyngealized alveolar fricative); that is, like English voiceless "s" but with the tongue a little retracted [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.6.2.]
*ק ("Qof") is "supposed" to be [IPA|q] , like Classical Arabic ق (voiceless uvular plosive) but sometimes slips: historically, into [IPA|ʔ] , a glottal stop as in colloquial Syrian Arabic, and today, into [IPA|k] in conformity with English or with Israeli Hebrew [The pronunciation of "qof" as "aleph", while regarded as a mistake, was diagnostic of Syrian identity. Care was taken to avoid it since Sephardic rabbis from Turkey queried why Aleppans said "adosh, adosh, adosh": Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.9.1. note 11. Very occasionally, an "aleph" that is meant to be a glottal stop is hypercorrected to [IPA|q] : Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.11.3.2.]
*ת ("Tav" without "dagesh") is pronounced [IPA|t] as in Israeli Hebrew, not [IPA|θ] as in Yemenite and Iraqi pronunciation. [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 1.2.2.] The retention of distinct emphatic sounds such as [IPA|ħ] and [IPA|tˁ] differentiates Syrian pronunciation from many other Sephardic/Mizrahi pronunciations which have failed to maintain these phonemic or phonological distinctions, for example between [IPA|t] and [IPA|tˁ] .

Vowels are pronounced as in most other Sephardi and Mizrahi traditions: for example there is no distinction between patach and qamats gadol ( [IPA|a] ), or between segol, tsere and vocal sheva ( [IPA|e] ). "Ħiriq" is sometimes reduced to [IPA|ɪ] or [IPA|ɘ] in an unstressed closed syllable, or in the neighbourhood of an emphatic or guttural consonant. [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 6.1.]

A semivocalic sound is heard before "pataħ ganuv" ("pataħ" coming between a long vowel and a final guttural): thus "ruaħ" (spirit) is pronounced [ˈruːwaħ] and "siaħ" (speech) is pronounced [ˈsiːjaħ] . [Harvnb|Katz|1981| 6.4.2.]

Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex, now known in Hebrew as "Keter Aram Tsoba", is the oldest and most famous manuscript of the Bible. Written in Tiberias in the year 920, and annotated by Aaron ben Asher, it has become the most authoritative Biblical text in Jewish culture. The most famous halachic authority to rely on it was Maimonides, in his exposition of the laws governing the writing of Torah scrolls in his codification of Jewish law (Mishneh Torah). After its completion, the Codex was brought to Jerusalem. Toward the end of the 11th century, it was stolen and taken to Egypt, where it was redeemed by the Jewish community of Cairo. At the end of the 14th century the Codex was taken to Aleppo, Syria (called by the Jews Aram Tsoba, the biblical name of part of Syria) — this is the origin of the manuscript’s modern name.

For the next five centuries it was kept closely guarded in the basement of the Central Synagogue of Aleppo, and was considered the community's greatest treasure. Scholars from round the world would consult it to check the accuracy of their Torah scrolls. In the modern era the community would occasionally allow academics, such as Umberto Cassuto, access to the Codex, but would not permit it to be reproduced photographically or otherwise.

The Codex remained in the keeping of the Aleppo Jewish community until the anti-Jewish riots of December 1947, during which the ancient synagogue where it was kept was broken into and burned. The Codex itself disappeared. In 1958 the Keter was smuggled into Israel by Murad Faham and wife Sarina, and presented to the President of the State, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. Upon its arrival it was found that parts of the Codex, including most of the Torah, had been lost. The Codex was entrusted to the keeping of the Ben-Zvi Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, though the Porat Yosef Yeshivah has argued that, as the spiritual heir of the Aleppo community, it was the legitimate guardian. Some time after the arrival of the Codex, Mordechai Breuer began the monumental work of reconstructing the lost sections, on the basis of other well-known ancient manuscripts. Since then a few other leaves have been found.

Modern editions of the Bible, such as the Hebrew University's "Jerusalem Crown" and Bar-Ilan University's "Mikraot Gedolot ha-Keter", have been based on the Codex. The missing sections have been reconstructed on the basis of cross-references in the Masorah (textual notes) in the surviving sections, of the notes of scholars who have consulted the Codex and of other manuscripts.

The codex is now kept in the Israel Museum, in the building known as "The Shrine of The Book." It lies there along with the Dead Sea Scrolls and many other ancient Jewish relics.

Attitudes to conversion

In the early twentieth century the Syrian Jewish communities of New York and Buenos Aires adopted rulings designed to discourage intermarriage. The communities would not carry out conversions to Judaism, or (normally) accept as members converts from other communities, or the children of mixed marriages or marriages involving converts. In some instances, however, they have recognised conversions carried out by the Rabbis in Israel. This law heavily discouraged people from converting because in order to convert they would have to travel to Israel and back, showing great commitment toward Judaism. It should be noted that Rabbi Jacob Kassin has been known to make conversions in very specific situations.

Hacham Uzziel, then Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, was asked to rule on the validity of this ban. He acknowledged the right of the community to refuse to carry out conversions and to regard as invalid conversions carried out by other communities in which marriage is a factor. At the same time he cautioned that persons converted out of genuine conviction and recognised by established rabbinic authorities should not be regarded as non-Jews, even if they were not allowed to join the Syrian community.

The ban is popularly known within the Syrian community as the "edict" or "proclamation" (in Hebrew, "takkanah"). Every twenty years or so, the edict is reaffirmed by all leaders and rabbis of the community, often with extra clauses. A full list is as follows:
*Buenos Aires, 1927 (R. David Setton)
*New York, 1935 (Hacham Hayim Tawil)
*New York, 1946 "Clarification"
*New York, 1972 "Affirmation"
*New York, 1984 "Reaffirmation"
*New York, 2006 "Reaffirmation".

There has been some argument as to whether the ruling amounts to a blanket ban on all converts or whether sincere converts from other communities, not motivated by marriage, may be accepted. The relevant sentence is "no male or female member of our community has the right to intermarry with non-Jews; this law covers conversions which we consider to be fictitious and valueless". In the 1946 "Clarification" a comma appears after the word "conversions", which makes it appear that "all" conversions are "fictitious and valueless", though this understanding is not uncontested.

Supporters of the edict argue that it has been demographically successful, in that the rate of intermarriage with non-Jews in the Syrian community is believed to be less than 3%, as opposed to anything up to 50% in the general American Jewish population. Opponents argue that this fact is not a result of the edict, but of widespread attendance at Orthodox day schools, and that a similarly low rate of intermarriage is found among other Orthodox day-schooled Jews despite the absence of any equivalent of the edict. [Although no scientific studies have been completed in regard to the Syrian-Jewish intermarriage rate, anecdotal evidence suggests that the Syrian community's current rate of intermarriage with non-Jews is between 2 and 3%. The National Jewish Population Survey study cited by Gordon and Horowitz cite web |url=http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews.htm |title=Will Your Grandchildren Be Jewish |accessdate=2008-02-19 |author=Antony Gordon and Richard Horowitz|format= |work= gives intermarriage rates for Centrist and Hasidic Jews of 3% for those between the ages of 18-39 and 6% overall, as compared with 32% for Conservative Jews, 46% for Reform Jews and 49% for secular Jews. Gordon and Horowitz suggest that the main reason for the difference is the growing commitment to Jewish Day School education: "The combination of Jewish commitment and having experienced a complete K-12 Orthodox Jewish Day School education results in an intermarriage rate of not greater than 3%." This suggests that Jewish day schools, rather than the edict, are the decisive factor in discouraging intermarriage. Furthermore, those who live outside the community where married to Jews or non-Jews whether part of other Jewish communities or not are not counted as belonging since "the community" is self-proclaimed.]

Cuisine

As in most Arab and Mediterranean countries, Syrian Jewish food is fairly similar to Syrian food generally. This is partly because of the eastern Mediterranean origins of Judaism as such and partly because the similarity of the Islamic dietary laws to the Jewish. Syrian (and Egyptian) recipes remain popular in Syrian Jewish communities round the world. There are traditions linking different dishes to the Jewish festivals.

Popular dishes are as follows:

*"Kibbeh": minced meat with burghul, often in the form of stuffed fritters
*"Kibbeh ħamda": meat balls in chicken soup made with lemon juice and vegetables (eaten before Yom Kippur fast)
*"Ijjeh" or "eggah": egg dish, similar to a Spanish omelette
*"Ijjeh blahme": fried meat burgers with eggs
*"Muħshi Badinjan": Stuffed eggplant with rice & meat and chick peas
*"Muħshi Kousa": Stuffed zucchini with rice & meat, nana mint and lemon
*"Yaprak": Stuffed vine leaves with rice and meat
*"Kebab": Meat balls (sometimes with cherries or pomegranate paste)
*Chicken "sofrito" ("Ed-Djaj Sofreeto"): chicken sautéed with lemon juice, turmeric and cardamom
*Chicken "beida bi-lemoune": chicken soup served with egg and lemon sauce
*"Dfeena": Sabbath meat and bean stew equivalent to cholent
*"Ħammin" eggs: hard-boiled eggs stained brown by being baked with "dfeena" or boiled with onion skins, sometimes adding tea leaves or coffee grounds [http://www.allbaking.net/ch/2001/february/sephardicflavors2.html]
*"Laħmajeen" (or "Laħmabajeen"): meat (sometimes with pomegranate paste or prune juice) on small round pastry base
*"Matahamre": boiled squash, cheese, eggs and pieces of pita bread
*"Mefarka": cold minced beef with broad beans and egg (for Shabbat)
*Meat balls with chick peas and spinach
*"Sambousak": small half-moon pasty filled with cheese or meat
*"Kousa b'jibn": Squash baked with cheese
*"M'jadra": rice and lentil or burghul and lentil kedgeree
*"Tabbouleh": burghul salad with vine leaves
*"Bazirjan or Mhammara": burghul, crushed wheat with pomegranate paste or prune juice
*"Shakshuka or Beid bifranji": boiled tomato puree with onion and eggs
*"Beid blaban": boiled yogurt with garlic, nana mint and eggs
*"Ka'ak": aniseed-flavoured bracelets with sesame seeds
*"Ghreibe": shortbread biscuits, often in bracelet form
*"Ma'amoul": shortbread pastries with date or nut fillings (the Jewish version differs from the Arab in not using semolina flour)
*Orange Passover cakes (derived from Spanish recipes through Sephardic immigration)
*Coconut jam (used at Passover)
*"" (iced drink made from almond syrup; generally a summer drink, but also used before Yom Kippur).

References

Endnotes

Bibliography

*Abadi, J.F., "A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen": Harvard 2002. Hardback: ISBN 1-55832-218-3
*Ades, Abraham, "Derech Ere"tz": Bene Berak 1990
*Collins, Lydia, "The Sephardim of Manchester: Pedigrees and Pioneers": Manchester 2006 ISBN 0-9552980-0-8
*Dobrinsky, Herbert C.: "A treasury of Sephardic laws and customs: the ritual practices of Syrian, Moroccan, Judeo-Spanish and Spanish and Portuguese Jews of North America." Revised ed. Hoboken, N.J. : KTAV; New York, N.Y. : Yeshiva Univ. Press, 1988. ISBN 0-88125-031-7
*Dweck, Poopa and Michael J. Cohen, "Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews": HarperCollins 2007, ISBN-10: 0060888180, ISBN-13: 9780060888183
*Harel, Yaron, "Sifre Ere"tz: ha-Sifrut ha-Toranit shel ִHachme Aram Tsoba" (The Books of Aleppo: Torah Literature of the Rabbis of Aleppo): Jerusalem 1996 [http://www.sephardicstudies.org/pdf/aleppo.pdf summarized here]
*Idelsohn, A.Z., "Phonographierte Gesänge und Aussprachsproben des Hebräischen der jemenitischen, persischen und syrischen Juden": Vienna 1917
*Harvard reference|Surname=Katz|Given=Ketsi'ah|Year=1981|Title=Masoret ha-lashon ha-‘Ibrit shel Yehude Aram-Tsoba (ִHalab) bi-qeri’at ha-Miqra ve-ha-Mishnah (The Hebrew Language Tradition of the Jews of Aleppo in the Reading of the Bible and Mishnah)|Publisher=Magnes Press, Jerusalem|ID=ISSN 0333-5143
*Laniado, David Tsion, "La-Qedoshim asher ba-are"ts": Jerusalem 1935 repr. 1980
*Laniado, Samuel, "Debash ve-ִHALAB al-leshonech": Jerusalem 1998/9 (Hebrew)
*Roden, Claudia, "A New Book of Middle Eastern Food": London 1986 ISBN 0-14-046588-X
*Roden, Claudia, "The Book of Jewish Food": New York 1997, London 1999 ISBN 0-14-046609-6
*Shelemay, Kay Kaufman, "Let Jasmine Rain Down", Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology: 1998. Hardback: ISBN 0-226-75211-9, Paperback: ISBN 0-226-75212-7.
*Sutton, David, "Aleppo: City of Scholars": Artscroll 2005 ISBN 1-57819-056-8 (partly based on Laniado, "La-Qedoshim asher ba-are"ts")
*Sutton, Joseph, "Aleppo Chronicles: the Story of the Unique Sepharadeem of the Ancient Near East - in their Own Words": Brooklyn 1988
*Sutton, Joseph, "Magic Carpet: Aleppo in Flatbush": Brooklyn 1979
*Zenner, Walter P., "A Global Community: The Jews from Aleppo, Syria": Wayne State University Press 2000 ISBN 0-8143-2791-5
* _______."The Ethnography of Diaspora: Studying Syrian Jewry," Marshall Sklare Award address, 1997

Prayer books

Historic

*"Maִhzor Aram Tsoba" (fragment): Venice 1560
*"Bet El" (seliִhot and morning service), Abraham ִHamwi: Livorno 1878 (repr. New York 1982)
*"Bet Din" (Rosh Hashanah), Abraham ִHamwi: Livorno 1878 (repr. Jerusalem 1986)
*"Bet ha-Kapporet" (Kippur), Abraham ִHamwi: Livorno 1879
*"Bet Simִhah" (Sukkot), Abraham ִHamwi: Livorno 1879 (repr. Jerusalem 1970)
*"Bet ha-Beִhirah" (Pesaִh), Abraham ִHamwi: Livorno 1880 (repr. Jerusalem 1985)
*"Seder Olat Tamid" ("minִhah" and "arbit" only): Aleppo 1907
*"Olat ha-Shaִhar": Aleppo 1915

Modern

*"Seder Seliִhot", ed. Shehebar: Jerusalem 1973
*"Bet Yosef ve-Ohel Abraham": Jerusalem, Manִsur (Hebrew only, based on Baghdadi text) 1974-80
*"Siddur le-Tish'ah be-Ab", ed. Shehebar: Jerusalem 1976
*"Mahzor Shelom Yerushalayim", ed. Albeg: New York, Sephardic Heritage Foundation 1982
*"Siddur Kol Mordechai", ed. Faham bros: Jerusalem 1984 ("minִhah" and "arbit" only)
*"Sha'are Ratson", ed. Moshe Cohen: Tel Aviv 1988, repr. 2003 (High Holy Days only)
*"Kol Yaakob", ed. Alouf: New York, Sephardic Heritage Foundation 1990 (Hebrew only; revised edition 1996, Hebrew and English; a new edition is in preparation)
*"The Aram Soba Siddur: According to the Sephardic Custom of Aleppo Syria", Moshe Antebi: Jerusalem, Aram Soba Foundation 1993 ("minִhah" and "arbit" only)
*"Orִhot ִHayim", ed. Yedid: Jerusalem 1995 (Hebrew only)
*"Orot Sephardic Siddur", Eliezer Toledano: Lakewood, NJ, Orot Inc. (Hebrew and English: Baghdadi text, Syrian variants shown in square brackets)
*"Siddur Abodat Haleb / Prayers from the Heart", Moshe Antebi, Lakewood, NJ: Israel Book Shop, 2002
*"Abir Yaakob", ed. Haber: Sephardic Press (Hebrew and English, Shabbat only)
*"Siddur Ve-ha'arev Na", ed. Isaac S.D. Sassoon, 2007

ee also

*Sephardi Jews
*Mizrahi Jews
*History of the Jews in Syria
*History of the Jews in Lebanon
*Central Synagogue of Aleppo
*Ades Synagogue
*Baqashot
*Pizmonim
*The Weekly Maqam
*Syrian Cantors
*Aleppo Codex
*Deal, New Jersey

External links

*History: [http://www.jewishgen.org/SefardSIG/AleppoJews.htm The Jews of Aleppo]
*Pizmonim: [http://www.pizmonim.org The Sephardic Pizmonim Project]
*Aleppo Codex: [http://aleppocodex.org The Aleppo Codex Website]
*Religion: [http://www.judaic.org Sephardic Institute Judaic Seminar]
** [http://www.dailyhalacha.com Daily Halachot]
*Cuisine: [http://www.aromasofaleppo.com Aromas of Aleppo Cookbook]
** [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/11/dining/11sephardic.html?em&ex=1160798400&en=a7a35c354d5cf3f5&ei=5087%0A NY Times article]
*Genealogy: [http://www.farhi.org Les Fleurs de L'Orient]
*Community website: [http://www.SyMall.com S Y Mall] , home of the "Charlie in the Morning" online daily talk show, featuring host Charlie Anteby
*Publications: [http://www.communitym.com Syrian Community Magazine]
** [http://www.imageusa.com Sephardic Image]
*Social: [http://www.scclive.org/ Sephardic Community Center (Brooklyn)]
*Anniversary: [http://www.jewishaz.com/jewishnews/041112/syrian.shtml Syrian Jews Mark 100 Years in U.S.]
*Notable Article: [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/magazine/14syrians-t.html?ex=1193112000&en=3b4b5b5e474a5613&ei=5070 The Sy Empire ] Article in NY Times Magazine


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Syrian American — Infobox Ethnic group Tige Andrews • Yasser Seirawan • Steve Jobs Mitch Daniels • Jerry Seinfeld group = Syrian Americans population = 154,560 [http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/08s0051.xls U.S. Census Bureau: Population by Selected… …   Wikipedia

  • Syrian Cantors — The Syrian Cantor or hazzan leads the traditional prayer rituals in the synagogues of the Syrian Jews. He conducts the services using ten maqamat or musical modes. A cantor must be fully cognizant of these maqamat and their applications to the… …   Wikipedia

  • Syrian Malabar Nasrani — For other uses, see Nasrani (disambiguation). This article deals with the Nasrani People as an ethnic community, for a detailed article on the religious tradition of the Nasrani people; see: Saint Thomas Christians. Syrian Malabar Nasranis …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Jews in Syria — Syrian Jews derive their origin from two groups: those who inhabited Syria from early times and the Sephardim who fled to Syria after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492 C.E). There were large communities in Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut… …   Wikipedia

  • Musta'arabi Jews — Part of a series of articles on Jews and Judaism …   Wikipedia

  • Arab Jews — (Arabic: اليهود العرب Al Yahūd al Arab , Hebrew: יהודים ערבים Yehudim Aravim )is a controversial term referring to Jews living in the Arab World, or Jews descended from such persons.cite web|title=Ishaq al Shami and the Predicament of the Arab… …   Wikipedia

  • Spanish and Portuguese Jews — are a distinctive sub group of Sephardim who have their main ethnic origins within the crypto Jewish communities of the Iberian peninsula and who shaped communities mainly in Western Europe and the Americas from the late 16th century on. These… …   Wikipedia

  • Ashkenazi Jews — For other meanings see Ashkenaz (disambiguation). Ashkenazi Jews (יהודי אשכנז Y hude Ashk naz in Biblical Hebrew; Y hudey Ashknoz in Ashkenazi Hebrew) …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Jews in Lebanon — The Lebanese Jews are traditionally a Mizrahi community living in the present day country of Lebanon, mostly in and around the city of Beirut. Almost all of the community has emigrated to Israel, France, and North America (mostly to the latter… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Caribbean Jews — Here is a list of some prominent (non Latin ) Caribbean Jews, arranged by country of origin.Antigua and Barbuda* Jamaica Kincaid, writer (convert)Curaçao*Mordechai Ricardo *George Maduro *Abram Mendes de Chumaceiro *Daniel De Leon, socialist… …   Wikipedia