Thursday, January 01, 2009

Murdered Jew had wanted to leave Yemen

Moshe Yaish al-Nahari, who was murdered last month, had considered leaving Yemen, The Forward reports. But just how much influence the Satmar Hasidim, who control the remaining Jews of Yemen, have had in persuading him (and others) to stay, remains a mystery:

"Their decision to stay is one entangled in Jewish politics. The remaining population has been supported, in part, by the Satmar Hasidim, a group known for both its insularity and its anti-Zionism. Others who have been involved with the Yemeni community have accused the Satmars of using their influence with the Yemeni Jews to convince them not to move to Israel.

“They’re under the control of Satmar, who don’t want the Jews to move out of Yemen,” (professor Hayim) Tawil said. “The Satmar like to keep alive this fermented 200 Jews there in order for them to have a place under the sun.”

"Satmar leaders, in turn, say they are simply concerned for the Yemeni community’s safety, and that they have no objections if the local Jews want to leave.

“Satmar has no problem if they want to go to Israel,” said Rabbi David Niederman, who heads the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, a Satmar advocacy organization in Brooklyn. But, Niederman added, so long as the Jews remain in Yemen, it is the Yemeni government’s responsibility to protect them.

"Some members of the community in Yemen have complained that they do not feel safe.

“Over the past months, we have been suffering from repeated assaults and threats, and we have been reporting to the official bodies and tribal chiefs, but without success,” Nahari’s brother, Yahya Bin Yaish, told the Gulf News.

Nahari had left Yemen to study in the United States, in Satmar schools, and then returned. But acquaintances say that he had considered leaving Yemen permanently. Yossi Shraga, a former Jewish Agency official who has worked with the Jews of Yemen, said that Nahari told him a year ago that he was considering a move to Israel. But instead, Nahari remained in Raida, where he was a central figure in the Jewish community.

“He wanted to stay there to help the community,” said Zerab Dehari, a Yemeni friend of Nahari’s who now lives in New Jersey. “He did a lot with the community. He tried to help out with money. He tried asking people to help him out. The kinderlach [children] want to learn, so they sit with him and they learn with him.”

Nahari taught in a Satmar-run school, led prayer services and served as a kosher slaughterer, in addition to serving as a general go-to leader for Jews in need of help.

“He was a very good leader,” said another acquaintance of Nahari’s, who asked not to be named. “If there was a problem, he always had a solution.”

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