Sunday, June 07, 2009

Yom Kippur at the Franji synagogue, Damascus

The Franji synagogue, Damascus

If on the most solemn day of the Jewish year you find it hard to get a seat in synagogue or end up cramped and overheated in the overflow, you could always try Yom Kippur in Damascus. There's plenty of room at the Franji, Syria's only remaining working synagogue. (With thanks: Janet)

Joey, a young American-Israeli, shot this film of the concluding Ne'ila service. It's typical of services in many Sephardi synagogues, with much out-of-key audience participation, but there is no rabbi. One is struck by how many of the men, led by the community leader Albert Kamao who looks after the elderly and needy, in fact look quite young.

Ten Jewish men make up the minyan, while among the five Jewish women is Rachel, a diplomat working at the US consulate. Rachel told the story of her stay in Damascus to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Mindful that they live in a police state, Joey tries to be circumspect in the questions he asks of the Jews he meets. The 50 or 60 still remaining out of a community of 40,000 seem to do well in business and have the protection of the Assad regime. They seem quite happy; but Joey could not help noticing one old lady wipe away a tear.


Anonymous said...

I am very interested in receiving further information about the various publications that are available for free, on-line, or for purchase. Both my parents were born in Damascus and left at early ages, betwen 1912-1930. Please forward to me any pertinent information about any organization that has information about the history and heritage of Jews from Damascus. I am also very interested in any information pyblished in Hebrew or English about recent conferences of Sepharadic Jews from Damascus in the USA. Thanks do much for all that you can do.


Joseph Yedid

bataween said...

Hello Joseph
Suggest you look at the website for 'Image'magazine in the sidebar. Contact the American Sephardi Federation who might be able to put you in touch with the Syrian Jewish community and recommend some publications.

henry hamra said...

hi my name is henry hamra my father was the chief rabbi of damascus if you some info of the damascus jews i have alot of staff you can also check out very intresting

bataween said...

Dear Henry
How nice to hear from you. I will check out the website Shaar Binyamin.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have been looking for my roots and came across your website. This is the synagogue where my parents got married. The two gold doors were donated by my father and his siblings in honor of their parents. Have you got any more pictures? I am looking all over for some history. Thanks for the website.

bataween said...

Dear Anonymous
That is amazing.Glad that your parents' legacy has still been preserved when so many Syrian synagogues have gone to rack and ruin.
Unfortunately I haven't any more pictures myself, but I found this slide show on Youtube which shows a close-up of the gold doors.