Thursday, August 25, 2011

Extinct Jewish Communities in the Middle East - Part 3 - Aleppo

Poor Jewish family of Aleppo
(circa 1900)
The photographers of the American Colony were a peripatetic bunch, traveling not only the length and breadth of the land of Palestine, but also to neighboring areas of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.   The American Colony photographers took pictures of Jewish communities as they traveled throughout the Middle East, including Alexandria, Damascus, Constantinople (Istanbul), and the Kifl (Iraq), the site of Ezekiel's tomb.

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Aleppo Jews, another pose, with another
 baby on the lap, and sister (far left)
still scratching her head

The Jewish community of Aleppo may date back to Biblical days, with some claiming that it was Aram Tzoba mentioned in the book of Samuel.  The classic Aleppo Codex was an ancient and complete text of the Bible cited by Maimonides as the most authoritative text. 

Aleppo was the destination of many Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century.  But Aleppo was no safe haven.  Pogroms and blood libels plagued the Jewish community. 

The merchants of Aleppo and Damascus who traded along the spice and silk routes lost much of their business when the Suez Canal opened in 1869.  Jews emigrated to Palestine, South America and Europe.  Later, at the start of 20th century, the threat of forced conscription into the army led many families to leave, some to North America

In 1947, after the UN partition vote, a pogrom devastated the Aleppo Jewish community. After Israel's founding, the Syrian Jewish community was severely persecuted.  Virtually the entire Jewish community left Syria in recent decades.  A large community of Syrian Jews lives today in Brooklyn, NY.

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