Jews of Aleppo (Syrian Jews)–Leor

Syrian Jews are Jews who have lived in what’s present day known as Syria, and their children and future generations which were then later born outside of Syria. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the Sephardi Jews went to settle in many Islamic countries next to the Mediterranean, one of them being Syria. They created their own communities and had leadership by the Rabbis in their community. The Jews were well known for their respect towards their Rabbis. The rabbi’s learned about the Kabbalah and the Talmud’s traditions, as well as helping out the people in the community with their problems and helped them in the right paths of religion. Aleppo was the main place where Syrian Jews were found, the second largest city in Syria. Aleppo was also the only community in Syria where the Jews continued to learn the Torah, according to Maimonides in a letter that he wrote to the rabbis of Lunel. Jews in Aleppo from Spanish origins created a special custom in which they light an extra candle on Hanukah, because they were thankful for the acceptance that the local community had for them.

The first Great Synagogue in Aleppo was created by Joab, one of King David’s generals, and the architecture of the synagogue was influenced by the designs of Muslim mosques. The Romans were rulers of the country, with Christianity as their religion, and they placed many restrictions upon the Jews. From the seventh century up until the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Jewish community became self-governed. This allowed the Jews to have freedom of religion, a separate court system for the rabbis to deal with issues that came about within the community, and military protection. In return for the Jews having military protection, they were then under the status of Dhimmi, protected people, and they lived comfortably with the Muslims. The way Jews were treated was based on the Muslim ruler, and the economy of the time period. If the economy was bad, then the treatment towards the Jews only became worse. But if the economy was doing well, then the Jews would be treated well, just as long as they wouldn’t disturb the Muslims and the balance of their religions among the land. One of Aleppo’s great importance was in their Jewish learning, in a document called the Aleppo Codex. The Aleppo Codex was a text that showed the final vocalization and punctuation of the texts in the Bible, and some people believe it is the actual biblical text that the Rambam (Maimonides) called the Hilchot Sefer Torah.

After the state of Israel was created in 1948, the Jews that remained in Syria were persecuted and were not allowed to leave the country. The Syrian government was scared that the Jewish men would join the army forces of the Israeli army and fight against them. In the year 2000, the Syrian community in Brooklyn led a council to rescue the Syrian Jews and change the immigration status of these immigrants, allowing them to have legal jobs in the United States and allowed them to apply for citizenship.

 

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