Episode: 2

Coming To America

1900-1919

Episode 2: COMING TO AMERICA (1900-1919) begins in the early 20th century and charts the arrival of Syrian Jews in America. It includes the harrowing boat trip overseas, Ellis Island, and life on the Lower East Side – how the first immigrants worked as peddlers, established their first synagogue, the first Syrian-Jewish stores, restaurants and businesses, as well as institutions such as the burial society and the charitable organization, Maoz Laebyon. We introduce Isaac Shalom, the first great community leader. And we hear how the community faced anti-Syrian sentiment, and preserved their values and customs in the face of assimilation.

RELATED EPISODES

Episode 1: THE BEGINNING

(Antiquity – 1900)

Episode 1: THE BEGINNING tells the story of the Jews of Syria from Biblical times, how Sephardic Jews, expelled from Spain, joined Syria’s ancient Jewish community, and the rise of Jewish merchants during the Ottoman period. It describes Jewish religious practice under Muslim rule, and introduces sacred treasures, such as the Aleppo Codex, the Great Synagogue of Aleppo and the Farhi Bible.  It also traces the roots of Syrian-Jewish cuisine, the musical tradition of Pizmonim, the Damascus Affair, and Shabetai Tzvi – the false Messiah. This episode ends in the early 20th century, with the first wave of emigration from Syria. 

Episode 3: LIFE IN BENSONHURST

(1920-1939) 

Episode 3: LIFE IN BENSONHURST covers the move to Bensonhurst Brooklyn, and life on Bay Parkway. It includes the building of Magen David Synagogue, the first Syrian synagogue on American soil, and the Talmud Torah, led by the great Rabbi Matloub Abadi. We hear about the Ahi Ezer synagogue built by the Damascus community – and how the two communities, divided in Syria, became united as one in the United States. This episode includes the Great Depression, when, through their religion and tradition of charity, the community supported each other through the hardships of that time. The film ends with the Edict of 1935, preserving the community’s cohesiveness for generations to come.

Episode 4: THE WAR YEARS

(1939 – 1945)

Episode 4: THE WAR YEARS explores the community’s participation in World War II. It tells the stories of the brave men who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, of civilian service, and how community men and women worked hard on the home front, raising money for war bonds, patrolling the coastline and publishing the Victory Bulletin, an extraordinary document of the community’s wartime experience. We hear Chief Rabbi Jacob Kassin call the community to prayer on D-Day, remember the men who lost their lives, and feel the excitement of the war’s end, when servicemen come home, get married and begin their lives again.

SYRIAN JEWISH HISTORY TIMELINE

  • Biblical Times
  • 950 BCE
  • 630s
  • 929
  • 1375
  • 1400s
  • 1492
  • 1527
  • 1565 c.
  • 1665
  • 1732
  • 1760 c.
  • 1840
  • 1869
  • 1892
  • 1909
  • 1911-1912
  • 1918
  • 1930s
  • 1935
  • 1944
  • 1945
  • 1946
  • 1947
  • 1948
  • 1949
  • 1950
  • 1951
  • 1956
  • 1956
  • 1957
  • 1958
  • 1964
  • 1965
  • 1967
  • 1972
  • 1974
  • 1975
  • 1975
  • 1980s
  • 1988
  • 1992
  • 1994