Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Modern Day Female Moses: Judith Feld Carr-Leading Out Jews From Syria

Nadene Goldfoot                                                
Jews were rescued out of Syria in 1992 and 1994 and taken to Israel.  A Jewish mother of 6 from Canada led them out.  She didn't have to do it.  This woman had a childhood neighbor, Sophie, who had lost her daughter in Auschwitz.  She had told her, "You can never let this happen again to the Jewish people. "  These words stuck in Judith Feld Carr's (b: 1938) mind all her life.  She became a human rights activist.

 She and her husband, Dr. Ronald Feld, shared a mutual interest in the plight of Syrian Jewry in the 1970's.  They had read an article in the Jerusalem Post about 12 young Jews whose were trying to escape from Qamishli, Syria and had stepped onto a minefield which not only killed them but mutilated their bodies as well.

Judith and Ronald Feld were so touched by the story that they brainstormed for a while for ways they could help Syrian Jews.  Israel had been reborn on May 14, 1948 which ticked off Syria and put it in such a rage that they had burned down synagogues and forbid the Jews to leave the country.  Nuremberg-type laws which ushered in the Holocaust were passed in Syria by  President Shukri al Quwaatli. and continued by Hafez al Assad.  
1.  Jews were not allowed to travel more than 3 kilometers without a permit.
2. They were forced into ghettos.
3. Business opportunities were strictly limited
4. Educational opportunities were limited.
5. If a Jews tried to escape, they were usually hunted down and killed or tortured.

Judy was a mother of 6 children and a musicologist. She was a music teacher in a high school in Toronto for many years and also taught university musicology.  She was born in Montreal and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.   This teacher was busy supporting her household, but wound up rescuing 3,228 Syrian Jews.  It was all done in secret, of course.

She made one phone call to Syria which started 28 years of rescue work and international intrigue.  Many of the Jews rescued were in prisons.  The phone call was to a Jewish man who was in the service of the secret police!  He gave her the address of Ibrahim Hamra, the Chief Rabbi of Syria.  .  She and Ronald sent a pre-paid telegram to Rabbi Hamra and asked if he needed Hebrew books.  They received a telegram back a week later with a list of titles.  The Felds were smart enough to remove evidence that they were printed in Israel.  This meant they had to remove the first page with the name of the publisher.  Otherwise, the books would never have been delivered to the Rabbi.  The Felds and Rabbi Hamra had to communicate in code using verses of Psalms just like Hidden Jews (B'nai Anusim)  did in Spain 500 years earlier.

A friend in Toronto had returned from Syria and spoke to Judy, telling her that her brother, a rabbi in Aleppo, was dying of cancer and had been tortured in prison because 2 of his children had escaped out of Syria.  She wanted to get her brother to Canada, and asked Judy for advice.  It took a year and a half of negotiating prices for the prisoner's release as well as many other obstacles until they found out that Rabbi Eliyahu Dahab was out of prison and was sent to Canada for medical care.  Before he died, he told Judy Feld of his dream to have coffee with his mother in Jerusalem one last time.  He died on Tisha B'Av after a reunion with his mother.  His dying wish was that his daughter could also be released from Syria.

This led to Mrs. Judy's underground network.  Her young husband died of a heart attack in 1973 and she worked alone with often unbearable pressure on her.  She said she felt like quitting almost every 2nd day but couldn't because she had figured out an underground system and people were depending on her.  She had never had to contact one Jew in Syria.  They had to find her which was very hard as they didn't know anything about her other than she was "Mrs. Judy in Canada."  She felt like she was "buying" people.

Judy had donations to cover the expenses of paying for the release of Syrian Jews come to Beth Tzedek Congregation Synagogue in Toronto, Canada.  If a ransom couldn't be negotiated, escapes had to be planned.  She never had a casualty.  She had to split up families with parents releasing their children to others.  Judy's father died and she had to delay the funeral by an hour because she was planning an escape of a mother and 6 children.

Judy remarried Donald Carr and he helped her to continue her rescue work.  They were able to go to a senior home in Bat Yam, Israel and Zaki Shayu spoke about being a prisoner in Aleppo suffering  4 years.of torture there.  The Syrian authorities told his mother that he had died.  Judy had rescued him and there he finally was able to meet Judy..

Her last rescue was on September 11, 2001, an hour before the attack on the World Trade Center. Abraham Hamra is still alive and is safe in Israel today.  Judy was able to save many rare Jewish religious articles like the famous Damascus Codex, known as a "Keter" (Crown) which was written in the 12th Century in Italy and had wound up in Damascus.  Judy became the chair of the Canadian Jewish Congress's National Task Force for Syrian Jewry and published  facts about them.  She then made representations to the Canadian government to admit Syrian Jews a temporary status to Canada and urged them to talk to the Syrian government about their denial of civil and human rights to the Jews of Syria.

Such work is amazing, knowing how much red tape she had to cut through.  Judith has been awarded many awards.  One was "The Presidential Award of Distinction of the State of Israel, created by President Shimon Perez.  Canada has awarded her with many also; One is the Order of Canada; the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2002.

Resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Feld_Carr
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1027071/jewish/Buying-Lives.htm by Miriam Metzinger
Book:  "The Ransomed of God:  The Remarkable Story of One Woman's Role in the Rescue of Syrian Jews "by Harold Troper

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