While the nervous grooms-to-be waited for their future Syrian Jewish brides at JFK International Airport, the Air France flight from Damascus taxied to a stop on schedule shortly after 8 p.m. last Thursday night. Soon the 13 Syrian women set foot in America after a long and tiring flight and 12 of them were introduced to the men of Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community whom they had married by proxy July 19 in Damascus.
A 13th woman, a widow with three children, was released at the last moment to be re-united with her brother “in a humanitarian gesture” by the Syrians, said Rep. Stephen Solarz, (D.NY). Solarz, who represents the more than 25,000 Syrian Jews who live in Brooklyn, has been in the forefront of efforts to obtain the right to emigrate for Syrian Jews who wish to leave. Then all the Syrian Jewish men and women were shuttled through private corridors from the air-part’s customs area into a brightly lit room where they faced the television cameras and the press.
An air of excitement filled the room as relatives and friends crowded around, eager to welcome the smiling women into their homes, where they will stay until they decide to officially get married here.
Since Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Jews have been unable to leave Syria. In recent years, many Jewish men in their 20s and early 30s have reportedly fled Syria, leaving about 500 Jewish women with little prospect of getting married there. “I’d like to express our profound gratitude to President Hafez Assad. We see this as a very significant breakthrough,” Solarz said.
HOPE FOR FUTURE EMIGRATION
Rabbi Abraham Hecht of Share Zion Synagogue, a leader in the effort for the release of young Jewish women from Syria, welcomed the brides with a with a short Arabic saying and expressed the hope that more Jews who desire to leave Syria, including relatives of the arriving women, will be allowed to do so.
A smiling, vibrant Tira Souid, chosen as the spokeswoman for the brides, said “due to your tireless efforts, we are here.” She also thanked Assad. Speaking in Arabic, she said, “I was happy to meet my groom and hope the others (who remain in Syria) have the same fortune.”
Morris Mann, one of the grooms, said “We have a similar heritage and tradition and I am hopeful it will work out.” The men, who sent marriage proposals to Syria, said they selected their brides on the basis of information about the women provided by Steven Shalom, a leader of their Brooklyn community, who had traveled to Syria to meet with the Jewish community.
Solarz thanked President Carter for discussing the plight of the Syrian women, when Carter met with Assad in Geneva in May. Solarz said, “I would like Jimmy Carter to serve as the best man at the first wedding.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.