Posted by Alex on Sunday, April 6th, 2008
By Ford Prefect,
BASMA (Battling to Smile Again) is a Syrian, non-governmental and non-profit organization staffed by thousands of volunteers dedicated to helping young Syrian children fight cancer.
Syrians in North America will come together for an annual event on the 19th of April to raise money for BASMA. The outpouring of support from Syrians and Lebanese from both the US and Canada has already exceeded all expectations and demonstrates our ability to unite for a worthy cause.
But, while it is expected of Muslim and Christian Syrians to come together to raise money for the homeland, it will come as a surprise that the Syrian Sephardic Jewish community of Brooklyn has organized a parallel event, taking place today, the 6th of April.
There is a strong and proud Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York composed of Sephardic Jews – Jews of Arabic and Persian background with many of Syrian origin. The Syrian Sephardic Jews are proud of their Syrian heritage and if one is to visit them in their homes, it will be impossible not to notice the overwhelming Syrian artifacts and memorabilia they enjoy and collect.
So while the Sephardic National Alliance wanted to attend the Syrian fundraiser on the 19th of April in order to help children, that date posed a problem for them. It is Passover Weekend. So the Sephardic National Alliance organized their own fund raising event in support of Syrian children with cancer.
As I am typing these words on April 6th, the Sephardic National Alliance is gathering in Brooklyn. Imad Moutapha, the Syrian Ambassador to the US, is attending. I was given a flier advertising the event by one of my dear Jewish friends in Washington, DC.
We Syrians, whether living abroad or in Syria, rarely hear positive stories such as this. Most often we are compelled to find nourishment in the unsettling news of violence and animosity between Israelis and Arabs.
But, as this event demonstrates, Jews are peace loving and heritage-proud just as other Syrians. This event should help us to dispel the unfortunate stereotypes of Jews that are widespread among Syrians. It also reminds us how unfortunate Syria is that its Jewish community has departed in such unhappy and often painful circumstances.
So bravo and shalom Sephardic National Alliance; you have set a great example for us to follow.