4 Responses

  1. Mo
    Mo July 13, 2012 at 9:59 am |

    Fascinating. There is a common stereotype, at least in America, that the Syrians are a particularly tight-knit community, frowning upon converts and marriage with other communities. I wonder whether this actually reflects some reality of Syrian culture.

  2. Evelyn Dean-Olmsted
    Evelyn Dean-Olmsted August 3, 2012 at 11:27 am |

    Thanks for reading my piece and for your comment. I would also describe Shamis and Halebis in Mexico as being tight-knit (and I thank you for choosing this relatively neutral descriptor. Much more common are words like ‘clannish’ and ‘insular’, or ‘cerrados’ in Spanish.) Indeed, Syrians communities in several countries follow a special decree or takana (Heb.) that forbids their members from marrying converts. (A colleague Sarina Roffe wrote her thesis on this topic: http://gradworks.umi.com/14/38/1438448.html).

    The takana is highly controversial, to say the least, even among community members. And it’s another thing that outsiders (esp. other Jews) commonly point to as evidence of Syrian Jewish “backwardness.” Debates about the takana would be another great area for discourse analysis. I know many people couch their critiques in religious terms (accepting genuine converts is a basic religious imperative) but there are more universalist arguments advanced as well (e.g. in the name of multiculturalism, diversity, anti-racism, etc.). Again, I believe much of the ire evoked by such subjects is deeply rooted in modernist projects, at both Jewish communal and national levels.

  3. Mark Schwartz
    Mark Schwartz December 21, 2012 at 5:58 am |

    Dear Evelyn,
    Thank you for this article. I have ashkenasi relatives in Mexico City and spent many summers there. I learned to speak Spanish fluently because of them. I have so much to share with you–unbelievable experiences. I have a book to recommend about the “idishe” Please email me because I would like to take this off line and give you a lot of input and observations. Example: My cousin married a “Turca” and it didn’t work out. The idishe are always talking about the Syrians as “los árabes”. Please email at schwartz972@gmail.com . As I say, I have a lot to share…a lot.

    Best regards and shabbat shalom from Tel Aviv,

  4. Alicia
    Alicia January 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm |

    I found this article very interesting. I am an American Askenazi Jew, with a college degree, who married a Israeli Syrian Jew in Brooklyn back in the early 70’s. My husband lived in Mexican for a few years before coming to the US. My mother said I married him for sociological reasons to learn the secret culture of the Syrian Jews. Perhaps she was right. The marriage lasted 9 years and I did learn some very profound differences among the subcultures of the Sephardics. If you are interested in discussing this further, please contact me.

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