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October 11, 2011 10:50 am

Syrian Jews Celebrate History and Heritage at Lincoln Center Screening

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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The sons of Joseph Sitt welcomed their father to the stage of Avery Fischer Hall. The oldest, Jack, named for his paternal grandfather described his strong connection to his community. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

3000 members of the Syrian Jewish community and their friends gathered in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center October 9 to view a cinematic history of the community from 1920 through 1939. A series of intimately personal interviews combined with a documentary style presentation of images and narrative, memories and reminiscences, provided the “script” of this informative film.

Welcomed by Joseph Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities and founder of the Sephardic Jewish Heritage Museum, the highly inter-connected audience heard him speak of the valuable heritage the generations past have bequeathed to its current and future descendants. “We will follow you,” pronounced Sitt, “to work better for the next generation, to go to the next level and the next, extoling your values.” He spoke of the community’s commitment to its rich and robust traditions focused on the values of family, Judaism, education, strong community, tzedakah (charity) and hard work.

Sitt thanked the Texas based team now exploring Syrian Jewish roots in ancient Lebanon, the caves of Turkey, Syria, and Greece. The museum founder promised that “tens of thousands of square feet will be filled with thousands of artifacts and images” so that the community can “come together, walk in and touch our heritage.”

The Sunday screening was “Episode Three” in a series depicting the Sephardic Syrian Jewish community’s history in America. This section traced the community’s migration from the Lower East Side, to Williamsburg and then to Bensonhurst, describing  “a community that helped each other, that looked out for each other and passed on its values to the next generation, a setting in which anything seemed possible.”  The series of films, said Sitt, will be “a legacy to our children and our grandchildren.” The full house at Avery Fisher Hall symbolized the “unified and growing spirit and physical growth of the Syrian Sephardic Jewish community.”

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