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March 17, 2014 8:09 pm

Judy Feld Carr: If Jews Hadn’t Left Syria it Would Have Been a Slaughter

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Judy Feld Carr receiving the Presidential Award of Distinction of the State of Israel.

Judy Feld Carr receiving the Presidential Award of Distinction of the State of Israel.

Canadian humanitarian Judy Feld Carr, recognized last year in The Algemeiner’s ‘Jewish 100’  list for her work in rescuing Syria’s Jewish community, told the Daily Beast that if Jews were stuck in Syria today, they would have been slaughtered.

“If they were there now, what would have happened? I know what would have happened. It would have been the slaughter of the Syrian Jewish community, that is for sure,” Feld Carr said in an interview published on Monday.

For 28 years, Feld Carr worked secretly to smuggle some 3,228 Syrians out of the country to freedom. In addition to her operation, there was an airlift in 1992 organized by New York’s Syrian Jewish community, with as many as 5,000 Syrian Jews flown out of Syria secretly. Feld Carr said that by 2001, when she concluded her work, there were only about 30 Syrian Jews left in the country; today that number is believed to be 11.

In the interview, Feld Carr said, in the 1970s, she was reading a newspaper and was struck by an article about 12 Syrian Jews who tried to escape into Turkey, but stepped on a land mine, and Syrian border guards watched them die. “She was so moved by the story that she decided to track down members of Syria’s Jewish community. She began cold-calling numbers in Syria until she eventually hit upon a contact,” the Daily Beast reported.

“I sent a telegram to the Rabbi in Damascus asking if he needed religious books and prepaid [for his response],” she told the newspaper. “Who would have ever believe, an answer came back with a shopping list! That was the beginning, the first opening since 1948.”

With the creation of Israel, the Syrian regime restricted new immigration to Israel, and the gates were shut.

She used funds from the Dr. Ronald Feld Fund for Jews in Arab Lands, established at Beth Tzedeck Synagogue, Toronto, in 1973, and donated privately, both to negotiate ransoms for the release of Syrian Jews, from prisons inside Syria and for passports and visas, permitting them to leave, as well as smuggling others across borders and out of that country.

The process took over 28 years, in complete secrecy to protect the lives of those in danger, as well as to protect the mission.

In June 2012, Feld Carr was one of the first six recipients of The Presidential Award of Distinction of the State of Israel.

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  • Gabriella Reid

    I applaud Ms. Carr. My mothers father left Syria at the age of 16 in 1917 with my uncle 9 years old and traveled to the Americas. My grandparents chose to move to Israel. My mother never spoke of any details but after her death in 2003 I decided to find answers to some of my questions. All I can say as a mother I can’t imagine having to send my 11 and 9 year old on a boat across a lake much less across the ocean. The sacrifice that my great grandparents made and hundreds others took courage! And I’m proud of where I come from and my jewish people of strength.

  • Mireille Mechoullam

    Fleur is right and that’s a shame.

  • On the subject of Syrian Jews, I am trying to acquire a book entitled “Cien años de la cocina judeo-damaquina” published in Mexico and written Sefra Dayme. The publishers say it costs US$100 and I asked them to send it to an address in the USA because they wanted to charge me US$100 for mailing to the UK! The book won a prize at the World Gourmand festival last year, and it must be a fascinating read as an illustration of how Damascus Jews ate and how they have been dispersed throughout the world (a lot in South America, for some reason).

  • esther noodelman

    We applaud you ,Judy Feld Carr for your courage,determination and dedication to your people and the strength to do this all by yourself.
    This truly shows the power of the individual to make a difference. May Hashem bless you and your family with good health,good fortune and success in all your endeavors TRULY DESERVE A MEDAL OF FREEDOM FOR FREEING OUR SYRIAN BRETHREN.KOL HAKAVOD!

  • My Planet Israel

    Bravo!! Kol Hakavod! What a beautiful, determined Nashama. Who else would have persisted with such focus for so long? It’s almost impossible to imagine. She deserves the highest accolades. Blessings to her a mllion times!

    • Sonia Willats

      Yes, yes, yes! Kol ha kavod.

  • Fleur

    This is the sort of great and humanitarian deeds that a Nobel Prize should be reserved for. However nowadays only incompetent and lying politicians get it.