Lebanese Jewry

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Magen Abraham Synagogue in Lebanon

Lebanon today is the home to around 1,000 Jews, most of which live in the city of Beirut. However, many years ago it housed over 24,000. Jewish immigration to Lebanon began in 1911 from countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Greece and Syria. The Jews prospered and even had two Jewish newspapers published, Al-Alam al-Israili (the Israelite World) and Le Commerce du Levant.

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

The establishment of a Jewish state in 1948 did not affect the Jewish population of Lebanon. It was in the 1950’s that Jews began to leave. Under Christian Arabic rule, the Jew of Lebanon enjoyed peace and toleration. The first attribution to the decline in the Jewish population was the Civil war of 1958. Most left to Europe or the United States. The Syrians kidnapped Albert Elia, the 69-year-old Secretary-General of the Lebanese Jewish community in 1971. He and other Syrian Jews who tried to escape the country were tortured. Even the U.N High commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan couldn’t help him out.

The second event that sparked a drop in the Jewish population was the fighting in the 1975-76 Muslim-Christian civil war. The fighting was localized around and within the Jewish Quarter in Beirut, and damaged many Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues, one of which was Magen Abraham Synagogue. “In September 2008, Isaac Arazi, the leader of Lebanon’s Jewish Community Council announced that he planned to rebuild the Magen Abraham synagogue in Beirut.” Works Cited: Source 7 Afraid of the presence of Syrians in Lebanon, most Lebanese Jews emigrated in 1976, most of whom went to Europe, the United States and Canada.

Troubles continued in the 80’s as well, as many prominent leaders were kidnapped by Hezbollah. Four were murdered. The Jews that remained afterward had to now practice their religion in secret. The prosperity they at one point enjoyed was now gone.

Today, there is a large Lebanese Jewish community in Flatbush, Brooklyn. They live amongst and near other Jewish immigrants from places such as Syria and Egypt. They have continued to practice their religion and have built many synagogues including Har Halebanon, Shaare Zion, and Sephardic Lebanese Congregation.