2006-12-15 / Community

Ohab Zedek To Host Henry Kaye Lectures

Congregation Ohab Zedek, located at 134-01 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Belle Harbor will host a series of lectures entitled, “The Exotic Sephardic Communities of the Middle East” at the synagogue during December and January. All lectures will begin at 8 p.m.

The first lecture will be held on Tuesday, December 19, 8:00 p.m.

“Searching For Baghdad: A Daughter’s Journey”(film):

Iraqi-Jews can trace their history in that country to 586 B.C.E.. At their peak, they numbered nearly 300,000. Today, there are approximately 50 Jews living in Baghdad while hundreds of thousands continue to thrive in countries throughout the world. Yet, it is not possible for these descendants of this ancient community to visit the places their parents and grandparents called home.

The remaining lectures in the Henry Kaye Lectures will be: Searching For Baghdad documents Carole Basri’s travels to find the remnants of her heritage, outside of Iraq. With an eye toward history, her 21st century search leads her to the Iraqi-Jewish outposts established in the 19th century in the Far East. As she visits India, Hong Kong, Singapore and even Myanmar she seeks out the people, culture and contributions left by those Iraqi Jews who ventured out of Baghdad looking for a better life. What she finds is more than just the history of her people. She also finds her own family, in unexpected places, playing important roles within the legacy of the Iraq-Jewish communities established beyond Baghdad.

For Basri, the journey may have answered many questions about her unique Babylonian-Jewish heritage, yet it has left her standing on an unfinished bridge to Baghdad.

Tuesday, December 26, “The Forgotten Refugees” (film).

The Forgotten Refugees, produced by The David Project, explores the history and destruction of Middle Eastern Jewish communities, some of which had existed for over 2,500 years. Employing extensive testimony of survivors from Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, the film recounts the storiesof joy and of suffering that nearly a million individuals have carried with them for so long. Segments on the contributions of Middle Eastern Jews to politics, business and music, testify to the enormously rich cultures which fleeing Jews left behind. The film weaves personal stories with dramatic archival footage of rescue missions, historic images of exodus and resettlement, and analysis by contemporary scholars, to tell the story of how and why the Arab world’s Jewish population declined from one million in 1945 to several thousand today. Lecturer: Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, director of Yeshiva university’s Jacob E. SafraInstitute of Sephardic Studies.

Tuesday, January, 9 , Left Behind: The Forgotten Jews of Ethiopia.

A short film showing the plight of the Ethiopian Jews still left and the efforts of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry’s efforts to help them.

Lecturer: Barbara Ribakove-Gordon, founder and director of the NACOEJ-the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry. Named “Unsung Hero of the Year” in 1986 by the New York Jewish Week, Ribakove Gordon went to Ethiopia in 1981 with the first American mission to Ethiopian Jewish villages.

From there they went to Israel to report to government officials on what they had seen: appalling poverty and illness — and awe-inspiring dignity and Jewish commitment. A few months later NACOEJ was born.

Ribakove-Gordon and other NACOEJ volunteers led 18 missions into Jewish villages, bringing doctors, medicine, clothing, school supplies, and hope.

As Director of NACOEJ, Ribakove-Gordon was summoned to Ethiopia in May, 1991, to participate in Operation Solomon. With two opposing Ethiopian armies holding fire in a temporary armistice, she and two other NACOEJ volunteers helped the Israelis process over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews at the Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa for the historic 36-hour airlift to Israel. The NACOEJ group flew out on the last plane. Today, NACOEJ is the only national organization whose sole agenda is Ethiopian Jewry. In Israel, NACOEJ creates and administers essential educational programs for Ethiopian Jews from elementary school through high school, college and graduate school.

In Ethiopia, NACOEJ provides urgently needed food, education, employment and religious facilities to about 11,000 Jewish men, women and children awaiting the opportunity to join their families in Israel. Ribakove- Gordon travels frequently to Israel, Ethiopia and throughout the United States and Canada on behalf of Ethiopian Jews. Formerly a journalist, Ribakove- Gordon holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, January 16, Lecturer: Dr. Michael Shaml-Zadeh,

Topic: A History of Persia and Antiquity: A discussion of Persian Jewish Life.

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