Jun 6, 2011

Syrian Commotion


This weekend there was a disruption in the Syrian community. When the protests first began in Syria, there was a demonstration of support for Assad and the Syrian government here in Allentown. Allentown's Syrian community dates back to the 1900 era, when many families migrated from Amar, in the valley of the Christians. The Syrians, Jews and other ethnic groups lived and worked together in the 6th Ward. Second Street was almost exclusively home to the Jews and Syrians. In 1903 practically every house in the 600 block was Jewish, including my grandparents. Although the Jews migrated up town to 6th Street, there still is a Syrian presence in the Ward. Hafez Assad, father of the current president, supposedly had a Christian nanny, and an affinity for the minority. Ties between Second Street and the homeland have existed for many decades, including Syrian Ambassadors speaking at local events. In more recent years, newer immigrants have a more personal experience with the realities of the current regime. Tensions between the two groups, newer immigrants and the community here for a hundred years, erupted at a protest this weekend in center city. I invite my friends of Syrian descent to elaborate on this post.

14 comments:

gary ledebur said...

I have just finished the new book on Gandhi by Joseph Lelyveld. He points out that Gandhi believed that the only way for Hindus and Muslims to live in peace was to live in peace, village by village. If Syrians and Jews can live peacefully in Allentown then it can be done in Jerusalem. I commend you for supporting this cause in your village.

michael molovinsky said...

gary, my father's generation was close to the syrians, as was mine. as a teenager, i attended christmas mass at their church with my syrian friends. although one on one relationships have been maintained, i know that there is profound israel bashing at their enclaves.

fyi, gandhi had some controversial attitudes about the jews and israel. his son recently was forced to resign from some positions in rochester, for outright anti-jewish and israel statements. even the gandhi family thought jews should know their place.

gary ledebur said...

Mohandas Gandhi and his wife had four sons. The oldest died in the 1960s. His grandson, Arun, spoke out against Israel. I don't think we should judge the Mahatma by the words of one of his many grandchildren. Non-violent resistance ended British rule in India. Pretty powerful, if I do say.

As to Allentown, more Jews and Christians, as well as Muslims, should worship together. Prayer, especially community prayer, can be potent. Take a Syrian to synagogue.

ironpigpen said...

The pretty power of non-violent protest, huh?

Um, er, ah, yeah --- there's the real ticket.

Gee, if only THAT had been the policy adopted by the Jews in Adolf Hitler's Germany during the 1930s!

If only Neville Chamberlain would have known about this...then history could have been different.

Liberlism is a complete mental disorder, auf meiner Meinung.

Anonymous said...

Mike,I can relate to what you say about a segment of life in the "ward".The ward was a melting pot and unlike today had a sense of pride attached even though was for the most part shunned by the penna dutch majority in the city.Despite the poverty of those pre ww2 days the ward was never trashed up like it is today.

gary ledebur said...

IronPigpen: You can say what you want but Gandhi and Martin Luther King were very successful at changing their respective countries. To quote a Jewish guru, "An eye for an eye and pretty soon the whole world is blind."

michael molovinsky said...

gary, gandhi suggested that the jews not resist hitler, but that they should sacrifice themselves and pray for him. your quote is not from a jewish guru, but also from gandhi. he may inspire you, but not me.

gary ledebur said...

Obviously by not following Gandhi the Jews in Germany were better off? Perhaps if his way was followed the outcome could have been better. How could it have been worse? Ahimsa is not just submission to evil but a proactive, non-violent, active resistance.

michael molovinsky said...

No doubt Gandhi’s position flowed out of his total opposition to violence and his unwavering commitment to non-violence as the only acceptable response. However, to tell Jews not to resist Hitler but pray for him and offer themselves as sacrifices is more than bizarre. It’s insensitive, demeaning and cruel. karan thapar, hindustan times, 1/22/11

gary ledebur said...

so little faith in God and prayer

michael molovinsky said...

gary, understand that opposing colonialism by an outnumbered civilized britain, is very different than facing genocide by history's most brutal regime. gandhi's comments on the nazi's and jews were his weakest statements. glad you read a book about gandhi, but your statement so little faith in God and prayer strongly suggests that you should read some books about the holocaust.

gary ledebur said...

One of my intellectual mentors over the last forty years has been Victor Frankl. I was privileged to have had a meeting with him before he died. I have and have read all his books. Have you?

michael molovinsky said...

gary, i was not familiar with him, just read a short wiki. hard for me to relate to someone who spent his first internment treating concentration camp prisoners for depression, now that's irony. also hard to relate to gandhi's views on jews, the holocaust, and israel. to me there was nothing positive about the holocaust. gandhi suggested the jews commit suicide instead of going to concentration camps. this frankl worked to prevent suicide in concentration camps, and you relate to both of them?

gary ledebur said...

Frankl was a physician. He took what he learned from the camps and created a school of psychotherapy that I believe is more than that. It is a philosophy for life. Gandhi was a social revolutionary and worked with what resources he had. He believed that prayer, resistance even to the point of suicide were tools to be utilized against oppression. No conflict here.