Apr 3, 2015

Allentown's Historic Syrian Community


When my grandfather first arrived in Allentown he lived in the Ward, on 2nd. Street. It was around 1895 and the neighborhood was full of immigrants. Some groups came from the same area in the old country, most noticeably the Syrians, from the village of Amar*. They were Antiochian Orthodox, a minority in a Muslim country. The congregation of St. George's Church on Catasauqua Ave., largely is descended from those immigrants. Well known names in Allentown, such as Atiyeh, Haddad, Hanna, Makoul, Koury and Joseph are among their members. They were among one of the first groups to organize, and those organizations still exist. The photo above was organized by the Syrian American Organization in 1944. Note that Jewish, on the left, is treated as a nationality.

* hopefully my Syrian friends will correct any historical errors I have made.

click on photo to enlarge

UPDATE: The above post is reprinted from March of 2010. I have repeated the post several times since over the years, and have written other posts concerning Allentown's historic Syrian Community as well. Although I didn't grow up in the Ward, I grew up with their children, who had by then also lived in other sections of town. Throughout the 1950's and 60's, the organized Syrian community wielded considerable strength in local Democratic politics. I assure you that Pawlowski went hat in hand to their leadership even in 2005. This week at least a portion of the community came to City Council, hat in hand; Pawlowski had denied their request for a Syrian Flag ceremony at City Hall. The Syrian political influence in Allentown has been somewhat weakened by a large migration of that community to Whitehall. I will also concede on Pawlowski's part that the current politics of Syria is indeed very complicated. That reality aside, the large local Syrian community deserves some public recognition of it's historic role and roots.

3 comments:

DreamingOfJustice said...

ANY immigrant community- especially Puerto Ricans- need to organize, and get out the vote. That is the key to accomplishing any sort of change in down town Allentown. When Puerto Rican residents get sick and tired of having to bus themselves miles away to shop at a full service grocery; when they tire of the gang related crime; and organize their numbers to be represented will City Hall begin to listen to their needs. The slight regard these residents are given is reflected in the way their streets are not plowed after a snowfall, the way their blocks were razed to make way for the monstrous arena. They are a largely invisible People in Allentown. I hope the Puerto Rican residents will learn to organize through their churches, which served African-Americans well.

Anonymous said...

I left Allentown about 8 ears ago. I do remember flag raising ceremonies at City Hall.Once again there was some hidden agenda here that will never be known.Why make enemies when You don't have to

Anonymous said...

My great grand father Sam Domit settled on Railroad St in 1895 after coming from Syria, I remember a vibrant neighborhood, where everybody mostly got along and worked hard in the nearby factories. I was sad to see it all go away, especially our homes on Railroad st.