Preserving the Customs of Jewish Damascus

Moshe Chadid, an Argentine-born Jerusalem rabbi, has devoted much of his career to preserving the unique religious rites and traditions of his Damascus ancestors. Toward that end, he is publishing a series of liturgical works, many of which have been passed down either orally or only in manuscript form. Eliezer Hayun writes:

“For years,” [said Chadid], “[Damascene] communities used notes kept by the elderly that [detailed their] ancient customs. On Yom Kippur, for example, we commemorate the greatest rabbis who served in the city of Damascus in the past, going back 300 years, immediately after the Kol Nidrei prayer. The [names of] dozens of rabbis with their specific titles are now printed in our Yom Kippur prayer book.” . . .

Chadid recently completed what appears to be his greatest project: reviving the bakashot, a collection of supplications, songs, and prayers that were sung by community members at their synagogues in the small hours of Friday night, generation after generation.

The bakashot were a dominant component of [Jewish communal life in] Damascus. . . . Every Friday night, for hundreds of years, Damascene Jews would gather and sing the songs from midnight until dawn.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Mizrahi Jewry, Piyyut, Prayer, Religion & Holidays, Syrian Jewry

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy