Preserving the Customs of Jewish Damascus

July 28 2015

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.

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Read more at Ynet

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

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism