Wednesday, August 5, 2020 -
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Last shul in Aleppo

The central synagogue of Aleppo in Syria has been badly damaged as a result of fighting in Syria's civil war. (Amaliah)Mordechai “’Moti’” Kahana, president of the Amaliah humanitarian organization, is conducting an emergency campaign to save the last remnants of the Jewish community of Aleppo in war-torn northern Syria. In particular, Kahana and his organization are engaged in an effort to preserve the central synagogue of Aleppo as well as its Torah and religious books.

“”We need to act very quickly,”” the American-Israeli businessman told Tazpit Press Service.

Kahana established Amaliah —— Arabic for “good,” Hebrew for “work of G-d” —— shortly following the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011 as an organization providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.

More recently Kahana has been focusing his organization’s efforts on preserving Jewish heritage following his success last year in rescuing the last remaining Jews in Syria. “”We rescued the last Jews of Aleppo and now we need to rescue the Torah,”” he said.

“”There are 2,000 years of documentation and evidence belonging to the Jewish community in that synagogue and surrounding area. We need to move them out before they get destroyed.””

Kahana coordinates with many sources among Syria’s moderate opposition groups in order to achieve his objectives.

“”My guys in the north started contacting me to tell me that the oldest synagogue in Aleppo was about to get destroyed,” Kahana said. “My guys were watching and protecting it until Assad started bombing the area a few days ago.””

He emphasized that he is not as concerned about Assad’’s bombardment as he is about what Assad’’s Iranian and Hezbollah allies would do after taking control of Aleppo.

““The Assad regime going back to Bashar al-Assad’’s father has protected the synagogue for the last 50 years, but I do not think Assad has control over Syria any longer,”” said Kahana. “”I think the Iranians and Hezbollah are the ones making the decisions with Russian air power backing them.””

““I’’m afraid Hezbollah will try to clean out the area,”” continued Kahana.

““They are not going to necessarily look for Jewish and non-Jewish remains. Those guys don’’t care for Jewish artifacts,”” he claimed.

Kahana also recognizes the potential dangers posed by ISIS as well as by the other radical Islamist groups fighting the Syrian government.

“”They are of course terrorists who would try to kill me and my family and of course I am not supportive of them or work with those groups in any way,”” Kahana acknowledged.

“”If ISIS does take control, they’’re going to destroy Jewish heritage as well, but ISIS is not at the gates of Aleppo right now.””

Kahana plans to temporarily store the synagogue’s Torah as well as other rescued items from Syria in New York “for safekeeping” to be returned at a later date.

“When the war is over and the Jewish community can go back and rebuild the synagogue, the Torah will be sent back, if that is the wish of the Aleppo Jewish community,” said Kahana.

Kahana would like Israel to assume a role in helping to protect Aleppo’’s synagogue and its surrounding area as well.

“”Israel is trying to do as much as it can, but I think Israel should ask Russian President Putin to stop carpet-bombing the area,”” Kahana added to TPS. ““There is a 500-year-old Jewish cemetery where the bombs went off, and Israel should be in touch with Putin to make sure the area is not damaged.””

For Kahana, “the optimal scenario would have both the Syrian opposition and Russia working together to save the synagogue’s Torah and books,” Kahana said to TPS.

Kahana believes that the many moderate Muslims in Syria can have a role in his emergency campaign. “”The ones who helped me and my organization save Syria’s last Jews were Muslims inside Syria,”” noted Kahana.

““I help human beings because we as Jewish people will help any human being so long as they do not want to kill us.””

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