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December 26: Rescuing Syrian Jews

December 26, 2013

Carr-JudyJudy Feld Carr, a Canadian musicologist and music educator who helped ransom, smuggle out, and gain exit visas for thousands of Syrian Jews between 1973 and 2001, was born in Montreal on this date in 1938. Over the course of twenty-eight years, Carr used privately donated funds to expedite personally the release of at least 3,228 Syrian Jews. In the late 1960s, she and her physician husband were involved in the Soviet Jewry campaign and then became advocates for the 6,000-strong Jewish community of Syria, which lived in a state of constant bribery and extortion, imprisonment and persecution. Over the years, primarily through bribery, Judy Carr (her husband died in 1973) arranged for many hundreds of individual Syrian Jews to come to the U.S. or Israel, and in the 1990s, when Syria officially lifted most barriers to Jewish departures during a “thaw” with Israel, she continued to bribe Syrian officials to expedite the issuing of passports and exit visas while the doors remained open. “Her work done,” writes Harold Troper at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “Feld Carr emerged from the shadows to overdue public recognition. Along with honorary degrees and accolades from Jewish and Israeli organizations, she was awarded the Order of Canada, the highest award Canada can give a citizen, in 2001.”

“We were buying Jews, one by one, from a hostile government. It was the best-kept secret in the Jewish world.” —Judy Feld Carr