I’m sure you have heard about the Syrian Jewish community. It’s world famous for its heritage and tradition. I’m commissioned to do a year long advertising project for one of the biggest and most successful schools of the Syrian Jewish community. When we accepted this project I thought: Oh nice, another nice project.
Little did I know how inspiring this would be, and today I want to share our short first ad for this client with you. Filming this event really blew me away:
We went yesterday, one day before Yom Kippur, to the Magen David Congregation Synagogue in Brooklyn that I believe was the first Synagogue that the Syrian Jews built in Brooklyn after arriving in the U.S. almost 100 years ago. So, it has a lot of history to it – so much, in fact, that it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.&
After the Syrian Jews arrived and built tons of successful businesses here, they started to move away from that neighborhood and into different areas and build new shuls. But this one historic synagogue still remains with its beautiful architecture in the Romanesque Revival style with lots of detailed stones, round arched windows, and a red terra cotta roof – definitely a sight to behold in the middle of Brooklyn.
But while this landmark saw its heyday in the 40’s and 50’s before the Syrian Jewish community expanded beyond Bensonhurst, the youth of the Syrian Jewish community from Magen David Yeshiva High School still come once a year during the holy 10 Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to say selichot in a very moving service that I just have to share with you.
When I was told that we would shoot there for the Selichot services I was like: cool. When I first arrived I was stunned by the synagogue’s beauty, the likes of which you don’t see very often in the US. Then the students arrived sat down and we started the selichot service.
The service was led by none other then the famous and unbelievable Chazan Mordechai Salem. Once he started to chant the first prayers of Selichot, it immediately penetrated my soul to the degree that I was so moved that I was almost crying. No kidding. And my wife can tell you I’m such a tough guy that I pretty much never ever cry.
We in the Ashkenaz world often don’t know what “real” davening/prayer” is. But this is the kind of prayer that when you hear it, it makes you want to just shut yourself in shul and pray all day long.
The Syrian Jews are known for honoring elders, and through this annual “pilgrimage” so to say – the youth of their community are brought into the tradition of honoring their grandparents and great grandparents who took the leap and moved to the US, building great legacies as immigrants, including this beautiful synagogue and school and community.
We originally were just going to use this footage as part of another film but it was just too moving, and many in the school felt we should share it now in order to inspire others – you – before the holiest day of the year. By sending it out to the students and parent body of Magen David Yeshiva, we hope to commemorate the founders of the MDY community and in their merit, be sealed in the book of life for the coming year.
It is something that I think the Syrian Jewish community should be proud of.