B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven
The Sephardic Perspective
By Shelomo Alfassa

The Newkirk Avenue, New York City Subway station, was created by the 'Brooklyn Grade Crossing Elimination Commission' when they sought to run the trains below ground in order to speed up efficiency and primarily to reduce potential accidents from when the train ran above ground. Work started on August 1, 1904 and was completed July 1, 1908.

Newkirk was opened around 1900 as a two-track surface station named South Midwood, a reference to its location at the southern end of the former Town of Flatbush, which was also historically known as Midwood. Yet, what is 100 years old today is the station as you see it today.

The line where the Q and B train runs today was once called the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island RR, a steam train line, known as "the Brighton line." The Brooklyn Grade Crossing Elimination Commission was created by the New York State legislature on May 9, 1903 to accomplish the goal of providing fully grade separated rights-of-way for the BRT's Brighton Beach Line and the Bay Ridge and Manhattan Beach lines of the LIRR.

One year before the grade crossing at Newkirk was complete, while there was still only a single track on the "Brighton Beach Division" line (Modern Q/B train), two trains crashed head-on at Newkirk Avenue station. Three cars were derailed, two almost overturned, and the third WAS crushed beneath a heavy wooden bridge which the force of the collision shook down from its position across the cut.

According to train historian Bob Diamond, the line was electrified in 1899, when it was connected into the Fulton Street EL, permitting service between lower Manhattan and Brighton Beach. The work mostly included elevating and depressing the line for the elimination of grade crossings, the construction of steel bridges and the construction of sewers to aid real estate development along the route. When on the surface, the station was a division point at which short-lined elevated trains of the Fulton Street Elevated lines terminated.

A project completed November 2, 1964 lengthened the platforms in the northward direction. The open cut was widened for about 40m and the tracks rearranged to fit the platform extensions. Newkirk is the "next stop" from Kings Highway which is in the heart of the most vibrant Sephardic community in North America.

Now you know more than you wanted to about the Newkirk Station!

Plaque: http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?84123

Photos: http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/stations?193:2147

The first ever hearing in the British Parliament on the subject of Jewish refugees from Arab countries will take place on Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 7:00-9:00 pm in the House of Lords, Committee Corridor, Committee Room 2A.

Convened by Labour MP John Mann and Lord Anderson of Swansea, this Joint Briefing is being organized by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) in association with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

When the issue of 'refugees' is raised within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer only to 'Palestinian refugees'. Neither the mass violations of human rights, nor the displacement of Jews from Arab countries, has ever been adequately addressed by the international community. This Joint Briefing will underscore that two refugee populations emerged as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and will assess the most appropriate role that the UK should play in seeking to resolve issues affecting all Middle East refugees.

Featured speakers will include renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert who will speak on the "Historical Narrative and the UK's Response to Middle East Refugees" and former Canadian Minister of Justice, The Hon. Irwin Cotler, MP who will speak on" International Law and Middle East Refugees." Two former refugees will testify on their flight from Iraq and Egypt and their resettlement in the UK.

Invited to the Joint Briefing will be Members of the House of Lords and House of Commons, government and Foreign & Commonwealth Office senior staff as well as the international and national NGOs and the media. Persons interested in more information should contact Stanley Urman (US cellphone) 917-640-8028 or email info(at)justiceforjews.com.

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries
(JJAC) is an international coalition of major Jewish communal organizations operating to ensure that justice for Jews from Arab countries assumes its rightful place on the international political agenda and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity.

by Shelomo Alfassa

I wish to thank my friend Amb. Yossi Ben-Aharon for contributing toward this essay.

Hakham Mordehai Eliyahu has been in the recent news after suffering major health ailments, yet, he remains strong. During this period, where calls for public prayers in his name have been established, some unfamiliar with him have asked, "who is this rabbi?"

Hakham Mordehai Eliyahu is the former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel that served from 1982 to 1993 and is a member of the Bet Din Harabani Hagadol (Supreme Rabbinical Court) based in Jerusalem. Hakham Eliyahu is considered one of the leading Zionist rabbis and certainly one of the most popular and charismatic rabbinical leaders in all of Israel.

The rabbi was born in the Old City of Jerusalem in British-occupied Palestine during the dark year of 1929 when Arabs attacked, killed and maimed over 100 Jews throughout Hebron, Jaffa, Safed and other towns. A consequence of these sad events was an increased growth in Jewish nationalism and intensification of Jewish self-determination for Jews all over the holy land. Hakham Eliyahu's upbringing was one imbibed with a rigorous love of the land of Israel which helped him become a staunch defender of such, first inspired by his father, the Iraqi-born rabbi, Hakham Salman Eliyahu (1878-1940). The elder Eliyahu was not only considered a respected rabbi and mekubal (kabbalist) of Jerusalem, but he also had been educated in London. As a result of his Western education, he later served as personal secretary of the British High Commissioner of the Palestine British Mandate, Lord Herbert L. Samuel (1870-1963) -- the first Jew to govern the historic land of Israel in 2,000 years...

--continued in the full essay here: http://www.alfassa.com/m_e.html

by Shelomo Alfassa

It is with great sadness that I have learned from colleagues in Paris that Prof. Richard Ayoun, Jewish historian and lecturer in Sephardic language and civilization has passed away. He was a professor at University of Paris / Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO). He also held the Alberto Benveniste Chair in Sephardic Studies, Faculty of Letters, at University of Lisbon.


Richard Ayoun was known for his hundreds of written works, on topics including the Jews of France, Jews of Morocco, Spanish Jews in Algeria, Portuguese Crypto-Jews, the rabbis of France, the Alliance Israélite Universelle as well as others.


His three most well known books include: Typologie d'une carriere rabbinique L'exemple de Mahir Charleville, Nancy, Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1993, 2 vol. 2004 /  Les Juifs de France de l'emancipation a l'integration (1787-1812), Paris, L’Harmattan, (coll. Judaismes), 1997 / Un Grand rabbin au XIXe siecle : Mahir Charleville 1814-1888, Paris, Cerf, 1999.


His contributions to the greater Jewish world, and specifically on Sephardic studies, will live on to educate others in the future. I know many of my friends involved in Jewish studies are also mourning his sudden loss, and I wish them only comfort in this time of sadness.


Photo of Prof. Ayoun: http://www.flickr.com/photos/72881954@N00/93817367/




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'A Window Into Old Jerusalem'
by Shelomo Alfassa


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The source for original political and historical commentary and observations
from a Sephardic Jewish worldview. Sephardic Jews are Jews descendant
from Iberia as well as the former Ottoman Empire, including, North Africa,
the Balkans, Turkey and the Near East.

© Original Material is Copyrighted by Shelomo Alfassa - All Rights Reserved