Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
As the peace negotiations between Israel and Syria resumed last December, Canadian music teacher, Judy Feld Carr couldn’t help but wonder why she still needs to raise money to “ransom” a Jewish family that wishes to leave Syria.
Mrs. Judy, as she became known to the many who turned to her for help is now a 60 year old grandmother who for a quarter century during the 70’s and 80’s, from her home in Toronto, struggled to bring the plight of Syrian Jewry to the attention of the world and campaigned for their right to emigrate.
The story of her rescue missions is detailed in “The Ransomed of God,” a 1999 book written by Harold Troper and published by Malcolm Lester Press. Troper is a historian at the Ontario Institute for studies in Education in the University of Toronto.
The book is an amazing, true story of how one Canadian woman entered the shadowy world of international intrigue and breached the walls of the totalitarian regime in Syria to help its Jewish population escape from tyranny.
“The Ransomed of God” provides detailed gripping accounts of the people Feld Carr ransomed and the dramatic details of their rescue. The book also provides insight into the history and lives of the Syrian Jews and the tyrannical nature of the Syrian regime.
A Life Worth Reading About
About 3000 Jews, now living mainly in Israel and the US, owe their freedom to the efforts of one woman: Judy Feld Carr.
Feld Carr was personally involved in “ransoming” thousands of Syrian Jews. Sometimes, she “bought” them out of Syria one by one through the bribing of Syrian officials. Other times, she assisted their escape by smuggling them across Syria’s borders into Lebanon or Turkey.
It all started in 1972, when Feld Carr and her late husband, Dr. Ronald Feld, who then were active on behalf of the Soviet Jewry, read about 12 Jewish men who had been blown up
by land mines while trying to escape from Syria.
The Felds, and a few friends, began organizing a group of “teach in” lectures on Syrian Jewry to raise awareness about their plight.
Later, they decided to try to contact the Syrian Jewish Community by phone. There was no answer, but things happen for a reason. By chance, the first operator they reached in Montreal was a Moroccan-Jewish woman and she was able to help them get through to Syria. However, each time they would get through to the country and ask to speak with someone from the Jewish Community, the Syrian operator would cut the line.
For two weeks they and the Canadian operator tried repeatedly. Ultimately, the Felds got through. However, when they did they were connected to what turned out to be a Syrian informer. The phone calls had to stop.
The next step was to send a telegram to the Syrian Rabbi. Rabbi Harma, asking him if the community needed any religious items or books.
When they received a positive response, true communications began. The Felds and their friends began sending a series of packages to the Rabbi. Included in each, was a coded message buried in biblical quotations about the conditions of the Jews.
Tragedy struck Feld Carr, herself, in 1973. Her husband died of a heart attack at the age of 39 and left Feld Carr alone to care for her three children. Still, the telegrams kept coming – Feld Carr could not say no.
Feld Carr took the money her congregation, Beth Zedek, has supplied for a fund in her husband’s memory and continued assisting the Syrian Jews.
Then, in 1977, Feld Carr, who was remarried to Donald Carr, was made chairman of a Canadian Jewish Congress committee on Jews in Arab lands. Using her position she was able to get her first group of Jew out of the country.
Among the group was an ailing Rabbi from Aleppo, who was tortured repeatedly every time one of his sons escaped. Feld Carr persuaded the Canadian government to grant him an entry visa and bribed a
Syrian official to let him leave so he could get medical treatment. She was able to “purchase” his three daughters’ freedom.
The legend of “Mrs. Judy” became established. As word spread that there was a woman in Toronto who could buy people out of Syria, Feld Carr built up an underground network of Syrian government officials, lawyers and judges willing to accept bribes to let Jews leave.
At times, Feld Carr would spend as much as $15,000 for one Jew, taking the money she collected in Canadian synagogues and at parties and fundraisers. Nobody asked for details of how the money was spent; the people trusted Feld Carr and needed to know only that it was going towards helping the Syrian Jews.
Likewise, most of the Jews Feld Carr helped, never knew her true identity.
The book is profound and moving. Not only does “The Ransomed of God” tell the above facts, but also it demonstrates the strength and dedication both of Jews towards each other and of one woman. When Feld Carr was called to help with a higher cause, she didn’t turn her back. Feld Carr embraced her calling and did what she had to do, as a Jew, to help other Jews escape tyranny and oppression.
Copies of the book can be ordered on the Internet at www.chapters.ca.