Judy Feld Carr, Human Rights Activist, is Born, 1938
https://www.instagram.com/p/CX9aA63N_nG/ December 26, 1938
Born on December 26, 1938, in Montreal, Quebec, Judy Feld Carr is a Canadian musicologist and human rights activist who continue the she and her husband started to save 3,228 Syrian Jews from Syria. Growing up in Sudbury, Ontario, Carr’s father, Jack Leve, was a leader of the small Jewish community. Upon leaving Sudbury for the University of Toronto, Judy’s father reminded her of her Jewish upbringing, and to identify strongly with Jewish issues.
After earning her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education, Carr came across a 1972 article in the Jerusalem Post, that covered the plight of Syrian Jews. Alongside her husband Dr. Ronald Feld, Carr organized a Syrian Jewish support committee to make the general public aware of the existence of Syrian Jewry and the hardships they were going through. After Israel miraculously won the 6-day war in 1967, the already-small Jewish community in Syria was subjected to violence as well as economic and travel restrictions.
While the Syrian government despised its Jewish population, emigration was denied as they did not want the Jewish population to move to Israel. For those that managed to escape, the family and friends left behind in Syria were subjected to brutal consequences. As part of the support committee, Carr made efforts to contact a Jewish community representative in Damascus. The representative, Rabbi Ibrahim Hamra contacted the group of Canadians through telegrams. The first few correspondences with the Jews of Damascus involved sending packages of religious books for the community. After packaging the books, Carr laid a $50 bill on top in the hopes that if Syrian officials opened the package, they would simply take the money and leave the books alone.
Carr’s husband died suddenly a few years after they began working with the Syrian Jewish community. Left as a single parent with 3 children, Carr continued her work. In honour of Dr. Feld’s memory, the Board of Governors of Beth Tzedec, the Conservative synagogue to which they belonged, founded the Dr. Ronald Feld Fund for Jews in Arab Lands to support the Syrian work. Donations quickly came in from across North America.
By 1982, Carr was remarried and quit her teaching work in order to further support the Syrian Jewish community. That same year, Carr was elected as the first female president of Beth Tzedec, while also serving as the Chair of the National Committee for Jews in Arab Lands of Canadian Jewish Congress. When Carr was asked to bring a Rabbi to Toronto from Syria in order to receive cancer treatment, she became intrigued with the possibility of saving Syrian Jewry. Working with members of an underground network and raising money, Carr began to work to get more Jews out of Syria.
Although it was difficult to get an entire family to leave Syria together, Carr was able to bargain for each individual family member. However, the bribes did not always work, and she would sometimes have to resort to paying off people on the escape route. Carr began paying smugglers who aided individuals in their journey across the well-guarded Syrian-Turkish borders. For many of those who made it to Turkey, they soon left for Israel. For those who did not make it to Turkey, Syrian officials wanted legitimate excuses as to why they should permit the Jews to leave. Carr pled for medical treatment, business concerns, education and visiting family members who they had been unable to see since 1948 when Jewish exit from Syria was forbidden. In the 1990s when peace between Israel and Syria seemed possible, Syria lifted most of their barriers placed against Jewish departure from the country. It was unclear how long this opportunity would last, so Carr put in as much effort as she could to remove the remaining Syrian Jews, the last of which arrived in the US on September 11, 2001.
From 1973-2001, Carr rescued 3228 Syrian Jews. While the Feld Fund closed in 2003, it was only in 2019 that her rescue efforts were widely shared with the world. In 2012, then-President Shimon Peres presented Carr with The Presidential Award of Distinction of the State of Israel.