“Calling to Remembrance…” [part-eighteen] & AXIOS – MUSTA HAQ – HE IS WORTHY
October Message: “The South End Riots”
The wave of ‘Syrian’ immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century brought with it the creation of an Arabic-language publishing industry. Arabic newspapers and periodicals were the only way for the newly arrived immigrants, with their limited knowledge of English, to keep up with current events. Their proliferation testifies to the immigrants thirst for news about both their native country and their new homeland. Over a twenty year period from the end of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century’s 102 Arabic-language newspapers, periodicals and scholarly journals rolled off a dozen or so Arabic printing presses. Many did not last more than a few issues but several survived for decades.
In those early days, ten Arabic daily newspapers and five magazines were published in New York City alone. Two Arabic dailies were published in Boston and another two in Lawrence with an additional weekly and monthly publication between them. An Arabic-language daily and a semiweekly were published in Detroit and another daily paper was published in Chicago. These publications enjoyed a wide readership throughout the far scattered Arabic speaking immigrant communities. Among the earliest publications were Al-Muhajer [The Emigrant], Al- Jamia [The League] and Al-Funoon [The Arts].
The most popular publications were associated with one or another of the several Syrian religious organizations. The Syrian Greek Orthodox published Kawkab Amrika [Planet America] the first Arabic-language newspaper published in the United States in 1892. It had some 30,000 copies per issue, distributed in both the US and the Ottoman Empire. The news represented the views of Orthodox Lebanese Christians. Other Orthodox publications were Miraat Al-Gharb [The Mirror of the West] and Al-Kalimah [The Word]. The Lebanese Maronites published Al-Hoda [The Guidance]. The Druze community printed Al-Bayan [The Explanation]. Often these publications perpetuated religious, regional and tribal conflicts carried over from the old country that more properly belonged to the past.
In 1905, the newly consecrated head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Mission in North America, Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny became the target of repeated editorial attacks by Noaum Mokarzel of the Maronite Al-Hoda. Accused of being pro Russian and not sufficiently Arab or Syrian, Bishop Raphael withstood numerous personal insults in Mokarzel’s press. The bishop was accused of advocating violence, blessing weapons, inciting a riot and putting out a contract on a Maronite opponent. He was actually arrested and booked on a bogus charge of attempted murder. Najeeb Diab of the Orthodox publication Mirat Al-Ghab took up the bishop’s defense and eventually his name was cleared and his reputation preserved.
The ‘war of printed words’ between Mokarzel and Diab escalated throughout the summer of 1905 and soon spilled over into the streets as rival Syrian factions squared off in front of each other. A riot in the Manhattan Syrian Colony was covered by the New York Times with the headline “Factional War Is Waged Between Syrians of New York” the by-line read “Cutting and Shooting. Brother against Brother, Villagers against Villagers, Old Time Friends are Parted. Voices of Women Heard.” The story offers this vivid account, “Wild-eyed Syrians battled fiercely in the lower west side last night. The dim light from barroom and café windows showed the glint of steel in two hundred swarthy hands. Reserves from three police precincts were rushed to the battleground.” The riot lasted for days and resulted in one death and countless injuries including several stabbings.
Boston’s ‘Little Syria’ was quickly caught-up in the sectarian feuding. Tempers, fueled by the caustic newspaper attacks, were running high that summer. A heat wave had enveloped the city sending the temperature into the 90’s. The hot humid weather, the cramped and overcrowded living quarters, the uncomfortable working conditions in the local factories and the dredging up of old-world religious animosities proved too much for the ‘Colony’ to bear. The fuse was lit and it was a short one.
On Sunday afternoon, July 9th two children of the Deeban family of Hudson Street, who were Orthodox, were walking past #73 Harvard Street when a certain Mrs. Zebub, who was Maronite, threw a bucket of water over the kids. Under normal circumstances, it may have been a welcome relief from the 98 degree heat but circumstances were anything but normal that summer and the Deeban’s and their neighbors were quickly drawn into a feud. Within minutes fighting broke out on Harvard Street and escalated throughout the afternoon, spilling over into Albany and Hudson Streets. The ‘Boston Post’ reported that the rioting held the neighborhood in a ‘state of terror’. Besides the ‘Boston Post’, the report was carried in the ‘Boston Globe’, the ‘Boston Herald’ and in papers across the country.
By early evening over 250 men and women of the ‘Syrian Colony’ were in the streets armed with sticks and clubs going at each other. Most carried clubs the size of a policeman’s night stick. Stuck up under their shirts or coats, they were quickly retrieved, used and then concealed. One of the Orthodox, named Fhenoni had his forehead split opened at the beginning of the fighting and was taken to City Hospital. He later returned bandaged and with a red bandanna tied around his head. Armed with a club, Fhenoni took up the charge once again. Some rioters were reported to have pistols and there was fear that they may use them.
One Orthodox youth was seized by a gang of rivals and was being clubbed when a squad of Police arrived. Led by Sergeant O’Brian, Patrolman from Police Division 4 and the LaGrange Street Precinct along with reserves fought throughout the evening to restore order. That night they patrolled the neighborhood dispersing crowds and arresting the belligerents. By morning, fighting broke out again.
The fresh round of mayhem brought out nearly 200 rioters and lasted throughout the morning with sporadic attacks on almost every street of the ‘Colony’. By afternoon a reinforced Police squad was finally able to restore order. The South End Riot lasted twenty-four hours and sent 25 people to the hospital with serious injuries. Dozens were arrested and spent days in jail. Thankfully, no one was killed.
Throughout the day and night of the riot, Fr. George Maloof of St. George Church accompanied Sgt. O’Brien and officers Joe Hughes, Patrick Mahoney and Alphonsus Butler exhorting his parishioners to ‘stop fighting, be peaceful and forgive their neighbors.’ The by-line in the newspapers referred to Fr. George Maloof as the ‘Peacemaker’ in the ‘Syrian Colony’. Indeed he stayed out all night visiting his parishioners and persuading them not to take up arms again. In the afternoon, after the riot had subsided, the papers report that Fr. George compelled ‘his faction to apologize to the other’. He lined them up and had them go from block to block asking forgiveness. It’s reported that the Police were stunned at such a spectacle. He then went to the Precinct and asked that the jailed rioters of both factions be released on his recognizance, several were.
Although it took years for tensions between the two rival religious factions to die down there never was another riot in the South End. Thanks, in large part, to the peacemaking efforts and pacifying nature of Fr. George Maloof, the Orthodox Syrians of the ‘Colony’ discovered ways to coexist with their neighbors without letting village feuds from the old-world distract them from their task of making a bright future for themselves and their families in a new homeland. His example as a loving father and peacemaker is our lasting heritage here at St. George. We pray that Fr. George continues to inspire, guide and protect his community and we ask his intercession as we continue to build on his expert example.
November Message: AXIOS – MUSTA HAQ – HE IS WORTHY
On Saturday evening, 6 December 2014, His Eminence Archbishop JOSEPH will be enthroned as the Metropolitan of New York and All North America for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X will preside over this historical event, which will take place during the Vesper service at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY.
Metropolitan JOSEPH is the seventh Primate of our Antiochian Archdiocese since the first parish, St, Nicholas Cathedral was founded over 115 years ago, St, George of Boston being the second oldest parish in North America. Our first Primate from 1898 to 1907 was the Russian Archbishop St. Tikhon [Bellavin] who established the ‘Syrian Mission’ to minister to the needs of our Arabic speaking immigrants. He was recalled to Russia in 1907 and was later elected Patriarch of Moscow. He died in 1925 during the first Communist persecution of the Church. He was canonized in 1989 as a Saint and Confessor for the Faith. His successor in North America from 1907 to 1915 was St. Raphael [Hawaweeny] whose great missionary impulse resulted in the rapid growth of our Archdiocese during the first decade of the 20th Century. He was canonized a Saint in 2000. St. Raphael encouraged the establishment of our parish and was a regular visitor to St. George of Boston. A portion of his sacred relics is preserved on our altar.
St. George of Boston is blessed with a personal link to three Orthodox Saints of the last century. In addition to St. Tikhon and St. Raphael, we have a link with St. Nicholas the last Czar of Russia. As Czar and overseer of the Orthodox Church in Russia and Mission Territories, he sanctioned the founding of our parish and provided our first Icons and sacred vessels for Devine Services at the first Orthodox church in Boston. He was canonized as a Confessor of the Faith in 1981.
Archbishop Aftimios [Ofiesh] who served from 1917 to 1924 succeeded St. Raphael, after a period of turmoil and indecision. In 1924, the Patriarch of Antioch appointed Archbishop Victor [Abo Assaly] to serve the Antiochian faithful in North America. Archbishop Victor was technically the first Antiochian Hierarch in America and St. George of Boston officially became an Antiochian parish at that time. Upon his death in 1934, the Archdiocese was administered by Archimandrite Anthony[Bashir] who then became Metropolitan in 1936. Another great missionary, Metropolitan Anthony expanded the size of the Archdiocese during his ministry while contending with dissension among some fellow Antiochians. A frequent visitor to St. George of Boston, his nephew and names sake Dr. Anthony Bashir is a member of our parish, Metropolitan was well respected and loved by the faithful here. He died on 15 February 1966 while visiting us here in Boston. Metropolitan Philip [Saliba] succeeded Metropolitan Anthony in 1966 and many of our parishioners participated in his election. All of us had the honor and privilege of knowing Metropolitan Philip. In addition to frequent visits here for various occasions, he regularly presided over our annual Patronal Feast Day celebrations where he looked forward to greeting our children and our parish family. Our devoted Father in Christ fell asleep in the Lord this past spring. The vision, unity and strength that our Archdiocese enjoys are his lasting legacy.
Metropolitan JOSEPH was nominated by the Archdiocese in June and elected by the Holy Synod of Antioch in July as the successor to Metropolitan Philip. He arrived here from Damascus as a Bishop and served our Archdiocese for over twenty years. As we await his official enthronement in early December, we already experience the paternal love and concern he has for his bishops, priests and people and the passion he brings to his new ministry as overseer of our beloved Archdiocese. Under his leadership, we are invited to join Metropolitan Joseph in his vision for the future wellbeing of our Church in North America and the sustained growth of the Antiochian Archdiocese.
In 1907, hundreds of faithful Arab Orthodox immigrants from Boston joined Fr. George D. Maloof, the founder of our parish, and journeyed to New York by train in order to attend the consecration and enthronement of St. Raphael Hawaweeny, the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in North America. Now, many of us are planning to attend this historical event as our Patriarch installs Metropolitan Joseph as our new Primate and Chief Shepherd. Please plan to be with us in Brooklyn on Saturday evening 6 December as we offer the prayers of Vespers and participate in this moving and rare occasion.
On behalf of all the parishioners at St. George, we have placed a full-page greeting in the commemorative journal being prepared for the event. Complete details for the Enthronement week-end can be found in the current issue of The Word Magazine and also at the Archdiocese website http://www.antiochian.org/ please consult and schedule to join us in Brooklyn.
We look forward to welcoming Metropolitan Joseph to St. George of Boston in the near future and introducing him to our beloved community. Together, we join in prayers and best wishes for our new Father in Christ, Metropolitan Joseph and fervently ask that God will grant him ‘Many Years’.
Prayers and Blessings,