June 23, 2009 / 1 Tammuz 5769
On June 18th, a scheduled tour the Jewish Agency's Amigour Residence in Bat Yam by Keren Hayesod June Conference members was welcomed with great enthusiasm, including a performance by the facility's very own choir. But as mission participants took their seats and began to meet individual Bat Yam residents, the real drama unfolded.
Itzhak Chayot's story of escape from Syria offered a phenomenal personal account of Syrian Jewish history and survival. In the 1970s, Itzhak and his father were active in assisting Syrian Jews to flee Syria through clandestine channels. As a result of their activities, Itzhak and his father were arrested numerous times and suffered greatly as Prisoners of Zion. Itzhak was certain that the torture he endured daily would end with execution. But with the help of the Israeli Government and Jewish organizations and individuals around the world, Itzhak and his father and family escaped to Israel in the early 1980s. Today, Itzhak is a proud resident in Amigour Bat Yam and, with great emotion in his voice, Itzhak concluded his story by thanking the Jewish Agency and the Keren Hayesod for all their support.
Immediately following Itzhak's story, a small commotion started among the guests. One mission participant stood up and asked, "Do you recognize the name of a woman called "Mrs. Judy" who was involved in your release?"
"Of course," answered Itzhak. "I remember that name very well. Mrs. Judy was chiefly responsible for my escape and the safe rescue of many, many others. She was from Canada I remember. In fact, we all remember her name very well even though none of us has ever met her."
"Well, I would like to tell you that Judy is my wife and she is here sitting next to me in this very room," answered the participant.
The entire room stood in silence as Judy stood up and raced to embrace Itzhak. With tears in their eyes – and the rest of the room speechless at the weight of this very moment – it soon became clear to all: there were two heroes in the crowd. Judy Feld Carr, from Canada, revealed before the crowd that she single-handedly, and from her home, ran a network of supporters, including Israeli Government officials, that saved 3,200 Syrian Jews and clandestinely brought them to Israel. Itzhak's name was on her list and for the first time, Itzhak and Judy were face to face. Itzhak, familiar with the name "Mrs. Judy", as she was known to prisoners, was updated in Hebrew as to what was happening. During the translation of Judy's words, Itzhak, tearful, continued to hug and kiss the real Mrs. Judy. Overwhelmed with emotion, he thanked her over and over again for all her work and dedication that saved so many lives, including his own.
The encounter left everyone sitting in the room – residents, guests and staff alike – speechless and overcome with raw emotions. As one participant noted, "the Jewish world might separate us by large continents but with such dedicated supporters we are all connected in ways we never imagined."