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Sephardic Jews

Sephardic Jews

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Deal, small N.J.

town with large Jewish community, is flooded with FBI agents in corruption probeby The Star-Ledger Continuous News Desk Thursday July 23, 2009, 1:52 PMDEAL -- This small town was inundated today with FBI agents raiding homes, arresting rabbis and leaving other synagogue members confused and betrayed in today's broad-ranging corruption and international money laundering investigation.Two of the 44 people federal authorities arrested in New Jersey and New York today included two principle rabbis of synagogues in Deal, Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, and Edmund Nahum, of Deal.

Word that local religious leaders had been arrested spread quickly through the town this morning.

Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger Monmouth County and Federal Investigators remove boxes of evidence from a Deal synagogue building as part of an international money laundering and corruption probe that includes rabbis in the Syrian Jewish communities of Deal and Brooklyn.

The building on Norwood Avenue is run by the same rabbi that heads Deal Yeshiva on Wall Street in West Long Branch.

Complete Star-Ledger coverageThe seaside borough, which has about 1,000 residents, has a large constituency of Orthodox Sephardic Jews from Syria.

Few residents in the tight-knit community were willing to talk about the arrests."We were devastated.

Nobody wants to hear that their own rabbis -- that they follow and learn from -- got arrested," said a female worker at a Norwood Avenue hair salon who declined to give her name.Another resident said many in town were stunned their religious leaders were accused of anything illegal."I'm shocked," said one female resident who declined to give her name.

"It's going to be a big problem."Deal has one of the largest population of Syrian Jewish communities in the country.

That the wealthy town of Deal has a Syrian Jewish community at all owes to its place as a summer favorite for Syrian Jews from Brooklyn, over 10,000 of whom visit each June through September.

The ones who stay year-round have built about a dozen Orthodox synagogues and at least four religious schools in Deal.

About two dozen kosher restaurants in the area cater to them.

Syrian Jews came to the United States in increasing numbers in the early 1990s, when then-Syrian President Hafez Assad agreed to let them leave the country.

Few Jews now remain in Syria.

Ben-Haim's synagogue, Ohel Yaacob Synagogue, serves the Sephardic Orthodox Communities of the Jersey Shore Areas and abroad, according to its website.

The synagogue was established in 1983.--Reporters Chris Megerian and Alexi Friedman contributed to this article.Google MapsSee more in Hudson County, Monmouth County, New York City, News, Statehouse
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