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Rabbi Murad Maslaton, A Great Leader

by Sarina Roffé

Rabbi Murad Maslaton was the beloved rabbi for the Ahi Ezer community, in Brooklyn, New York and Damascus, Syria. Born in 1876 in Damascus to Joseph and Rebecca Maslaton, Murad was one of seven children, four boys and three girls. His brother Jacob Tarab Maslaton was the Chief Rabbi of Damascus and Beirut.

Rabbi Murad Maslaton taught Hebrew and Arabic for two decades to Jewish boys and girls at the French High School "Alliance Israelite." While teaching, he also served as cantor for the Hebrat Adi Ezer Congregation in Damascus, where his brother Jacob was the spiritual leader.

By 1920 many Syrian Jews were leaving, or had left, Damascus for America and the promise of a better future. In the years following World War I, many more left Syria and settled in New York's Lower East Side. Unaccepted by their Ashkenazic brethren and unable to understand their Yiddish and strange dialect of Hebrew, these Damascene Jews needed a spiritual leader.

Rabbi Murad Maslaton was persuaded to come to America and lead the Hebrat Ahi Ezer Congregation on the East Side. Under his leadership, the congregation grew and flourished, moving to Bensonhurst into a private house on 64th Street converted into a k'nis. By 1951, the congregation moved into a newly constructed building complete with social hall and a magnificent sanctuary on 71st Street.

Intent on educating the children in the growing community, the rabbi began a Talmud Torah, teaching from 50 to 100 children himself. He was so dedicated to educating the children in Torah, he worked from morning until night, winter and summer, Saturday afternoons and on Sundays as well.

According to his son, Rabbi Sion Maslaton, of the Ahi Ezer Torah Center, his father often missed meals unless his mother or one of his siblings brought food to the synagogue for him.

Rabbi Murad Maslaton was kept busy learning Torah or teaching it to others. After morning minyan, he would often discuss commentary with those who remained. He did the same on Saturday afternoons, as many came to hear him speak.

The rabbi is also remembered for composing beautiful songs for bar mitzvahs and weddings and other happy occasions. He wrote eulogies for the deceased and shared in both happy and sad occasions for members of the community.

Many people came to him when they had problems. The rabbi was very modest, sincere, and objective, not favoring one side of a dispute or the other; always treating everyone alike.

Rabbi Sion Maslaton tells this story of his father:

"A lot of people used to come to him with their problems. He had a special reading for them and a lot them saw the light. One time when my father was in Florida, a man asked him to bless his tree because it was not bearing fruit. my father blessed the tree and it began yielding fruit. Another time someone came and said his son was two or three years old and couldn't talk. My father blessed and he grew and he talks more than anyone."

On Shabbat and on holidays, Rabbi Maslaton always insisted on sharing the meal with others, the first to invite visitors or strangers who visited the shul. His wife welcomed visitors with open arms, preparing enough tasty food for a king.

Rabbi Murad Maslaton also wrote many works, including an interpretation of the Holy Bible with his brother Jacob.

The esteemed and dignified rabbi served Ahi Ezer Congregation for 40 years, passing on in 1959. He is remembered by the entire Ahi Ezer community and his seven children, three boys and four girls.

Sarina Roffé is a career journalist and holds a masters in Jewish Studies. She has researched numerous genealogies including the Kassin and Labaton rabbinic dynasties and is considered an expert in Aleppan Jewry. She is a member of Brooklyn's Syrian Jewish community and the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. of New York. She may be contacted by email at