Posts tagged Moses Abihider
June 10, 1870: The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church created the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. Previously, Alaska — or, before its 1867 sale to the United States, “Russian America” — was part of the Diocese of Kamchatka.
Making Alaska its own diocese was part of the transition in the wake of the 1867 sale. Four weeks later, Bishop John Mitropolsky was consecrated to head the new Alaskan diocese, but he actually set up his headquarters in San Francisco — outside of the official diocesan territory.
June 8, 1891: After three years of unceasing scandal, the Russian Holy Synod removed Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky and reassigned him to a see in Russia. He was replaced by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, who stabilized the diocese and oversaw its expansion throughout the United States.
June 4, 1896: Mikhail Borisovitch Maximovitch was born in the province of Kharkov, in what is now Ukraine. He went on to become the great Archbishop John, serving as a ROCOR bishop in Shanghai, Western Europe, and finally San Francisco. He was canonized in 1994.
June 5, 1901: Fr. Misael Karydis, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in New Orleans, committed suicide in a New York hotel. In December 2009, I wrote a pair of articles on this tragic (and mysterious) incident; click HERE and HERE to read them.
Fr. Misael was born in Bulgaria in October 1847. He came to New Orleans in 1880 or ’81, and was the priest there for 20 years. Those 20 years witnessed tremendous changes in American Orthodoxy. When Fr. Misael arrived, his New Orleans parish was one of just three Orthodox communities in the contiguous United States (San Francisco and New York being the other two). His parish was under the Church of Greece, although the extent of that relationship, and Fr. Misael’s own ecclesiastical affiliation, are unclear.
It’s hard to get a good handle on the sort of person Fr. Misael was. We know that, in 1888, he got into a fistfight with a Greek newspaper reporter. In the days following his death, reports surfaced that he was a reclusive inventor, obsessed with building a flying machine (this was two years before the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk). More darkly, there are suggestions that he may have abused children.
Why he committed suicide in New York, rather than New Orleans, is not really clear. Apparently, he left New Orleans after receiving word that his father had died in Bulgaria. Arriving in New York, he met with Greek consul Demetrius Botassi, checked into a hotel under a false name, ate dinner, and then shot himself. He lingered for a bit before dying, but wouldn’t talk to anyone.
The whole thing is really mysterious, and if you want to learn more, check out the two articles I linked to above.
June 8, 1907: Bishop Platon Rozhdestvensky was elevated to Archbishop and assigned to replace St. Tikhon as primate of the Russian Archdiocese in America. Platon served in America until 1914, when he was reassigned to a prominent see in the Russian Empire. He returned to America in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War.
June 6, 1926: Fr. Arseny Chahovtsov was consecrated in Belgrade, Serbia to be the Bishop of Winnipeg, Canada. This was at a time when the Russian Metropolia was a part of ROCOR, and the consecration itself was presided over by ROCOR’s First Hierarch, Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii. It also had the blessings of the Serbian Patriarch and Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestevsky of the Metropolia.
June 10, 1926: Fr. Moses Abihider died. He had immigrated to America in 1908 and served as a priest under St. Raphael Hawaweeny in the Syro-Arab Mission. For the great majority of his career, he was assigned to Springfield, MA.
The Abihiders had a stunning 17 children, of whom at least nine survived to adulthood. According to one anecdote related by a relative of the Abihider family, a suitor came to seek the hand of one of the Abihider girls. Fr. Moses interrogated the man, and, satisfied of his worthiness, told the daughter, “Come meet your husband. Get ready; you will be married next Saturday.”
Fr. Moses must have been close friends with Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, because one of his sons was named Aftimios and had the archbishop as his godfather. In 1999, Aftimios Abihider was the publisher of the biography of Aftimios Ofiesh, written by Ofiesh’s widow Miriam.
Fr. Moses is perhaps best known for being featured on the tombstone of St. Raphael. He is one of six clergymen listed along with the great bishop, and all were at one time buried together at Brooklyn’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. However, in 1988, the remains of St. Raphael and two of the others (Bishops Emmanuel Abo-Hatab and Sophronios Beshara) were transferred, along with the tombstone, to the Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania. It seems most likely that Fr. Moses’ remains are still at Mount Olivet.
June 10, 1927: Fr. Panagiotis Phiambolis, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests in America, died in St. Louis at the age of 87. A married priest, he came to America in 1892 to become the first pastor of the first Orthodox church in Chicago. Later, he served in Boston and then St. Louis, where he remained for the rest of his life. While in St. Louis, his parish split in 1910 and then reunited in 1917. Fr. Panagiotis retired the following year, at age 78. His daughter Helen Jannopoulo went on to become an accomplished author, and her book And Across Big Seas recounts events from her own life, including a lot of details on the family’s move from Greece to Chicago.
June 10, 1931: The future Antiochian Metropolitan Philip Saliba was born.
June 9, 1980: President Jimmy Carter awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Archbishop Iakovos Coucouzis, primate of the Greek Archdiocese. The medal is now on display as part of the Archbishop Iakovos Collection at Hellenic College in Brookline, MA. President Carter made these remarks when giving Iakovos the award:
One of the most exciting days of my Presidency was a year or so ago when we had this entire lawn almost filled with delighted Greek Americans who share with me and others the admiration that we all feel for the next honoree. I’d like to ask Archbishop Iakovos to come forward.
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos has long put into practice what he has preached. As a progressive religious leader concerned with human rights and the ecumenical movement, he has marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and has met with the Pope. As the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America concerned with his congregation, he has given guidance to millions.
Recently, I wrote a brief article on Fr. Moses Abihider, a Syrian/Antiochian priest from the early 20th century who was buried alongside St. Raphael Hawaweeny. Shortly after that, a reader named Robert Klancko emailed me with more information. Mr. Klancko’s wife is a relative of the Abihider family, and, among other things, he told me the following:
- Fr. Moses had a stunning total of 17 children, of whom at least nine survived to adulthood. That sounds like a horrendous child mortality rate, but the death of children was a tragically common reality for most families a century ago.
- Fr. Moses’ youngest son was Aftimios Abihider, named for his godfather Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh. This is the same Aftimios Abihider who later published the biography of Ofiesh, written by Ofiesh’s widow. It’s not clear exactly what the relationship was between Ofiesh and Fr. Moses, but the two must have been close.
- Mr. Klancko related the story that one of the Farah brothers of Texas — owners of the then-famed Farah pants company (comparable to Dockers) — heard that Fr. Moses had six daughters. This Farah went to visit the Abihiders and was grilled by Fr. Moses. Satisfied of the suitor’s worthiness, Fr. Moses called in one of his daughters and said, “Come meet your husband. Get ready; you will be married next Saturday.” The marriage was, says Mr. Klancko, a success. (Incidentally, my mother’s aunt Virginia was also married to a Farah. Before her death, she founded the Virginia H. Farah Foundation, a private Orthodox foundation.)
- Although all of Fr. Moses’ children are now deceased, numerous other relatives survive in different parts of the country.
I’m grateful to Mr. Klancko for his help. As I learn more about Fr. Moses, I’ll post further updates.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Last week, I introduced Fr. Moses Abihider, a little-known Antiochian priest from the early 20th century. One thing we did know was that Fr. Moses was buried at the Antiochian Village along with St. Raphael, with whom he shared a tombstone. But… well, I was wrong about that one. See, before being moved to the Antiochian Village, St. Raphael had been buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Queens, NY. Fr. Andrew Damick pointed out to me that the tombstone may well have been moved from Mount Olivet along with Raphael’s body. If so, and unless the Antiochian Archdiocese also moved the other clergymen on the tombstone, it’s entirely possible that those clergymen are still in Queens.
I did some digging in my own files and found a copy of a June 23, 1988 letter from Metropolitan Philip to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, stating,
Please be advised that as the official hierarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, I hereby authorize the disinternment of the following clergymen from the Mount Olivet Cemetery in the town of Maspeth, Burough of Queens, State of New York, and the transfer of their remains to the newly-established church cemetery on the sacred grounds of the Antiochian Village located in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
This is followed by, “Grave No. 50: Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny (died Feb. 27, 1915, reinterred at Mount Olivet ca. 1920)”.
A second letter, with the exact same date and wording, authorizes the transfer of the bodies of Bishops Emmanual Abo-Hatab and Sophronios Beshara from Grave 52.
In an earlier document, a 1965 letter from the superintendent of Mount Olivet Cemetery to “Miss G. Hatab” (probably a relative of Bishop Emmanuel), it is noted that Bishop Raphael was buried alone in Grave 50; Frs. Moses Abihider, Agapios Golam, and Makarios Moore were buried in Grave 51; and Abo-Hatab, Beshara, and Fr. Fred Farkouh were buried in Grave 52.
The upshot being that the three bishops — Raphael, Emmanuel, and Sophronios — were moved to the Antiochian Village along with the tombstone, while the four priests (including Fr. Moses Abihider) presumably remained at Mount Olivet. I don’t know whether the Antiochian Archdiocese provided new grave markers for those priests to replace the tombstone.
Another thing worth noting: as is apparent from the photo of the tombstone, the inscriptions for the latter four clergymen — Beshara, Golam, Moore, and Farkouh — were added to the tombstone later. (Those four also died later than the first three.) Thus, the original three names were Hawaweeny, Abo Hatab, and Abihider.
Which makes me even more curious to learn more about Fr. Moses Abihider. I mean, he of all people was considered important enough to be buired alongside (and share a tombstone with) Bishop Raphael and Bishop Emmanuel. What distinguished this parish priest? Why was he deemed “worthy” to be buried with two bishops?
We’ll have more on Fr. Moses in the near future.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
I know I owe you a recap of our recent Princeton symposium, but before I do that, I’m going to launch a new feature here at OH.org. I’m calling it “In Search Of…” The idea is pretty simple: I’ll present what I know about an interesting but obscure figure from American Orthodox history, and I’ll ask readers to help fill in the biographical gaps. If I get a good response, I’ll do a follow-up piece.
Not only do I think this will be a fun exercise, but (crucially) it’s simple enough for me to fit into my own crazy schedule (family, church, law school, etc. – you know the drill). We’ll start today at the top of the alphabet, with the early Syrian (Antiochian) priest Fr. Moses Abihider.
Fr. Moses Abihider (or “Haider,” or “Abi-Hider”)
- Born March 1, 1863
- Died June 10, 1926
- Pastor of St. George Syrian Orthodox Church in Lawrence, MA from at least 1911 to 1912
- Pastor of a Syrian/Antiochian church in Springfield, MA from at least 1915 to 192
- The only anecdote I’ve ever read about Fr. Moses comes from the strange biography of Aftimios Ofiesh, the disgraced ex-Archbishop of Brooklyn. The book was written by Aftimios’ widow, who obviously heard this story from her husband. This reportedly took place in Brooklyn just after St. Raphael’s death (so, March 1915). Aftimios was with St. Raphael’s archdeacon, Emmanuel Abo-Hatab.
Speaking directly to Abohatab, Reverend Abihider said, as told by Aftimios, “You are my friend, Emmanuel, and I like you; however I don’t want you as my bishop.”
Aftimios interrupted saying, “Our bishop is still among us, even though he lies dead. We should have enough respect for our leader to refrain from such discussions now.”
“Don’t tell me this,” replied Reverend Abihider, “tell it to Emmanuel and [Fr. Basil] Kerbawy [dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn]. They are busily engaged among the clergy and laity, telling them that you have ceded this candidacy to Emmanuel.”
[Mariam Ofiesh, Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh (1880-1966): A Biography Revealing his Contribution to Orthodoxy and Christendom (Sun City West, AZ: Aftimios Abihider, 1999), page 57.]
Note the name of the publisher: Aftimios Abihider. This man is now dead, but I remember hearing that he was somehow related to Aftimios Ofiesh. “Abihider” isn’t exactly a common name, so it’s entirely possible that there was a some sort of family connection between Aftimios Ofiesh and Fr. Moses Abihider.
I found the record of Fr. Moses and his family in the 1920 U.S. Census. From this, we learn that Rev. Moses Abihider immigrated to America in 1908, along with his eldest daughter (who would have been about 14 at the time). Two years later, Fr. Moses apparently sent for his wife and other children; in all, he had six daughters and one son (with ages ranging from three to 26) living with him in Springfield, MA in 1920.
Those ages are interesting; Fr. Moses was 15 years older than his wife, who would have been about 16 when they had their first child. And Fr. Moses was well into his fifties by the time his youngest child was born. The age difference between husband and wife seems scandalous to us today, but it was pretty common in turn-of-the-century Syria. (Indeed, my own great-grandparents had a similar age difference.)
The strangest thing about the census record is that it clearly indicates that Fr. Moses and his family were “Serbian,” and born in “Servia.” This can’t be right; the man’s last name is obviously Arabic, and he was a priest of the Syrian (not Serbian) Mission. But it’s just as obvious that the census record reads Servia and Serbian, not Syria and Syrian. I’m pretty sure this was just an error on the part of the census worker who took down the information. But of all the census records I’ve looked at (and I’ve looked at a lot of them), this is the first such error I’ve found.
Anyway, the most notable thing about Fr. Moses is the odd fact that he is one of many clergymen who is buried with St. Raphael at the Antiochian Village. In fact, Fr. Moses shares a tombstone with the great Raphael. I frankly have no idea what was going on here. The Antiochians took possession of St. Raphael’s body not all that long ago (the 1990s, I think), but for some unknown reason, they didn’t build a worthy tomb for their forefather Raphael. Instead, they buried him with a random collection of other clergymen. In order of appearance, you’ve got St. Raphael, Bishop Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, Rev. Moses Abihider, Bishop Sophronios Beshara, Archimandrite Agapios Golam, Archpriest Makarios Moore, and Economos Farid Farkouh. Here, see for yourself:
What’s clear is that Fr. Moses Abihider was associated with some pretty significant figures in American Orthodox history, and he lived through a truly remarkable time. If you know anything that can shed more light on his story, please comment below or send me an email at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.