Worcester, home to more than 35,000 immigrants, is embracing and supporting a 2,500-person Mandaean community seeking to deepen its ties to the city, according to a recent Boston Globe article. The article explains the group is without a proper temple or “mandi,” which must be located near running water, central to Mandaeans’ religious beliefs and important to keeping the community within Worcester.
Clark University’s Marianne Sarkis, assistant professor of international development and social change, is working with Mandaean community leader Wisam Breegi to help create a nonprofit organization to raise funds for a temple.
Here, an excerpt from the article:
“Without a temple, Breegi said, the Mandaeans here are likely to see their numbers dwindle. And that would further splinter a culture that has fewer than 60,000 members worldwide, condones marriages only among its own, and does not accept conversions.
“ ‘We probably will disperse and lose faith. It worries me,’ Breegi said.
“A suitable temple, which must be built near running water, is now beyond the financial reach of the Worcester Mandaeans, Breegi said. They also do not have a priest, which means they must summon clerics from Detroit and even Denmark for important ceremonies.
“ ‘It really is a culture that is in danger of disappearing,’ said Marianne Sarkis, an anthropology professor at Clark University. ‘If you don’t have a way of preserving the culture and traditions and even the language’ of Aramaic — what a temple helps provide — ‘it is not going to survive very long.’ ”