By Patti Shaffer
A gift of fine jewelry is a symbol of the love one person has for another similar to sharing love of a troubled homeland within a family. Like the family heirloom that gets passed down from generation to generation so the worry of lost heritage is inherited.
In 1952 Ephraim Doumato came to America from Syria by ship with his family. He was only an infant. They settled in Central Falls where he attended public schools and later he graduated from the University of Rhode Island.
At the age of 28, he established Ephraim Doumato Jewelers, to provide for his wife Louise and his young family. His business has been a fixture in Smithfield for the past 36 years, offering finely crafted jewelry such as diamond rings and wedding bands, along with earrings, bracelets and pendants in gold or platinum.
The Doumato family’s homeland is torn by war and brutality to their Christian brothers and sisters. The culture of their people is being erased in dust, beheadings, demolished sacred sites and obliterated city blocks and villages.
Although Ephraim and his parents emigrated some 60 years ago from Syria, they are not Syrians, they are Arameans—(not Armenians)—who originally lived in southern Turkey. The Arameans trace their history to Mesopotamia. Ephraim’s grandfather was originally from southern Turkey, but he fled to Syria at the end of World War I to avoid the genocide of Christians, the well-documented Armenian genocide. Syria, a protectorate of France, was then a safe haven for Christians.
No longer, says Ephraim.
While in Syria, Ephraim’s father was ordained as a parish priest in the Syriac Orthodox Church, the oldest Christian church in the world. The Syriac Church ordains its priests to serve a particular parish and his assignment was St. Ephraim’s Syrian Orthodox Church in Central Falls, Rhode Island. It was a position he was dedicated to for more than 47 years. He performed hundreds of baptisms, weddings and funerals through the years.
“What has happened to Syria is tragic,” says Ephraim. “Most of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. The Assad government has always been good to the Christians. Now Christians, in particular, have been targeted by hostile Muslims. The church where I was christened in the city of Homs has been destroyed.”
He goes on to say, “The Syriac Orthodox Church, like other Christian churches of the Middle East has established funds to help support those who are in need. We have raised funds from European governments through the hard work of our Patriarch. The church uses these public funds to distribute to those in need regardless of their religious affiliation. We also have an Adopt-A-Family Program. For a donation of $50 per month, you can help a struggling family. The contact information of the family you adopt is passed along to you.”
“A big disappointment to many people in the Middle East community here in the U.S. is our government’s policy on immigration,” he adds. “Most of these people don’t want mass migration; but would like to allow relatives of American citizens into America to be supported by their families.”
He goes on to say, “Pictures coming out of Syria look equal to or worse than the pictures of Europe at the end of WWII. I think safe zones in Syria are a good idea —refugee camps that provide basic needs in a clean, safe environment could help to stop mass migration. And hopefully, if the current cease fire eventually becomes a permanent peace, there will be plenty of reconstruction jobs.”
The Syriac Church is in many ways similar to the Roman Catholic Church and in fact, St. Ephraim is recognized by the Catholic Church.
When they moved to the U.S., in 1952, Ephraim’s father wanted to maintain his heritage, but he thought it was more important to adapt to his new homeland. So he paid for private English lessons and became a U.S. citizen.
Ephraim says, “I am proud that I am a first generation American and a naturalized citizen.”
From his cleric father to his son and daughter, Ephraim is proud that the family thrived in the new land.
His son, 37-year old Matt Doumato, has worked in the business alongside his father for many years and now manages the business day-to-day. Doumato’s 33- year-old industrious daughter, Amanda Doumato, owns the adjoining Flaunt Boutique. Amanda offers a large selection of Vera Bradley handbags, as well as handmade bags from Italy and Betsy Johnson bags. She also sells a wide variety of fashionable local and hand made jewelry.
“Our business has been successful because of hard work, determination, professional expertise and the highest standards of customer service. We always want to satisfy our customers. We have a stellar reputation and we want to keep it that way,” says Matt.
Why does Matt consider their store to be the best place to buy fine jewelry in Rhode Island?
“Our product knowledge is extensive,” adds Matt. “We study and we keep up with trends and changing fashions. We also introduce our customers to new designs. And most important, we are honest and fair with the information we give our customers—or we wouldn’t still be here in Smithfield after 36 years.”
Famous brand names such as Gabriel & Co. (the number one bridal company in the country), ArtCarved, and Chamilia are featured, as well as genuine pearls made by Imperial Pearl, a longtime Rhode Island company. Many brands of watches and styles are also on display.
Two expert jewelers are also on staff, so one-of-kind custom-designed jewelry is an option, too.
Ephraim Doumato is very well known and part of the fabric of the Smithfield community. He is a member of the Smithfield Lions Club since 1983, and also a past president. In addition, he donates to many schools, churches, and local organizations.
Ephraim Doumato Jewelers is located at 19 Sanderson Road in Greenville. He is a Certified Diamond Grader by the Gemological Institute of America. For more information, call 949-4220.