Tamar Morad, Dennis Shasha & Robert Shasha ~ Iraq’s Last Jews: Stories Of Daily Life, Upheaval, And Escape From Modern Babylon

Palgrave Studies In Oral History- 2008 – Series Editors’ Foreword
In another book in the Palgrave Studies in Oral History series, Soldiers and Citizens, an Assyrian Christian explains how his group in the Iraqi town of Dora was threatened with death if they didn’t convert to Islam or pay a special tax or abandon their homes and leave within 24 hours. He remarked, “I heard there was talk of doing to the Christians what they did to the Jewish in the 1940s.”1 The year 1941 witnessed the Farhoud, a Nazi-inspired pogrom, which began a series of events that propelled a Jewish exodus from Iraq. Of the approximately 137,000 who resided in Iraq during the early 1940s, 124,000 had fled, most to Israel, by 1952. The relatively few left behind suffered as a result of the Six Day War in 1967 when Iraq restricted their movement, jobs, and opportunity to communicate in and outside of the country. Some suffered imprisonment and torture. Hence, the once vital and vibrant Iraqi Jewish community had all but disappeared from its homeland by the 1970s. Oral histories have widely documented the Holocaust, but the stories recounted in this volume are less well-known and serve to expand our knowledge of Middle Eastern Jews outside of Israel. Oral history is particularly well suited to capture the drama and trials of this historical experience and to humanize the past condition of a community that exists in exile. With American attention focused upon Iraq as a consequence of two recent wars, public curiosity about that nation will benefit from these accounts. Iraq’s Last Jews joins a number of other volumes in this series that consider issues of world-historical significance. Whether it be the contemporary Iraq War or the decades-past Chinese Cultural Revolution, or any number of other topics, the series encourages the employment of oral history to investigate the memories of ordinary and extraordinary people in order to make sense of past and present.
Bruce M. Stave University of Connecticut – Linda Shopes Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Some 2,500 years after the first Jews established roots in Babylon, the once-vibrant and prosperous Jewish community of Iraq has disappeared. A community that numbered close to 140,000 in the late 1940s—and comprised fully one-third of Baghdad’s population—consisted of a mere 20 when U.S. tanks rolled into the Iraqi capital in 2003. Today, fewer than ten Jews remain in Iraq. Yet as late as the 1920s and 1930s, Iraqi Jews felt the heady potential of full equality in a secular society for the first time in their long history of subordination to Muslim rulers. From music to politics to commerce, Jews played a major role in Iraqi society and culture. For centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Babylon was the world’s epicenter of Jewish life and religion—the place where the Babylonian Talmud was written and where rabbis from across the region and Europe came to learn from the most scholarly sages. But the community dissolved in the middle of the 20th century when pro-Nazi forces, Arab nationalism, and the formation of Israel led to violence against and a general sense of insecurity among Iraqi Jews, causing them to flee, mostly over the course of about a year and a half. This book tells the story of that last generation, people who in many cases grew up with strong patriotic feelings but were always prepared for a future beyond Iraq’s borders—just in case. The storytellers of these first-person accounts vary as widely as any group of Jews does, reflecting the breadth and texture of the community: wealthy businessmen and Communists, popular musicians and reformist writers, Iraqi patriots and early Zionists. Many had close friends among the Muslims and Christians of Iraq of whom they speak warmly. They tell the tales of a people with a love for their birth country that persisted even as they were forced to leave their homes. The story of the final decades of the Jewish community in Iraq divides into three periods. First is the period before 1939 when the Jews in Iraq saw themselves as part of the Iraqi national fiber in government, commerce, and the arts. That ended verbally with the rise of Nazi influences and violently with the Farhoud, a pogrom against the Jews, in 1941. Second is the period between then and 1953 when Arab hostility toward the new state of Israel turned most Jews into Zionists and the vast majority of the community left. The final period records an Iraq that drifted towards increasingly autocratic leadership, culminating in the sadistic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, with the Jews often playing the role of scapegoat. Finally, the book closes with several moving retrospectives of the community. These stories are sometimes funny, often tragic, touching, and insightful. Readers will find that the editors, in addition to recording descriptions of daily life, have also uncovered acts of heroism, adventure, and intrigue: from the undercover Israeli agents who helped orchestrate the mass emigration of Iraqi Jews to the young Jewish state at mid-century, to those who argued for the lives of their loved ones in the brutal prisons of Saddam Hussein. What has been compiled here, ultimately, is a book about quiet bravery in times of distress and a celebration of the possibility of peace.

Copyright © Tamar Morad, Dennis Shasha, and Robert Shasha, 2008. All rights reserved. First published in 2008 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN® in the United States—a division of St. Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

The complete book: https://epdf.pub/iraqs-last-jews-stories-of-daily-life-upheaval-and-escape-from-modern-babylon-pa.html

Bookmark and Share

Murtadha Ridha ~ Jewish Cemetery In Baghdad | مقبرة اليهود في بغداد

The Jewish Cemetery in Sader City in Baghdad – Iraq.
Filming and Editing: Murtadha Ridha / Iraq – Baghdad

Bookmark and Share

Shmuel Trigano ~ The Expulsion Of The Jews From Muslim Countries, 1920-1970: A History Of Ongoing Cruelty And Discrimination

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. November 2010. Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries. The 1940s were a turning point in this tragedy; of those expelled, 600,000 settled in the new state of Israel, and 300,000 in France and the United States. Today, they and their descendents form the majority of the French Jewish community and a large part of Israel’s population.

In the countries that expelled Jews, a combination of six legal, economic, and political measures aimed at isolating Jews in society was instituted: denationalization; legal discrimination; isolation and sequestration; economic despoilment; socioeconomic discrimination; and pogroms or similar acts.

It is the custom to say that Zionism was responsible for this development. However, the region’s anti-Semitism would have developed even without the rise of the state of Israel because of Arab-Islamic nationalism, which resulted in xenophobia.

The fact that these events have been obscured has served in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and therefore to a large extent, the same population that suffered this oppression. The fate of Palestinian refugees, their proclaimed innocence, and the injustice they endured form the main thrust of this delegitimization. The Jewish refugees have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations. However, they became citizens of the countries of refuge, especially Israel and France, while Palestinians were ostracized from the Arab nations.

Go to:

The Expulsion of the Jews from Muslim Countries, 1920-1970: A History of Ongoing Cruelty and Discrimination


Bookmark and Share

Lital Levy ~ Historicizing The Concept Of Arab Jews In The Mashriq

Jewish Quarterly Review, 2008. As is well known, the long arm of the Arab-Israeli conflict reached far beyond the geographical borders of Palestine. Prior to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, somewhere between 700,000 and 850,000 Jews lived in inveterate communities spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. By the end of the century, all the historic Jewish communities of the region (with the partial exceptions of Morocco and Iran) were to meet a single fate—dislocation and dispersal—effectively vanishing with nary a trace left in their countries of origin. These were indigenous communities (in some cases, present in area for millennia) whose unique, syncretic cultures have since been completely expunged as a result of emigration—whether to Israel, where they were subjected to a systematic program of deracination and resocialization, or to the West, where in most places “Jewish” was more or less synonymous with “Ashkenazi” and the concept of Jews from the Arab world was (and remains) little known or understood. The disappearance of the Jewish dialects of spoken Arabic, of written Judeo-Arabic, and, more recently, of the last generation of Jewish writers of literary Arabic, all silently sound the death knell of a certain world—that which S. D. Goitein dubbed the “Jewish-Arab symbiosis,” and that which Ammiel Alcalay sought to recapture in his groundbreaking book After Jews and Arabs.

This essay is concerned not only with this displaced population and its lost history but principally with the evocation of both subjects through a concept gaining increasing acceptance and purchase in academic discourse, namely, the “Arab Jew.” Numerically, the total population of Middle Eastern and North African Jews prior to 1948 hovers under the million mark, and this is perhaps one of the reasons its historic experience has been so eclipsed by the cataclysmic events that befell European Jewry in the twentieth century. Yet due to its historic location betwixt and between things “Jewish” and things “Arab,” this population’s symbolic importance belies its small numbers. Whichever way you look at it, the not-so-simple fact of Jews who are Arab or Arabs who are Jewish raises all sorts of problems and possibilities ripe for exploration, interpretation, and manipulation—and people are beginning to notice. Paradoxically, even as so much of Arab Jewish language, culture, and historic memory slips away like gossamer threads carried off on the wind of a quickly receding past, the reappropriation—some might even say the commodification—of the “Arab Jew” (now as a largely symbolic figure) accelerates in kind. The renewed interest in the figure of the Arab Jew and in the lost Arab Jewish past is perhaps best evidenced by the multilingual swell of documentary films, memoirs, novels, and even cookbooks-cum-community histories (which I call “culinary nostalgia”) produced by Arab Jews and their descendants (primarily from Iraq and Egypt) in recent years. At the same time, as Emily Gottreich points out in her essay, the political capital of the Arab Jew has not gone unrecognized by activists from either right or left.

Go to: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/252139

Bookmark and Share

Ofer Nordheimer Nur ~ Out Of Egypt

Tablet. April 33, 2020.  Earlier this year, more than 180 Jews gathered in the port city of Alexandria on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to celebrate the reopening of the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue. This festive gathering for prayer, singing, and dancing was the largest Jewish event in Egypt since the demise of the community, most of whose members were pressured to leave in the 1950s. The opening of the synagogue, as well as an official ongoing authorization for an Israeli scholar to conduct research in Jewish sites of worship across Egypt, may signal no less than a new chapter in the history of the Jews in Egypt.

The event took place in February under heavy security. The delegation was made up of Jews who were born in Egypt, accompanied by family, now living in Europe, Israel, the United States, and elsewhere. Two rabbis conducted the service, Rabbi Andrew Baker and the son of the last rabbi of the community of Alexandria, Rabbi Yosef Nefussi. The service was attended by the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Jonathan Cohen, and also by former Israeli Ambassador David Govrin. During the service, 12 of the synagogue’s Torah scrolls were taken out and paraded, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

Read more: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/out-of-egypt-nur

Bookmark and Share

Ella Shohat ~ Remainders Revisited: An Exilic Journey from Hakham Sasson Khdhuri To Joseph Sassoon Semah

SPUI25 – Amsterdam – December 2, 2019

Keynote Lecture Professor Ella Shohat (New York University):
‘Remainders Revisited: An Exilic Journey from Hakham Sassoon Khdhuri to Joseph Sasson Semah’. She reflected on the significance of a place in the narration of the displaced Jewish-Iraqi community in the wake of overpowering political forces that, in one form or another, generated a historical vortex that rendered impossible a millennial existence in Mesopotamia.The enormous task of shepherding a Jewish community massively impacted by internal and external political pressures after the fall of the Ottoman empire and the establishment of the state of Iraq fell largely on the shoulders of the Hakham Bashi (the Chief Rabbi and also the President of the Iraqi Jewish Community), Sasson Khdhuri, the grandfather of artist Joseph Sassoon Semah. Although the majority of Iraqi Jews were dislocated in the wake of the partition of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel, the Hakham stayed to safeguard those who remained in Iraq, living through wars, revolutions, and a dictatorial regime that rendered hellish the situation of all Iraqis, but especially of Jews, existing as they did under the unrelenting suspicion of disloyalty. At the same time, some of the Hakham’s children moved to Israel where the Iraqi-Jews, along with Sephardi/Middle Eastern Jews more generally, experienced exclusion, rejection, and otherization as Arabs/ Orientals.

Against this backdrop, one can appreciate the self-exiling of some Mizrahim, including that of the grandson of the Hakham Bashi, artist Joseph Sassoon Semah, who left Israel in 1974 and has been living in Amsterdam since 1981. Tracing the familial passage from the Hakham’s decision to remain in Iraq to his grandson’s decision to depart from Israel encapsulates the fraught trajectory of a shattered community. These simultaneously in-place and out-of-place figures allegorize the unsettled story of Jewish-Iraq. In her keynote lecture Professor Shohat explored some of the motifs in the work of Joseph Sassoon Semah to illuminate the twinned loci of “Zion” and “Babylon” in the present-day formation of contradictory affiliations and paradoxical notions of “exile” and “diaspora.” The emphasis on a “Third Galut” in particular will serve to unfold a tale of a Jewish rupture from an accustomed Arab cultural geography, as re-membered by the descendants of those forced to abandon the land between two rivers, resulting in a lingering feeling of at once homelessness and at-home-ness.

Bookmark and Share

  • About

    Rozenberg Quarterly aims to be a platform for academics, scientists, journalists, authors and artists, in order to offer background information and scholarly reflections that contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue in a seemingly divided world. By offering this platform, the Quarterly wants to be part of the public debate because we believe mutual understanding and the acceptance of diversity are vital conditions for universal progress. Read more...
  • Support

    Rozenberg Quarterly does not receive subsidies or grants of any kind, which is why your financial support in maintaining, expanding and keeping the site running is always welcome. You may donate any amount you wish and all donations go toward maintaining and expanding this website.

    10 euro donation:

    20 euro donation:

    Or donate any amount you like:

    ABN AMRO Bank
    Rozenberg Publishers
    IBAN NL65 ABNA 0566 4783 23
    reference: Rozenberg Quarterly

    If you have any questions or would like more information, please see our About page or contact us: info@rozenbergquarterly.com
  • Like us on Facebook

  • Follow us on Twitter

  • Archives