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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







American Friends of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Centre, Inc.

The Babylonian Jewrry Heritage Center intends to preserve the memory, the cultural heritage, and the history of the Iraqi Jewish community.

The centre is in need of expanding its facilities and we have volunteered for the job of soliciting monies for this effort.

This is a gift for our children and grandchildren. This is also a great way to honour one’s parents and family.

The following unassigned halls in the museum remain:

Size Square Metres
1. Culture and Art*
2. Education*
3. Theatre*
4. Temporary Exhibits*
5. The Jewish Home*

*These donations can be given by up to two people

The scholarly projects which need to be funded are:

1 The project on history of the ancient Babylonian Jewish Community $210,000*
2 Translation to English on the pogrom in Baghdad in 1941 $ 50,000
3 Discovery of documents in governmental institutions in the Ottoman Empire during Ottoman rule in Iraq $ 45,000
4 Completion of the genealogies of the 305,000 Iraqi Jews in the world $100,000*
5 Research on Babylonian Jewish Leadership (Personal, rabbinical, and diaspora leaders) $246,000*
6 Supporting the newsletter "Nahardia" in English $ 30,000
7 Grant Funds for Research $ 30,000
8 Gilded Sign for Museum Entrance $ 6,000

Cheques should be made payable to the American Friends of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Inc and sent directly to the office for the attention of Mr Halahmy.

by Sharon Kanon

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to take a stroll down a street in Baghdad, or sit on the shores of the Tigris or Euphrates. It is also hard to imagine that Iraq, formerly Babylon, was once home to a flourishing and fiercely Zionistic Jewish community – the largest Jewish community in the world – with a highly developed network of educational, religious and cultural institutions.

The best way to experience the drama of the first Diaspora and recapture the vitality and charm of the large Jewish Quarter in Baghdad 50 years ago, is to visit the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Centre, located in Or Yehuda near the site of Israel’s first transit camp.

A replica of a street in the Jewish Quarter includes a typical coffeehouse and shops belonging to a silversmith, a goldsmith, a cloth merchant, an embroiderer, a shoemaker and a spice dealer. At the end of the street is a reconstruction of the Great Synagogue of Baghdad (one of 60 synagogues in Baghdad in the mid-20th century contained over one thousand gold and silver encased Torah scrolls.

The Heritage Centre recently organised its first event to attract the children of Iraqi Jewish immigrants in Israel and increase awareness of their cultural and historical roots.

The en-masse return of the oldest Jewish Diaspora brought with it traditions from centuries of flourishing culture that had evolved over a period of 2,000 years. Rich in history, song, folklore, customs and dress, and infused with a strong Zionist spirit, the Iraqi-Jewish legacy pulsates with life.

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Babylonian Jewry became the spiritual centre for far-flung Jewish communities. Great academies of learning were established at Nechardea, Sura and Pumpedita, headed by outstanding gaonim (excellencies). (The museum houses a diorama of an academy). The Babylonian Talmud (the Oral law), the basis of Jewish law, philosophy and the Jewish way of life, was produced by Babylonian Jews.

The golden age of gaonim paralleled the days of splendour of the Arab caliphate (mid-7th century to mid-11th century). For over a thousand years, the Jews had their own administrative head, the Exilarch or Rosh Galuta, who at one point governed over two million Jews.

Tolerance and tyranny were the lot of Iraqi Jews after the Middle Ages. During the Mongol period (13th to 15th centuries), the larger yeshivas were closed down. But by the end of the 18th century, Baghdad had once again become a centre of learning.

By the 19th century, Jews controlled Iraq’s commerce and exerted influence in government circles, and as early as 1919, got on the Zionist bandwagon. Besides Zionist organisations, the community had very active sports clubs, teams and parades. A topographical replica of the Jewish Quarter of Baghdad in 1948 reveals more than 60 institutions – yeshivas, schools, synagogues, medical institutions and administrative bodies.

For more information email:

Robert Shasha


Thank you for your appeal on behalf of Or-Yehuda, totalling some US$5 million. I have often heard in the past five years of plans to build the first floor. What is the position now? Are there any brochures or plans of this unique establishment? Please send me full information to study the matter.

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