Sephardic group cautiously praises Iraqi government for recognizing Jewish history

The manuscript of a Passover haggadah that is part of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, books and documents which are on display in Washington, DC, but are set to return to Iraq after the Washington exhibition. Iraqi Jews say the Iraqi government confiscated the materials from them. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration.

( The Sephardic group Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) cautiously praised the Iraqi government for its recognition of the Jewish community’s role in the country’s history, but still has serious reservations about the government’s claim to the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

In a recent religious ceremony attended by Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., 49 fragments of a Torah scroll included in the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection were buried in accordance with Jewish tradition at the New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon, NY.

The Iraqi government said the Jewish community “played a key role in building the country; it shared in its prosperity and also suffered exile and forced departure because of tyranny.”

“This is an important step in the recognition of Jewish suffering that took place in Iraq, as this admission of truth will facilitate reconciliation,” JIMENA said.

JIMENA, however, rejected the assertion by the Iraqi government that the 2,700-item Jewish archive—which was restored by the U.S. and is set to return to Iraq in accordance with a written agreement between Iraq and the State Department—is “Iraq’s property.” Iraqi Jews say Saddam Hussein’s regime stole the archive from them. 

“The Iraqi government can show proper respect by returning the Iraqi Jewish Archive to their rightful Jewish owners and to the organizations that represent them,” JIMENA said.

Posted on December 27, 2013 .