Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Jews in Baghdad

When I read the biography of Gertrude Bell last year, I was especially impressed with her accounts of the Jewish community in Baghdad in the 1920's. She remarked in particular on the fact that of all women in Baghdad - Muslim, Christian and Jewish, the Jewish women were the most literate and had schools available to them.

This site offers a history of the Jewish community in Baghdad, remarking about the period when Bell was there,

    With British entry to Baghdad on February 3, 1917 (fixed as yom nes 17th Adar) there began a period of freedom for the Jews of Baghdad and many of them were employed in the civil service. When the state became independent in 1929 there was an increase in anti-Semitism, especially after the appearance of the German ambassador A. Grobbe in Baghdad (1932).
About educational institutions and medical services one can read,
    Until operation "Ezra and Nehemiah" there were 28 Jewish educational institutions in Baghdad, 16 under the supervision of the community committee and the rest privately run. The number of pupils reached 12,000 and many others learned in foreign and government schools. About 400 students studied medicine, law, economics, pharmacy, and engineering. In 1951 the Jewish school for the blind was closed; it was the only school of its type in Baghdad. The Jews of Baghdad had two hospitals in which the poor received free treatment, and several philanthropic services. Out of 60 synagogues in 1950, there remained only 7 in 1960.
This site says that,
    During these centuries under Muslim rule, the Jewish Community had it's ups and downs. By World War I, they accounted for one third of Baghdad's population.
For some reason Christians often give the impression that they have an edge on matters of literacy and philanthropy, that the recognition of the sacrifice of Christ, the son of God, is a necessary condition for altruism. This is not consistent with the teaching of the Torah, or the rest of the Hebrew scriptures where I read about the ideal Jewish woman, Prov. 31.
    She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.

    She opens her mouth with wisdom; and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
Go here to read about the last Jews in Baghdad today. HT Evangelical Text Criticism
    Baghdad was once one of the great cradles of Jewish culture and wisdom, but now, according to the Christian priest who has been looking after them, there are only eight Jews left in the Iraqi capital, and their situation is "more than desperate.
Continue reading.

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