Preserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive

Startling evidence of the once vibrant Jewish life in Iraq came to light in May 2003 when over 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents were discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad by a US Army team. Now a dazzling new exhibition has just opened in Washington DC, explaining how the US National Archives and Records Administration and its partners have preserved, catalogued, and digitized the books and documents. A website,, takes visitors through the exhibit and explains:
“The remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand this 2,500-year-old Jewish community. For centuries, it had flourished in what had generally been a tolerant, multicultural society. But circumstances changed dramatically for Jews in the mid-twentieth century, when most Iraqi Jews fled and were stripped of their citizenship and assets.”

Many in the USA and around the world are concerned that if the material is returned to Iraq the future of the collection will be uncertain. They argue – and we agree – that the legacy should be kept safe in America (or better still, Israel). A well-argued article appeared in the New York Times on November 7 in which Cynthia Kaplan Shamash described the Archive as like lost luggage — “the treasures of a dispersed people who yearn to reconnect with something, anything, of the life they left behind.” Read the full article here: