A Senate resolution sponsored by four US senators will attempt to delay and even reverse the US government’s commitment to returning the ‘Iraqi-Jewish archive’ to Baghdad. One reason is that there are no longer any Jews able to care for or see it. Report in the Tribune Review:
Dr Harold Rhode sifting through the waterlogged items of the Iraqi-Jewish archive in 2003. Dr Rhode was the first to identify the books and documents of the collection as Jewish.
The collection, known as the Iraqi Jewish Archive, is scheduled to be returned to Iraqi next month. If that happens, experts fear neglect could pose a new threat to the sensitive materials.
“I really don’t think they’ll be safe in Iraq,” said Carole Basri, an attorney and documentary filmmaker who has deeply researched the archive and Iraq’s Jewish history.
Heading an effort to postpone the archive’s return is U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, the prime sponsor of a resolution urging the U.S. State Department to renegotiate the return.
“My concern is Iraq is really no longer a good place to store this Jewish historical treasure since there are no Jews to safeguard it, to see it, to care for this treasure,” Toomey told the Tribune-Review.
Included in the archive is a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible, a German rabbi’s sermons from 1692, a 200-year-old Talmud and thousands of other books printed in Italy, Jerusalem, Turkey and Lithuania. Among the books are the writings of the famous late 19th-century Baghdadi interpreter of Jewish law Rabbi Yosef Hayyim, who is often referred to by the name of his most famous work, the Ben Ish Hai.
New publications of the Ben Ish Hai’s work stand to influence how Jews interpret law today, said Rabbi Raymond Sultan, director of Sephardic Heritage Museum, which is about to publish a third book of the Ben Ish Hai’s work from the archive.
“There is a lot of stuff people will definitely use to formulate law,” Sultan said.
Also included are school and financial records, lists of residents, university applications and other community records that document Jewish life in Iraq from the 1920s through 1953.
Toomey’s resolution, cosponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, cites the Iraq government’s anti-Semitic policies from the 1930s onward — including making Zionism punishable by death and confiscating Jewish artifacts — to make a case against returning the archive.