Come Visit Jerusalem at Fordham: An Exhibition Overview

by Sarit Kattan Gribetz

Over the summer, I was happy to announce the publication of our new catalogue, “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” which features original student research about manuscripts, rare books, and artifacts from Fordham’s Special Collections and Art Museum, all related to the city of Jerusalem. That catalogue is available for download here.   Now, I’m excited to introduce you to our companion in-person exhibition, open at the O’Hare Special Collections at Walsh Library on Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus from August through December 2021.

The exhibit features several dozen artifacts about Jerusalem’s religious, political, cultural, and literary dimensions. Each display case explores a different aspect of Jerusalem’s history, the rituals that took place and lives lived in the city, the ways in which the city interacted with other places both near and far, how different people visualized the city in various artistic media, and how the history and the contemporary circumstances of the city are taught. 

This exhibition is a collaboration.  I curated it together with Magda Teter, with the help of Vivian Shen of the O’Hare Special Collections.  Some of the artifacts featured in the exhibition were chosen and researched by Fordham students enrolled in my “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives” course in Fall 2020, and thus they appear in the exhibition catalogue; other books and objects are unique to the in-person exhibition and are not included in the catalogue.

The exhibition is currently open to visitors who are allowed on campus, and I encourage those who can get to campus to spend some time perusing the display cases.  For those unable to make it to campus, I’m happy to be able to take you on a virtual tour here on our blog…

A City of Three Faiths

Jerusalem is a city sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims and a city of worship, prayer, song, and ritual.  It is also a city that features in the religious practices of worshippers far from the physical city.  This case presents three ritual objects: a contemporary Muslim prayer rug, purchased from Jerusalem, that features Islam’s three most sacred cities, Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem; a facsimile edition of the Black Hours, a fifteenth-century Christian Book of Hours from Bruges, Belgium (the original of which is held at the Morgan Library in New York), open to a page that depicts Jesus’ crucifixion, with a view of Jerusalem in the background; and a Jewish prayer book (maḥzor) for the holiday of Sukkot, published by the Kashman ben Joseph Baruch Printing House for the Amsterdam Ashkenazi community, which, as a diaspora community, directed its prayers east towards Jerusalem.  These objects highlight not only Jerusalem’s centrality to many religious traditions, but also the way in which communities all over the world, from Mecca to Bruges to Amsterdam and beyond, find ways of connecting to the city through prayers and rituals.

Jerusalem is a city sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims and a city of worship, prayer, song, and ritual
(photo credit: Magda Teter)

Claims to the Holy City

Jerusalem is also a contested city.  This case brings together Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts that each in its own way stakes a claim to the city.  Mary Angeline Hallock’s The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, a work of historical fiction published in 1869 by the American Tract Society, an evangelical publisher, tries to educate young adult readers about Christian history in Jerusalem.  The book ends with a hymn called “The New Jerusalem,” written by Charles Wesley, the Methodist movement’s English leader and acclaimed hymn writer.  Chaim Weizmann’s The Jewish People and Palestine, published by the Head Office of the Zionist Organization in 1937, makes a case to the British Royal Commission on Palestine in Jerusalem as to why Jews need a national homeland.  Weizmann uses a simple phrase to summarize the challenge that the Zionist movement sought to address: “It is a problem of the homelessness of a people.”  A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Jerusalem, published by the Supreme Moslem Council in Jerusalem in 1930 during the British Mandate, details visiting hours, rules for visitors, historical information about the Haram, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and includes photographs of the sites.  Moslem Religious Life in Jerusalem, published by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Jerusalem in March 1970, shortly after Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem from Jordan, details Israel’s policy regarding the city’s holy places and provides a set of articles about Jerusalem’s Islamic sites. 

Pamphlets highlighting the contested political situation of modern Jerusalem
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

From Word to Image

This case features drawings of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, based on biblical passages.  Each drawing represents an attempt to imagine the monument architecturally and visually based on the measurements and descriptions contained in scripture.  These drawings were produced by both Jewish and Christian readers of the Bible.  The lowest shelf displays two editions of Timothy Otis Paine’s book Solomon’s Temple, the first published in 1881 and the second in 1886.  The second shelf presents two different books of “she’elot u-teshuvot,” Jewish texts that deal with Jewish legal questions: Yom Tov ben Moses Ẓahalon’s Sefer she’elot u-teshuvot, published by Giovanni Vendramin in 1694 in Venice, and Mordekhai ha-Leṿi’s Sefer Darkhe Noʻam: ṿe-hu ḥibur teshuvot sheʼelot published in 1697-1698 by Fratelli Bragadini, also in Venice.  The middle shelf features a wooden model of the First Temple sold at the gift shop of the Israel Museum in 2017, a cardboard model of the Dome of the Rock (also contemporary), and a 1951 Haggadah, which features on its cover an image of the Dome of the Rock interpreted as the Jewish Temple. The 20th-century printed adapted a printer’s design of Marco Antonio Giustiniani (active 1543-1552), one of the most important printers of Hebrew books in sixteenth-century Italy. His printer’s device features the image of the Dome of the Rock with words “beit ha-mikdash” (the Temple) and includes a Hebrew phrase : “Great shall be the glory of this house”.

The 1861 edition of Paine’s Solomon’s Temple, from the Goldman Collection.
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)
The 1886 edition of Timothy Otis Paine’s Solomon’s Temple. From the Goldman Collection
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)
Mordekhai ha-Leṿi’s Sefer Darkhe Noʻam: ṿe-hu ḥibur teshuvot sheʼelot published in 1697 above a wooden model of the first Jewish temple in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)
Yom Tov ben Moses Ẓahalon’s Sefer she’elot u-teshuvot published in 1694 above a model of the Dome of the Rock and a 1951 Haggadah that features an image of the Dome of the Rock interpreted as the Jewish Temple and copied from a sixteenth-century Christian printer’s mark
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

Jerusalem in Sacred Texts

This case contains Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sacred texts, each related to the sacredness of Jerusalem.  On the bottom shelf you can see a facsimile of the fifteenth-century Kennicott Bible, the original of which is held at the Bodleian Library at Oxford; these pages depict the instruments from the Jewish tabernacle, described in the book of Leviticus, and later used in the Jerusalem temple in Jerusalem.  Alongside the Kennicott Bible you can see a facsimile of the thirteenth-century Bible de Saint Louis (the original of which is held at Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada in Toledo), commissioned by Blanche of Castile for King Louis IX of France; the pages displayed illustrate Jesus’ entry into the city, a prominent scene in all four Gospels.  The middle shelf pairs a Qur’an, open to Surat al-Isra that narrates Muhammad’s night journey from the “sacred place of worship” to the “furthest place of worship” (associated in Islamic tradition with Jerusalem), with a facsimile of the Rothschild Miscellany, a fifteenth-century Jewish manuscript from Northern Italy that presents King David, who, according to biblical texts, conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of his kingdom, playing his harp (the original is held at the. Israel Museum in Jerusalem).  The top shelf features an illumination of the heavenly Jerusalem from the Book of Revelation, as it appears in the medieval Flemish Apocalypse, dating to c. 1400 (the original manuscript is held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France).

The Rothschild Miscellany, showing King David, and the Bible de Saint Louis, illustrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Both books come from the James Leach Collection
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

A Qur’an, open to the page of Muhammad’s Night Journey, and the Kennicott Bible, from the James Leach Collection, open to a page depicting the tabernacle’s utensils
(photo credit: Vivian Shen).
An illumination of the heavenly Jerusalem from the Book of Revelation, from the Flemish Apocalypse. The James Leach Collection
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

Jerusalem at Passover

This display case and the one to its right feature an array of Passover haggadot, each of which engages Jerusalem in some way.  Here, three haggadot depict Jerusalem, both ancient and contemporary.  The two early modern haggadot – one published in  Fürth in 1762 by Itzik ben Leib and the other published in Amsterdam in 1765 by Harer Hirtz Levi Rofe ve-hatano Kashman mokhrei sefarim – each contain the same engravings (mirror images, suggesting one was based on the other and engraved to copy the model but flipped when printed on a page), which were based on earlier printed haggadot from Amsterdam. The third, published by Sinai in 1953 in Tel Aviv, shows a man walking in the Old City on his way to a synagogue, which, when this edition was published, was merely a memory as Jerusalem’s Old City was by then under Jordanian rule with no Jews or active synagogues.

Three Haggadot that depict Jerusalem from Fordham’s Judaica Collection
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

“Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Passover haggadot traditionally conclude with a declaration of hope, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”  Some haggadot published by communities already living in Jerusalem or nearby amend the hope to “Next Year in Jerusalem Rebuilt,” adding a hope for full redemption.  The El Al Haggadah, published in 1969 as an advertisement for Israel’s airline, encourages readers to fly to Jerusalem the following year using El Al: “NEXT YEAR – IN JERUSALEM REBUILT, And may we of El Al wish that when you do come you fly El Al, the airline of the people of Israel.”  Below it we have displayed an Amharic haggadah made for the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel in 1985, the year following “Operation Moses,” a mission that brought over 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel (the Haggadah was edited by Yosef Hadana, translated by Yona Bugale, and published by Misrad Le-kelitah Ruhanit shel Yehudei Etiopia be-Israel).  The 1990 fundraising haggadah published by the United Jewish Appeal, also in support of “Operation Moses,” plays on the verse “next year in Jerusalem”: it has the phrase “This year in Jerusalem” printed on its cover.  The largest haggadah on display, The Children’s Passover Haggadah, published in New York by Shilo in 1945, features a depiction of Psalm 126, which describes the return to Zion with laughter and singing alongside a jubilant drawing of people of all age rejoicing.

“Next Year in Jerusalem,” as it appears in various Haggadot. Fordham’s Judaica Collection.
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

Missionary Travels

These four books, published between 1823 and 1860, represent examples of books published by Christian scholars and organizations aimed at missionizing in Jerusalem or educating Christians about the city’s history.  Each book contains a map of the Holy Land or Jerusalem, orienting readers geographically.  Charlotte Elizabeth’s Judea Capta (New York: M. W. Dodd, 1860), for example, depicts Jerusalem’s topography, including Mount Zion, the Ophel, and Mount Moriah, which housed the temple.  Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland (Philadelphia: Pressbyterian Board of Publication, 1843) contains red and blue pen marks, which a reader added to the map to show the routes from Scotland to Jerusalem.  These books are displayed alongside William Jowett, Christian Researches in Syria and the Holy Land, in 1823 & 1824 (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1826) and Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Palestine and the Hebrew People (Boston and New York: Crosby, Nichols, and Company, and Charles S. Francis and Company, 1852), both of which begin with large maps that situation Jerusalem in the broader region.

Books published by Christian scholars and organizations aimed at missionizing in Jerusalem or educating Christians about the city’s history, each of which includes a map of the city or region. From the Goldman Collection
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

The Environs of the City

The Mount of Olives and other valleys and mountains adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City house cemeteries, shrines, and places of worship.  This case displays three stereoscope photographs that feature the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Valley of Kidron, in which one can see the “Tomb of the Kings,” build by the first-century Queen Helena of Adiabene.  These places were important sites for Christians (and others) on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Alongside these photographs is a drawing of the Mount of Olives and the prophet Hulda’s tomb from an illustrated manuscript, known as the Casale Pilgrim, created in sixteenth century Italy that depicts synagogues and burial sites of important Jewish figures in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The manuscript’s small size would have made it convenient for a pilgrim to bring for traveling.  Finally, Johannes Henrico Hottinger’s 1662 Cippi Hebraici, published in Heidelberg by Samuel Broun, illustrates many of the city’s tombs, including prophets, rabbinic figures, their students, and their wives.

Illustrations and photographs depicting different monuments in and near Jerusalem
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

Jerusalem in 3D

This set of stereographic photographs (along with the photographs displayed in the previous and following cases) was taken by Bert and Elmer Underwood on their trip to the Holy Land in the spring of 1896. The images displayed here are part of a larger collection from the Underwoods’ trip totaling 100 images. Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut published Traveling in the Holy Land Through Stereoscope; a personally conducted tour by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D, a 220-page narrative accompanying the images. To view these photos properly, you need a stereoscope, a device that looks like binoculars, which makes the images appear three-dimensional.  Because most people could not make the journey due to financial or other reasons, these photographs transported them to the Holy Land while they remained, physically, at home in the United States or elsewhere.  The photos thus served as many people’s first images of the Levant and Holy Land, making distant lands a little more accessible.  Importantly, these images depicted biblical scenes reenacted in Jerusalem.  They thus transported the viewer not only through space but also through time, and specifically to the time of Jesus.  Nonetheless, despite its focus on the Christian past, the collection of photographs included holy sites from the three religious traditions, including the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as displayed here.  The first row features three views approaching the city; the second row contains photographs of the city walls and city gates; the third row depicts the Dome of the Rock; the fourth row contains images of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and the fifth row highlights the Wailing Wall and a synagogue in the Old City.

Stereographic photographs of the Holy Land and Jerusalem became popular at the end of the nineteenth century, making the city more accessible to those who lived at great distances from it
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

Educating for Tolerance

This case features contemporary children’s books that celebrate Jerusalem as a multi-religious city with diverse residents.  Meir Shalev’s Michael and the Monster of Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, 1989), illustrated by Emanuele Luzzati, features a boy who is accompanied by a monster named Metusalem (a play on the biblical figure Methuselah in Genesis 5:25 and one of the biblical names of the city, Salem), through the Jerusalem’s entire history from antiquity to modernity.  Deborah de Costa’s Snow in Jerusalem (Illinois: Albert Whitman and Co, 2001) addresses the relationship between two boys from Muslim and Jewish backgrounds, connecting them through their shared love for a cat, who travels between the Muslim and Jewish Quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City.  Likewise, Sheldon Lewis’ Mini Adventures in Jerusalem (Hadassa World Press, 2017) depicts two small children, a Muslim boy named Ahmed and a Jewish boy named Mati, who recognize that aspects of their culture and language are both different and the same, just as the two young boys are both different and the same.  In one scene, Mati shares with Ahmed his word for charity, “tzedaka,” and Ahmed responds, “our word is sadaka! The words sound alike.”  These books are paired with two photographs of Jerusalem’s busy streets and markets from the late nineteenth century, scenes vividly illustrated in pages of the children’s books.

A variety of children’s books that promote messages of peace, tolerance, and co-existence in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Vivian Shen)

With Thanks:

“Jerusalem in the Stacks” was curated by Sarit Kattan Gribetz and Magda Teter, with the help of Vivian Shen, of Fordham’s Special Collections, who also took the photographs featured in this essay. The students who contributed to this exhibition include (in alphabetical order): Sera Allen, Amelia Antzoulatos, Ashley Conde, Adam Elbordiny, Liliya Fisher, Marina Francis,  Sara Paola Guerra Rubí, Yuet Ho, Victor Imparato, Julia Kohut, Esther Leviev, Liam Pardo, Daniel Ramazzotto, Felicity Richards, Daniela Valdovinos, Hannah Whitney, Xinqiao Zhang. Special thanks as well to Shawn Hill, Emanuel Fiano, Nicholas Paul, Nina Rowe, and Jennifer Udell for assistance with research, and to the donors who have built Fordham’s Special Collections over the years, including Dr. James Leach, Eugene Shvidler, and an anonymous donor who bequeathed books from the Yosef Goldman Collection, whose contents were used in this exhibition. Many thanks are also due to Rita Houlihan, Dario Werthein, the Knapp Family Foundation, and the Picket Family Foundation for their generous support of these and related endeavors at Fordham.

Sarit Kattan Gribetz is Associate Professor of Classical Judaism in the Theology Department at Fordham University.

Jerusalem at Fordham

By Sarit Kattan Gribetz

A shuttered Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City in the early months of the pandemic. Image by Daniel Estrin for NPR (from here).
Fordham University’s campus, which closed in March 2020 as the pandemic became more widespread in New York. Image by Sarit Kattan Gribetz.

Teaching in Pandemic Times

In August 2020, a new fall semester began.  Whereas in past years there was palpable excitement on campus as students returned from summer break and reunited with friends in classrooms and hallways, this year was different.  After a difficult spring, during which Fordham abruptly closed mid-semester in March 2020 when New York City and much of the rest of the world went into lockdown, and a harrowing summer of illness, death, and isolation, we were back in class but not on campus.  I met my students on Zoom, in our virtual classroom, each student a small tile on my screen.

How would we manage to learn together in this new setting and under such challenging circumstances? I wondered.  And, more importantly, how would we become a community – which, to my mind, is the foundation upon which deep learning is built – with all of us so far away from one another? 

I need not have feared.  In the second week of our semester, I sensed that before we could turn to analyzing artifacts and discussing texts, my students were eager to check in with one another, to hear how their classmates were doing.  How was Hannah handling quarantine?  Did Liliya find a job?  Did Adam make it back to New York?  And so, every other week, we took a few minutes to share our “highs” and “lows.”  As I look back at that semester, my “low” was that we weren’t able to meet each other in person and discuss our sources around an actual seminar table, as I have done with my students in semesters past; the cadence of a voice or the squinting of an eye is often enough to signal that we might need to spend more time unpacking an idea, and a subtle knowing smile can prompt me to encourage a shy student to share a brilliant idea I see taking shape in her mind.  But my “high” more than made up for it: watching my students embrace the challenge of learning in far from ideal circumstances, and seeing how dedicated they were to this task, even as they were caring for sick relatives, working multiple jobs, or zooming from disparate time zones – and learning so much.

Despite pandemic and political upheaval, I set high course expectations.  As a final project, each student was asked to choose a manuscript, facsimile, or book from Fordham’s Special Collections or an artifact from Fordham’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art that related to the topic of our course; conduct original research; write a catalogue essay; and, collaboratively, curate an exhibition.  Most students worked remotely, accessing manuscripts and library resources only digitally.  Together, we created an exhibit catalogue that is now online (you can download it here). What these students accomplished is a testament to how much can be done these days in a virtual world, and also no doubt reveals its limits. 

The course, titled “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian, Muslim Perspectives,” centered on the history of Jerusalem from the Jebusites to the present day, focusing especially on the city’s importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims across the centuries.  During our class sessions, we examined archaeological, architectural, and artistic sources; passages from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur’an, along with their rich traditions of commentaries; accounts of pilgrimage and travel; legal and historiographical texts; and many other genres, all designed to provide diverse angles through which to study Jerusalem’s rich history.  This final project was designed to encourage students to continue these explorations independently, by pulling yet another source off the shelf, closely analyzing it, and contributing their own piece to the study of Jerusalem’s history.  By producing their own original scholarship, I hoped that my students would not only learn some of the skills it takes to create new knowledge but also come to recognize the power that they have to do so – and, most importantly, the sense of responsibility to do so with honesty and integrity to the sources, people, and histories in them.

The construction of space, both physical and conceptual, is always an overarching theme of my Jerusalem course.  How could it not be in a course centered on a city?  But this semester, the theme of space resonated in new ways.  Examining the topic of space and our relationship to different spaces was especially poignant during a time when most of us were largely confined to our personal spaces, when we were unable to gather together in the space of a classroom, when proximity itself was dangerous and even lethal.  Yet one of the most comforting aspects of this semester for me was when we were able to join together in our zoom room to create a virtual space – a virtual classroom – in lieu of a physical one.  I cannot help but wonder how our own situatedness in space affected the ways in which we studied the space of Jerusalem, and how studying the history of a place so far away impacted our experiences of staying put.  When we discussed the idea of sacred space, reflections about domestic spaces entered into the conversation (a theme I don’t recall from previous semester when I taught this same course): a dining room table, a bedroom, a garden, a view.  Being home because of the pandemic and reading about the temple as God’s dwelling prompted us to consider the many ways in which the domestic and the cultic intersect in ancient sources.  When we analyzed pilgrimage narratives, we wondered anew about the function that such tales of travel served for those unable to travel.  Verbal and visual descriptions of a pilgrim making her way through the city, building by building and street by street, helped us vicariously make our own way through Jerusalem from afar in a context in which traveling to the city was impossible for us, as it was for the original recipients of these medieval texts. 

In every course I teach, I always remind students that context matters.  The context (historical, cultural, political, literary, artistic, economic, and so on) of our sources matters; the context of later readers (i.e. the transmission history of our sources) matters; and our own context (as interpreters of texts, as historians, as people) matters.  Reflecting on our own context as learners encourages us to be aware of what we bring of ourselves and our circumstances to our readings of sources, and it also prompts us to be deliberate in how we apply our new-found understanding of the past to our current world.  I’ve therefore shared some reflections about teaching and learning during pandemic times to provide some context for the work we produced together.

Overview of “Jerusalem in the Stacks” Catalogue

If one can’t travel far, one is prompted to make the most of what one has at home.  This is exactly what we did here in our exhibition catalogue.  This catalogue’s title, “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” gestures to the many unexpected places in Fordham University’s library where one can find Jerusalem if one is looking for it.  All one needs to do is take a book off the shelf, peer inside, and begin to ask questions.  That’s what each student did with a single item at the library; together, it became a collection.

The catalogue is divided into four themes: “Devotion”; “Regional Relations”; “Visualizing the City”; and “Education.”  Each theme represents a different aspect of Jerusalem’s history, and each manuscript and object within the catalogue was researched by a different student.

The section titled “Devotion” highlights four objects that represent different modes of devotion – biblical interpretation, prayer, music, and religious rituals – both in the city and by those who incorporate memories of or aspirations for the city from afar. 

An excerpt from the prologue of Jerome’s Commentary, in which he names his two patrons, Paula and Eustochium, important women in late antique Jerusalem.

A Glossa Ordinaria on the Minor Prophets highlights the rich ancient and medieval commentary tradition that engaged with biblical references to Jerusalem; Jerome’s translation of the biblical books is dedicated to Paula and Eustochium, two fourth-century women with deep ties to Jerusalem. 

David, who conquered Jerusalem and made it the center of his kingdom, depicted playing his harp in the Roshchild Miscellany.

The Rothschild Miscellany represents a collection of Jewish texts of different genres, in which Jerusalem often appears, not least in the section on the Psalms and through an elaborately illuminated depiction of King David with his harp, which appears in the opening pages of the manuscript. 

Saint Michel Hours, Fol. 91b, with the manuscripts only illumination, featuring the apostle John reading a book to the other apostles.

Jerusalem also appears frequently in the Saint Michel Hours, a book of devotional prayers that brought monastic piety into lay settings. 

The unguentarium from Fordham’s collection.

Finally, a simple piriform unguentarium from Jerusalem, likely used in ancient funerary rituals, reminds us that in addition to texts – their study and recitation – objects played important roles in devotional practices in the city.

Regional Relations” highlights Jerusalem’s place in a broader network of cities, empires, trade routes, and diasporas.  As with all cities, it is not only defined by its local history and those who inhabit it, but also by others who interact with the city from outside it (to visit, to conquer, to rule over it, to write poetry about it) and by the relations it has with other places.  In this section of the exhibition, we explore five examples of contact between Jerusalem and its region: the Roman Empire, late antique Egypt, medieval France, modern Amsterdam and England.

Portrait of Emperor Hadrian, housed Fordham’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art

A portrait of Hadrian from the Levant demonstrates how Roman imperial figures found creative ways of inserting themselves into the daily lives of their subjects, even those far from Rome.  Through such portraits, several of which have been discovered in the region, the Roman emperor Hadrian – who re-founded Jerusalem as a Roman colony and named it “Aelia Capitolina” – was able to fashion himself as both an omnipresent, even divine, figure, and also a local resident present on a daily basis. 

Another unguentarium from Fordham’s collection

The path of a single piece of Roman glass, however, reminds us that imperial travel to Jerusalem was but one part of far more intricate regional relations, which also entailed the production and shipment of goods along Roman roads, including glass from Egypt to Jerusalem and elsewhere. 

An indulgence from France.

This section also includes an indulgence from William of Adam, a French Dominican who spent much of his life traveling the world.  Though the indulgence was produced and remained in France, William is known for his calls to embark on a new Crusade to reconquer Jerusalem, reminding us that even local politics often set its sights on global ambitions, indulgences having long played a role in the Crusades. 

The title page of a Yiddish Mahzor for the holiday of Sukkot, from Amsterdam

An Ashkenazi Mahzor with Yiddish commentary from Amsterdam spotlights a particular Jewish community that made its home not in the holy land but in Europe, and its annual celebration of Sukkot, a holiday with deep connections to the temple in Jerusalem, not least because of traditions that link the dedication of the two temples with this holiday. 

The cover page of Chaim Weitzman’s “The Jewish People and Palestine” (1936, 2nd ed.)

Likewise, Chaim Weitzman’s little pamphlet arguing for why the Jews ought to return and live in Palestine uses ancient traditions about Jewish attachment to Jerusalem to argue for their modern return in the twentieth century.

How did people imagine Jerusalem?  Artists depicted Jerusalem in the media of their day, whether through elaborate illuminations, simple illustrations, affective drawings, or photographs.  Each image tells us just as much (or more) about the person who created the image as it does about the city.  The third section of the exhibition features examples of “Visualizing Jerusalem,” highlighting diverse modes of visual expression, each preserved in a different type of source, from the medieval, early modern, and modern periods. 

A depiction of the New Jerusalem in the Flemish Apocalypse

The Flemish Apocalypse’s illumination of a New Jerusalem attempts to illustrate a heavenly city, along the lines of several other Apocalypses that provide differing visual interpretations of the Book of Revelation’s reimagination of the holy city. 

The depiction of Jerusalem in Nicholas of Lyra’s Commentary on Ezekiel

The illustration of Jerusalem in a manuscript of Nicholas Lyre’s Commentary on Ezekiel depicts the city more simply and schematically, with walls and gates, leaving the details to the imagination of the reader. 

Depiction in the Casale Pilgrim of the Mount of Olives with the Tomb of Hulda the Prophet and other places of burial.

In contrast, a sixteenth-century Jewish Italian pilgrimage text provides quite down-to-earth drawings of sites along an actual pilgrimage route, depicting sacred tombs along the way to Jerusalem paired with the city’s many gates, sacred sites, and shrines, and commentary written above and beneath each drawing.  The manuscript, signed by its Florentine owner, is small enough to fit into a travel bag to accompany a pilgrim to the Holy Land. 

Stereoscrope with set of photographs of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from 1896.

Complementing these early modern drawings is a set of 30 stereoscopic photographs that capture a pilgrimage from Jaffa to Jerusalem.  These photographs are part of a collection of a 100 such photographs, accompanied by detailed explanations of each location on the back of each card.  These photographs, which became 3-dimensional images when viewed through a stereoscope, were designed to transport American Protestant readers of the Bible to the holy land without ever leaving their living rooms.  They also served as supplemental religious educational materials.

The last theme explored in the catalogue is “Education.”  Because of Jerusalem’s importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the city is often found in educational contexts in all three religious traditions, from family rituals to children’s literature.  In this section, we feature books that were designed to be used in familial contexts; each book cultivates a particular type of relationship with the city.

“Next Year in Jerusalem” from the Barcelona Haggadah

We begin with the Barcelona Haggadah, used by Catalonian Jews during the holiday of Passover.  The Passover seder, a discussion and reenactment of the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt, is designed primarily as an educational experience in which parents teach their children this part of their heritage.  The manuscript includes a full page that reads “Next Year in Jerusalem,” a traditional exclamation recited towards the conclusion of the seder ceremony, which functions as a hope for a good future and an eventual return to Jerusalem. 

Mary Angeline Hallock’s The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem.

A mid-nineteenth-century chapter book titled The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem narrates Josephus’ account of the Jewish revolt against Rome in the late 60s C.E. in the form of a story that a father tells his two young children.  This book, published by the American Tract Society, an Evangelical Christian institution, fosters interest in the ancient history of Jerusalem, in particular before and after the time of Jesus, and ends with Charles Wesley’s hymn, “The New Jerusalem.” 

The Preface to Meir Shalev’s “Michael and the Monster of Jerusalem”

A more recent illustrated children’s book, Michael and the Monster of Jerusalem, attempts to tell a more religiously pluralistic history of Jerusalem as a city sacred to three religious traditions and therefore also a city that has found itself in the midst of conflict for centuries.  This history is narrated not by a parent but by an imaginary monster named Methusalem, a name that evokes both the biblical figure “Methuselah,” the oldest man who ever lived, and the city of Jerusalem, called “Salem.”  The book contains a preface written by the former mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, who playfully bemoans not having heard of this “non-tax-paying resident of the city” until reading Michael’s tale. 

Mati and Ahmed, Jewish and Muslim boys from Jerusalem, as they are depicted in Sheldon Lewis’ Mini Adventures in Jerusalem.

Finally, the catalogue ends with an exploration of books that are explicitly written to promote peace among Jerusalem’s diverse religious populations as well as among those outside the city who likewise feel deeply connected to the city from afar.  Both stories feature pairs of Jewish and Muslim boys who discover, through the course of their interactions with one another, that they have just as many similarities as differences, and that one of the things that binds them is their love of their city, Jerusalem.

Focusing on items that are found in Fordham’s collection – whether original manuscripts or facsimiles – forced us to be creative in the connections we made.  We weren’t able to resort to the most famous objects found at the Met or the British Museum.  As a result, there are quite a few objects that are remarkable precisely because they are quite ordinary, such as a Mahzor that a regular congregant would hold in a synagogue in Amsterdam, or a stained book of hours with tattered pages that must have been used and cherished before anyone thought to preserve it.  The limitations of the collection also prompted us to consider books written and published in the US that touch on the history of Jerusalem, and to wonder what role they played for American readers – including readers in our very own university library. 

The artifacts cover much ground, from ancient glass to medieval manuscripts to modern literature.  But there are also significant gaps, which reflect absences in Fordham’s collection.  The most striking absence is that of Islamic texts.  Fordham has long collected Christian materials, and more recently began acquiring Judaica as well, but it has not yet begun to build a substantial collection of rare Islamic texts.  In class conversations, we brainstormed various ways of dealing with this gap in the context of our exhibition.  The first was to acknowledge it, thereby making the absence noticed.  In addition to acknowledging the gap, one student pointed out that while none of the manuscripts, books, or objects were produced by Muslims nor do they contain an Islamic text, some of the objects were produced in Muslim Jerusalem (for example, the stereoscope photographs, taken at the turn of the twentieth century in Ottoman Jerusalem) or created outside of Jerusalem at a time when the city was under Islamic rule (such as William of Adam’s indulgence, composed when Jerusalem was in Mamluk hands).  Some of them even depict Muslim Jerusalem (most strikingly, the Casale Pilgrimage, which includes drawing of late sixteenth century Jerusalem), or discuss Jerusalem’s Muslim residents (as Weitzman’s text does).  Thirdly, we incorporated more recent children’s literature that, though not rare, makes an effort to be deliberately pluralistic in its presentation of the city and its history.  Highlighting these historical contexts and expanding what the collection includes are some of the ways in which we’ve attempted to include Jewish, Christian, and Muslim dimensions of Jerusalem in this exhibition, despite the limitations we faced.

“Next Year in Jerusalem”: Looking Ahead

The very last sources I shared with my students during our final moments of our final class meeting were a number of Passover Haggadot, in which the phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem” appears.  I explained that when Jews say this phrase, they mean it in at least two ways.  First, they mean it literally, that they hope that by next year redemption will have arrived and that they’ll be living in a restored Jerusalem.  But they also recite it figuratively, as a generalized hope for the future – a hope that next year will be better, that they won’t be in the midst of a pandemic, that they’ll be somewhere else, in a way that they’ll figuratively be in Jerusalem.  I thought it was fitting to end our class in this way, with this doubled hope, that one day – in the not too distant future – each student be able to visit Jerusalem, the city about which we had just spent a full semester learning, and also that each of them will find their way to their own Jerusalem, wherever that might be, once it’s safe for each person to emerge from their homes.  And as I tell each group of students I teach, I hope that they will stay in touch – that they will send back their pilgrimage narratives and reflections from their journeys, wherever those take them.

The exhibition catalogue, “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” can be downloaded here.

As for those of us still on campus, there will also be several more upcoming exhibitions and catalogues highlighting the expected and unexpected places where Jerusalem appears in the Fordham Library.  There are new boxes of old books to explore, still uncatalogued, waiting for us in the back rooms of the library, as well as many other pages to peruse in the stacks.  Stay tuned!

Jerusalem Exhibition Details

A companion in-person exhibition, also titled “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” features some of the pieces that Sarit’s students researched for the catalogue as well as many additional pieces from the Fordham collection. It is currently on display at the Special Collections in Walsh Library on Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus through the end of 2021. The in-person exhibition was curated by Sarit Kattan Gribetz and Magda Teter, with the generous assistance of Vivian Shen of the O’Hare Special Collections.

Sarit Kattan Gribetz is Associate Professor of Classical Judaism in the Theology Department at Fordham University, and served as Acting Director of Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies in 2020-2021. Her first book, Time and Difference in Rabbinic Judaism (Princeton University Press), received a National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship. She is currently writing her next book, Jerusalem: A Feminist History.

Announcing the 2021-2022 Fellows at the Center for Jewish Studies @Fordham

Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies is delighted to welcome new fellows in 2021-2022. This cohort represents the interdisciplinary depth of Jewish Studies.  For the past few years, Fordham has partnered with several institutions – Columbia University’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, the Center for Jewish History, and the New York Public Library – to make these fellowships possible. We are looking forward to a thought-provoking year of learning together.

Rabin-Shvidler Post-Doctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies at Columbia and Fordham:

  • Samuel Shuman, Ph.D. University of Michigan 

“Cutting Out the Middleman: The Diamond Industry & the Politics of Displacement in a European Port-City”

Sam Shuman is an anthropologist of religion, politics, and economy, who studies the shifting role of historical merchant diasporas in the age of supply-chain capitalism. At Fordham, he will teach two courses in the Anthropology Department, and develop his dissertation into a book manuscript. His book will focus on the relationship between Antwerp’s Jews and the diamond industry as a way to rethink politics in contemporary Europe.

2021 Salo Baron New Voices in Jewish Studies Award Recipients:

  • Daniella Farah, Ph.D. Stanford University

“Forming Iranian Jewish Identities: Education, National Belonging, the Jewish Press, and Integration, 1945-1981” 

Daniella Farah’s scholarship lies at the intersection of modern Jewish history, education history, Middle Eastern history, and transnational studies, focusing on Jewish-Muslim relations and Jewish identity formation in twentieth-century Iran and Turkey. By applying a transnational approach to the history of Jewish education, her work asks what bearing language and access to education had on Turkish and Iranian Jews’ abilities to integrate into and claim belonging to their respective nation-states. Daniella will be Samuel W. and Goldye Marian Spain Postdoctoral Fellowship in Jewish Studies at Rice University.

  • Jeremiah Lockwood, Ph.D. Stanford University

“Golden Ages: Chassidic Singers and Cantorial Revival in the Digital Era,”

Jeremiah Lockwood’s research argues that a cadre of young Chassidic singers who have embraced a style of early 20th century recorded sacred music illustrates the contested nature of prayer practices in the contemporary Jewish American community. His thesis offers a picture of artists who surface sounds of the Jewish sonic past as a means of aesthetic self-cultivation and a utopian effort to revive an approach to prayer characterized by the transportive experience of listening. Beyond a revival of musical style, their work with the archive of early Jewish records attempts to reanimate a form of comportment in prayer based in an imagined Jewish past in which aesthetics and prayer were integrated and the role of artists was foregrounded as communal leaders facilitating the experience of listening as a sacred act. Jeremiah is currently Associated Researcher at UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology.

  • Alex Moshkin

“Russian-Jewish Culture in Israel: In Search of Identity”

Alex Moshkin’s research examines the largest outpost of Russian-Jewish culture in the twentieth century—that of Israel. His dissertation, “Russian-Jewish Culture in Israel: In Search of Identity,” which he wrote at the University of Pennsylvania, tells the story of how Russian-speaking writers and artists sought to forge a Jewish/Israeli cultural identity after their immigration to Israel with a divided and often vague understanding of this identity-in-the-making. In analyzing this cultural output, Alex shows how engagement with Soviet history, Jewish religious tradition, ideas of cosmopolitanism, and the institution of the Israeli army has allowed Russophone artists in Israel both to inscribe themselves as part of the Jewish population and to insist on their unique, hyphenated Russian-Israeli identification.  Alex will be Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Koç University in Istanbul.

  • Sarah Zager

“’I Will Sing of Love and Justice’: Jewish Responses to the Theological Roots of Contemporary Virtue Ethics” 

Sarah Zager is a scholar of philosophy, religion, and Jewish thought. Her Yale dissertation puts Jewish philosophy into conversation with contemporary ethical theory in order to develop a novel account of the relationship between moral rules and character development. While much of the philosophical conversation to date has assumed that we can understand ethics either as a system of rules (deontology) or as a discourse about character-formation (virtue ethics), Sarah uses the work of  Maimonides , Moses Mendelssohn, and the nineteenth-century Musar thinkers Israel Salanter and Simhah Zissel Ziv to show that we can productively combine virtue ethical and deontological approaches, arguing that these thinkers provide us with useful resources for addressing problems in contemporary moral conversation, including those of race and gender.  She is also working on a project on the role of abstract thinking in feminist thought and Jewish philosophy, focusing especially on experiences of infertility and pregnancy loss.

Fordham-NYPL Mid-Term Research Fellow in Jewish Studies:

  • Ephraim Shoham-Steiner, Ben Gurion University

“The ‘Holy Community of Cologne’: New Perspectives on the Medieval Jewish Community

Cologne is one of the only Jewish communities in medieval Europe that received serious and meticulous archeological attention. The Cologne Judenviertel (Jewish quarter) located at the heart of the city’s historical center in close proximity to the city hall (Rathaus) was excavated twice over the past 60 years. One of the earliest scholars studying Cologne was Adolf Kober (1879-1958), and Ephraim will study pertinent materials relating to him and by him that are held at the NYPL and the Center for Jewish History in New York.

Fordham-NYPL Short-Term Research Fellows in Jewish Studies:

  • Tamara Gleason-Freidberg, University College London 

“‘Our Golden Chain in Broken’: Responses to the Holocaust in theh Bundist Journal Foroys from Mexico (1941-1947)”

Tamara Gleason-Freidberg will explore the variety of texts about the Holocaust that appeared in Foroys, a Yiddish journal published by a group of left-wing activists who had founded the association Kultur un Hilf in 1941 as a Mexican branch of the Jewish Labour Committee, which had been established in New York City.  During her time at the NYPL, Tamara will focus on texts published in Foroys between 1941-1947, with a special focus on articles and poems that tried to explain the significance of the annihilation of Eastern European Jewry, analyzing the specifically Jewish Mexican context of these Yiddish publications.

  • Zohar Segev, University of Haifa 

“Philanthropy, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation: The Nathan Straus Papers in the NYPL”

Nathan Straus is most known for his co-ownership of Macy’s and his promotion of the pasteurization of milk in the USA and in Palestine. The projects Straus initiated and funded in Palestine exemplify the dramatic transformation in the reciprocal relations between US Jews and Jewish communities in Europe and Palestine during the interwar period. Zohar Segev’s research at the NYPL, which holds the Nathan Straus Papers, will examine the full scope of Straus’ philanthropic work in Palestine. 

  • Sharon Weltman, Louisiana State University 

“Elizabeth Polack: British Melodrama and Jewish Emancipation”

Elizabeth Polack was the first Anglo-Jewish woman playwright, and perhaps the first Jewish woman dramatist in any language. Her melodramas appeared in print and on the London stage from 1835 to 1838.  But very little is known about her. Sharon Weltman aims to fill that gap, recovering forgotten plays and investigating how a Jewish woman found an audience in London’s theater scene when Jews had almost no civil rights, were typically reduced to antisemitic stereotypes on stage, and when women playwrights faced serious obstacles to production and publication. Polack’s use of melodrama in the context of a decades-long fight for Jewish emancipation helped bring Britain to the condition of a modern state where all adults hold equal rights under the law.

Associate Fellows in Jewish Studies:

  • Emmanuel Bloch

“Modesty: Halakhah, Meta-Halakhah and Historical Development in the Twentieth Century”

Emmanuel Bloch’s research analyzes the concept of Tsniut, understood as modest female dress, in the halakhic realm, demonstrating that Tsniut underwent a process of halakhization in the middle of the twentieth century and shedding light on the social context surrounding this metamorphosis.  His work uses the concept of Tsniut to explore how Jewish law changes (including the strategies employed to generate new halakhic rules) and as a lens through which to study the internal dynamics of twentieth- and twenty-first century Orthodoxy.

  • Ayelet Brinn

“”Tailors, Old Jews, and Women: Gender, Mass Culture, and the Rise of the American Yiddish Press” 

Ayelet Brinn is an American Jewish historian with an expertise in gender and popular culture (and a past Rabin-Shvidler Post-Doctoral Fellow at Fordham and Columbia). Her research explores the role of the Yiddish press in mediating between American and Jewish cultural spheres. Her current project investigates the crucial role that questions of women and gender played in the development of the American Yiddish press.  

  • Yehudah B. Cohn

“Immanuel of Rome: Hebrew Sonnets from the Early Renaissance”

Yehudah B. Cohn is currently finishing a book titled Immanuel of Rome: Hebrew Sonnets from the Early Renaissance, an annotated translation into English of Immanuel of Rome’s Hebrew sonnets. The aim is to render these Hebrew sonnets in iambic pentameter – the classic meter of the English sonnet – while retaining the rhyming scheme of the originals. The notes will focus on the allusions in the Hebrew, whether to the Bible, rabbinic literature or earlier medieval works.

  • Dana Fishkin

“Between Rome and the Adriatic: Immanuel of Rome and the Relationship Between Jews of Rome and the Marches in Medieval Italy” 

Dana Fishkin’s research examines the work and life of Immanuel of Rome, a well known polymath, poet, exegetist, best known for Mahbarot Immanuel (Immanuel’s Compositions), a miscellany of rhymed prose tales interspersed with metric poetry. The Mahbarot contains an encyclopedic range of content, including the earliest known Hebrew sonnets and a Hebrew version of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

  • Ben Ratskoff

“Waltzing with Hitler: Black Writers, the Third Reich, and Demonic Grounds of Comparison, 1936-1940” 

Ben Ratskoff’s recent dissertation, “Waltzing with Hitler: Black Writers, the Third Reich, and Demonic Grounds of Comparison, 1936-1940,” examines how Black writers in the United States and French Empire represented Nazism in real-time, in journalistic writing, poetry, and novels. His research focuses on the intersections of Black Studies and Jewish Studies, with particular interest in the relationship between antisemitism, white supremacy, and colonialism. 

  • Eli Rosenblatt

“Enlightening the Skin: Travel, Racial Language, and Rabbinic Intertextuality in Modern Yiddish Literature”

Eli Rosenblatt studies the Jewish Atlantic world less as a geographic space and more as a coherent system of exchange and interaction, where Jewish bodies, texts, ideas, theologies, pathologies, commodities, and technologies were regularly exchanged among the four continents of North and South America, Europe, and Africa. He places this Jewish Atlantic world in the context of the Black Atlantic world. He is completing a book manuscript on Yiddish literature in its colonial contexts, as rooted in the Jewish Enlightenment and covering the major aspects of Yiddish cultural production in the Black Atlantic world, and beginning to work on his second book project on the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Paramaribo, Suriname after the abolition of slavery in 1863 until World War II.

The Jews of Iraq in Modern Times – and My Family’s Story

by Hagit Goral Halperin

When George Bush went to war in Iraq in 1990 and clips from Iraq started showing on TV, I called my father to ask if it is possible that this depressingly bleak place was their paradise. My father was surprised: “What did you expect? This is one big desert with two rivers.” I guess I did know, but it wasn’t what I imagined about this country. This imagination was a fantasy based upon their stories, which seemed so ideal: the swimming and boating in the Tigris River, picnics on its bank in fruit gardens (bustan). The true picture is in the middle between what was shown on TV and my imagination. (I know that cameras that are aimed at filming war do not show the pleasant places.) The feeling of paradise is not the picture portrayed in history books, but indeed the Jews in Iraq maintained their community for many centuries, without any extremely traumatic incidents and in a relatively safe environment. What stands out is the great co-existence they had with their neighbors, the Muslim Arabs. This coexistence can be exemplified by customs of reciprocity during holidays. Iraqi Jews remember that Muslim neighbors used to bring hot tea to Jews returning from the synagogue at the end of Yom Kippur, and trays with bread and cheese at the conclusion of Passover. In Basra, where a significant number of Jews lived, there was no Jewish quarter; Jews lived in mixed neighborhoods. 

Image 1: Cover of My Beloved Baghdad: Memories and Longing by Shmuel Moreh

Many Iraqi Jews, when referring to their old homeland, express the feeling of Lost Paradise. The Iraqi immigrants in Israel and in other parts of the world, including North America and Europe, hold special pride in their Diaspora, as the oldest Diaspora, whose beginning is recorded in the Bible. In Israel, the Iraqi Jews receive special acknowledgement, being called in formal occasions “Babylonian Jews” (Ha’aliya Ha’Bavlit) though Babylon is long gone. Indeed, even after the period of the Babylonian Exile and the return of some Jews to rebuild the second temple in Jerusalem, Jews in Iraq had a rich and outstanding history of scholarly leadership in the Jewish world. From around the third century C.E., a period famously known as the Amoraic period, the rabbinic Amora’im composed the Talmud; in the late sixth through eleventh centuries, the Geonim led the Yeshivot (Talmudic academies) of Sura and Pumbedita. This leadership of the Jewish world ended in the mid-thirteenth century with the Mongol conquest of Iraq. Like their Muslim neighbors in Iraq, the Jews lost both their prominent positions in commerce and their scholarly leadership in the Jewish world.

Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1517 through the end of World War I.  The historian Norman Stillman describes the situation of Jews and Christians in Iraq under the Ottomans as a constant state of insecurity, continuing throughout the nineteenth century, and explains that conditions were worse in the north, under the Kurdish tribes’ domain. When Da’ud Pasha ruled, between the years 1817-31, many Jews fled to other countries to escape oppression.[1] Stillman described cases of Jews who were accused and executed for blasphemy against Muhammad. A series of three letters, dating from 1860, provide an interesting account of an attempt by the Turkish governor Nuri Pasha, who was pressured by Muslim extremists to remove the Jewish custody of Ezekiel’s Tomb, claiming that it was built over the ruins of a mosque. [2] A letter sent by the community leaders of the Baghdadi Jews to Nuri Pasha states that Jews held the prophet’s tomb for 2000 years. The British Consul, who was concerned that a similar fate might occur to the Christian community in Iraq, sent another letter in this regard. 

The Jews of Iraq: Fallen Glory | JEWISH HOME LA
Image 2: The Prophet Ezekiel’s Tomb al-Kifl, Iraq, build between the 12-14th centuries
(image source: Wikipedia) 

These letters provide testimony to religious tension, a result of the rise of Muslim extremism during this period in Iraq. It also illustrates European involvement in the Ottoman Empire as that empire was slowly losing its power. Both Jews and Christians intervened on behalf of their co-religionists. This is also a testimony to the ancient establishment and the symbiotic status of the Jews in Iraq. They were in charge of places revered by all three religions there: Muslims, Jews, and Christians. (Apparently Ezekiel’s Tomb along with the tombs of Ezra the Scribe and Jonah the Prophet, all considered sacred by Muslims, were renovated by the government of Saddam Hussein and guards were assigned to protect these holy places.[3]

Image 3: Girls learning to sew in the workshop at the Alliance School in Basra, Iraq, 1939
(image source: Facebook group “עיראקים יוצאי בבל”)

In the mid-nineteenth century, the situation of the Jews in Iraq started to change in a way that distinguished them from the rest of the population. The arrival of the French Alliance Israelite Universal branch of Jewish schools (in 1864 for boys and 1893 for girls)[4] meant the advance of Western education to Jews, at a time when 95% of the Iraqi population was illiterate.[5] By 1880, about 12,000 Jewish children attended schools. In Baghdad and Basra, the rich families in the communities sponsored traditional Yeshiva schooling for their poor. At the same time the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire meant modernization of Baghdad and Basra, especially between the years 1869-1872 under Midhat Pasha, and this transformation worked well for the newly educated generation of young Jews. When the British army conquered Iraq from the Turks during the First World War, those educated Jews were in a good position to embark on a trend of prosperity and success, backed by the British who preferred to bestow their trust to minorities. The British stayed until 1932, when Iraq became independent, and they returned during the Second World War, after a pro-Nazi group led by the Mufti of Jerusalem and Rashid Ali took control of the government. This new government organized clashes against Jews (the Farhud) in 1941. Some claim that the British used these clashes as a pretext for coming back to Iraq.[6] However, the British stayed at the outskirts of the cities until the clashes calmed down. Only then did they enter with their army.

As Jewish history teaches us, after success a backlash is likely to follow. When the British came during World War I they installed a pro-British king, Faisal ibn Hussein, from the Hashemite family. This intervention gave a boost to the Pan-Arab nationalistic trend in Iraq, while in Israel a flood of Zionist European Jews caused a resistance and bloody retaliations with the Palestinian Arabs. In many ways the situation of the Iraqi Jews was determined by what happened in the West. Intervention of the British in Iraq’s affairs both promoted the Iraqi Jews and also caused a rise in Arab nationalism. The movement of European Jews to Israel and their later victory in the War of Independence in 1948 added fire to the jealousy, which is natural when a minority is too successful. The downfall started with the Farhud. Muslim rioters robbed and killed about 200 Jews in Baghdad and wounded as many as a 1000 more. For a while even after the Farhud, however, things seemed to go back to normal for the Jews. 

אחרי 77 שנה, גם יהודי עיראק דורשים הכרה כנפגעי הנאצים - חינוך ...
Image 4: The Farhud, during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, June 1st-2nd, 1941
(image source: Pictures Archive of Yad Ben Zvi & Beit Hatfutsot)

Both of my parents share the feeling, expressed by many Iraqi Jews of that generation, that they lived very well among their Muslim neighbors. When unrest occurred, Iraqi Jews blamed politics rather than inherited hatred. Both of my families, my paternal side in Baghdad and my maternal side in Basra, were protected during the Farhud. Their Muslim neighbors warned them in advance and stood at the entrance of the alleyways to block the excited mob. In Basra, Jews were not killed and the attackers ended up looting the market, regardless of whether the owner was Jewish or not. In Baghdad, people were murdered. One victim was my great-grandfather, who was walking in the street, unaware of what was going on. My father, who always tried to convey the message that Jews and Muslims can live peacefully together, did not tell us this fact until a year before he died – he was always convinced that the Farhud was nothing more than an action of a mob triggered by propaganda. 

Through the stories of my family I have a colorful view of the history of the Jews of Iraq. The oldest account of my mother’s family actually relates to a woman. Apparently, in the mid-nineteenth century (in 1854), Basra suffered a severe plague that reduced the Jewish population from three thousand families to fifty. According to my family’s story, the whole Jewish community left the city and settled on its outskirts in tents until it appeared safe to return. My mother’s great-great grandmother apparently took the initiative to carry a big load of flour with her, and she started baking bread and giving it away to all the hungry children of the community. For this remarkable act she became known as “Hubaza,” meaning baker, and it became the family’s last name. 

My mother’s family was one of the established families in Basra and by the turn of the century they acquired quite a good fortune as merchants. An interesting story of my family concerning the Jewish community happened around 1930. Apparently my mother’s two grandfathers, Dudi and Menahem (as was common, they were also close relatives), accused the rabbi of stealing the congregation’s money. As a response, their families and their supporters were excommunicated from the Jewish community. They became known as the “Theosophists,” apparently implying that they were nonbelievers (at that time, a family friend, who returned home from a business trip in India, initiated a Theosophy’s study group). The “Theosophists” bought a bustan (a tree-garden) and built their own synagogue. It also provided them a place to socialize and to bury the few elders who died at this time, since they were barred from the Jewish cemetery. My mother and her siblings had to leave the Alliance School and join the Iraqi public school (as a result they don’t speak French). My mother speaks fondly about the public school. She explains that she and her sister were treated very well, and had Muslim friends. Apparently they used to study the Qur’an with the Muslim girls, while in the boys’ school, the Jews were asked to leave the room when Qur’an was taught.  

Image 5: In the “Theosophic” busan: my mother, Luise Doodi, and her oldest and youngest brothers, Nachum and Eddy

My uncle and another boy from the banned group were named Balfour (in a salute to Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary who, in 1917, wrote a declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, supporting the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, known as the Balfour Declaration). Both boys, then in the Iraqi public school, received blows from their classmates, and a worried Muslim teacher suggested to their parents that they change the boys’ names. The parents did so and my uncle was renamed Daud and his friend was renamed Fu’ad. (Fu’ad Gigi now lives in New York as Fred. He told me recently that all the problems for the Jews in Iraq started with the declaration of Lord Balfour.) 

Image 6: The Balfour Declaration, 1917
(image source: University History Archive/UIG/Getty)

The dispute in the congregation ended up in court, and my family won the case. Later on, Nuri Sa’id, the prime minister, was involved in solving the matter by making peace (sulcha) between the two factions, and actually paying a visit to my great-grandparent’s home. The fact that the prime minister became involved in a dispute in the Jewish community is not so surprising because at that time Jews were holding major positions in the administration and commerce of Iraq and were among the wealthiest people in Iraq. Iraq’s first Minister of Finance, Yehezkel Sasson (1921-27), was a Jew; for many years the treasurer of Iraq was Avraham Elkabir, another Jew. Jews occupied main positions in the post office, the train administration, and the high court.[7] My mother’s great uncle, Elias Khawa was the minister of the port in Basra, which was the main commercial of Iraq  (it is unclear why his last name is woman’s first name, since usually last names were after the father’s first name )  My mother remembers the gifts that he used to get from merchants who needed favours from him. Her uncle, Naji Menachem, was the port treasurer.  

Image 7: Sir Sassoon Eskell, a Jewish Iraqi statesman and financier, also known as Sassoon Effendi, sitting third from right, next to King Faisal I al-Hashemi, who reigned 1921-33
(image source:
Image 8: My father, Moris, and my grandfather, Shkuri Taufiq, in Baghdad in the late 1930s

My father’s family lived in Baghdad and apparently was from a somewhat lower middle class. My grandfather, Shkuri Ta’ufik, was a self-made person. When he was 13-years old, his father died and he had to leave school and work to support his mother and siblings. He worked for a while as an apprentice of the shochet – the Jewish butcher. His breakthrough came thanks to a punishment by the British. Failing to register to the British authorities, he was sent on a British Navy ship to India, where he stayed for a year, learning English while abroad. Upon returning he started working in the Jewish owned Zilkha Bank in Baghdad. This was one of the most important banks in Iraq – and the first chain banking in the Arab world, with branches in Beirut, Damascus, Cairo and Alexandria, and the Iraqi government was invested in it.[8] My grandfather made his way up and became the treasurer of the Zilkha Bank. He bought a big house outside of the Jewish quarter, in a mixed neighborhood, and was able to house a few relatives in it as well. (When he moved to Israel he was much better off than most, as he was able to transfer some money in advance to Israel, and to buy a house and a store there.) His children attended the prestigious Anglo-Jewish school Shamash, which was the only Jewish school outside of the crowded Jewish neighborhood.[9] At that period, it was allowed to teach reading Hebrew, but the newly independent Iraqi government (since 1932) banned the teaching of the Bible and Jewish history. My father studied the Hebrew Bible only in Israel.

Image 9: The graduating class of Shamash, the British affiliated Jewish school in Baghdad in 1942; my father stands in the third row, first from right

This period is distinguished because the Jews were going through rapid social and cultural changes. My two grandmothers, who were born at the turn of the century, never attended school and stayed illiterate all their lives. Apparently, in their youth, Jewish girls started attending schools, but my grandmothers were caught up in the instability of the time in addition to the fact that most of society was not ready for those changes. When the British army entered Iraq during World War I, they came with Indian troops and a rumor spread among the Jews that these soldiers were abducting girls, and so, many Jewish girls stayed home and got married early, as usual. When she was born, my maternal grandmother was promised to the 10-years old son of her mother’s aunt. When she turned 12 she was married, and ‘luckily’ for her she was allowed to stay for a year longer in her parents’ home until she began menses. Her first son was born when she was fourteen. She moved to Khoramshahr in Iran, where her husband’s family lived, but when she was twenty-years old her mother died, and she returned home to Basra, to take care of her father and brothers. 

Image 10: My mother’s great grandmother, Razala Khawa, in the 1930s, wearing a traditional Jewish woman’s head covering topped by a metal ball wrapped in gold thread

My maternal grandmother came to age on the brink of modernity. Although uneducated, she dressed only in Western clothes and gave Western names to a few of her children. She was determined to marry off her daughters only after they finished school. Even though her husband was ten years her senior, well-educated, spoke Turkish, and served for a few months as an officer in the Turkish army before World War I, my grandmother was always the lady of the house, hosting British officers for tea parties.[10] Her husband was one of the first agents of Singer, and she became a talented seamstress and embroiderer who, according to my mother, embroidered dresses for weeks and then donated them for charity if  she found out that other women copied her designs. 

Image 11: My grandfather, Moshi Doodi, second from right, with the employees of the Singer Corporation in Basra in the 1930s

My paternal grandmother also married young and had a hard time with her husband’s family. Her time to shine came when she was ill and the doctor suggested that she move outside the city. The family moved to a Muslim village, and there my uneducated grandmother became a counselor to the village women. My father remembered them flocking to her house to learn about things like childcare and feminine hygiene. Upon returning to Baghdad the family bought their own house. Another distinguished woman was her aunt, Lulu Tweina (her last name is not certain), also analphabetic, who became a talented seamstress and a good businesswoman. She never married (and never attempted to) and was so successful that her clientele included many government officials (my father claims that she used to boast that if they ever needed something from the king, she would have no problem getting it). She became a rich woman and started lending money to her customers, who apparently owed her such great sums that when the family moved to Israel she decided to stay, hoping that one day they would pay her back. (My father recalls a memorable incident. This aunt tried to marry off her miserably unsuccessful sister by paying a young man a good amount of money. My father, about 7-year old then, was asked to spend the first night with the newly married couple, witnessing the bride kicking her groom away. The young groom fled with the money shortly thereafter.)

  In this atmosphere of changes in the cities in the 1930s, young Jews were attending Westernized schools, in which Judaic studies were not permitted. The slogan of those days was the nationalist song: “Jews (Musawi), Christians (Esawi) and Muslim (Muhamadi) – we are all Arabs.” Jews dressed in Western clothes and saw American movies in the theater. According to my mother, her mother used to put on an abayia (a black robe) when going out, and the celebratory Jewish type of cover – the Izar – when going to the synagogue on Shabbat, but she and her sister never did, and they used to walk by themselves to places around town with no fear. The synagogues became a place to go for holidays; the community held events, such as plays performed by the young to benefit the congregation’s poor. Charity was an integral part of life. Since food could not be saved for the next day, my grandmother used to send one of her children with leftovers to hand to a certain poor family, accompanied by a servant.  She wouldn’t send a servant alone, as it would have been regarded as an insult. 

Image 12: An Izar, a type of wrap dress worn by Jewish women on holidays; the face covering is made out of horse hair, from the collection of the Israel Museum

This period saw the detachment of many young Jews from traditional ways. Many of them were drawn to Arab culture, to Communism, and later to Zionism. My father used to say that Zionism saved his life. He and his best friend Shaul Tweig (the bank manager’s son, who was Zilkha’s in-law) joined the Communist movement, which like Zionism, was outlawed. My father left and became a devoted Zionist but Tweig stayed and was stoned to death by the police during a Communist demonstration. 

The Zionist movement started taking root among the young people after the Farhud. At first it was an attempt by the young Jews to organize resistance to atrocities (the Shurrah), and then, with the arrival of Israeli emissaries in 1942, this organization transformed into the Zionist movement. The time was ripe for the Zionist movement (the Tnu’ah) to attract an excited group of young Jews looking for new ideals. It gave them new meaning, when religion wasn’t inspiring any longer. It gave them a pretext to meet in mixed groups, men and women together. Israeli emissaries taught them Israeli songs and dances. They used to take boats at night to small islands on the river and sing those songs loudly. It was secretive and their parents were not aware of their activities. My father, Yoav Goral (born as Morris Ta’ufik), taught himself Hebrew from a dictionary and became a counselor, being also appointed as the cultural head of the Tnu’ah in Baghdad. When it became necessary to find a place for the Tenu’ah’s library, he moved the entire library to his room without his parents’ knowledge and told his mother that she could no longer enter his room. Since carrying illegal material was the most dangerous mission, the women in the Tenu’ah had a special role. They could carry around such material, covered by their abaya. My father tells how astonished his family was when a woman, a Tenu’ah activist – coming to check the library – came alone asking for him. This was something unheard of in those days.

Image 13: Young members of the Zionist Tenu’ah (my father sits in the middle), on the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad in the 1940s

The activity of the Zionist movement in Iraq had astounding success among the young people, starting with a reaction to the Farhud, and the call to defend themselves against atrocities. It continued to grow with the atrocities experienced by Jews while Israel was fighting to become an independent state in the years between 1946 and 1949. In 1948, the Iraqi government outlawed Zionist activities. One of the wealthiest Jews in Basra, Shafik Ades, who established the agency of the Ford car company in Iraq, was arrested and accused of being a Zionist supporter. This was ironic because he was actually one of those who opposed the Zionist movement, but it didn’t help him and he was hanged publicly. False accusations by envious Muslim colleagues brought also the arrest of my great uncle, Naji Menachem (the port treasurer), also arrested for being a Zionist activist.  He had opposed Zionism as well, and even after his release he maintained his dislike of the Zionist affair. He was sentenced to three years in prison and my grandmother managed to bribe someone to move him from a pit in northern Iraq to a prison in Baghdad. 

Image 14: Shafiq Ades at his trial, being led to his execution by hanging in front of his villa in Basra in 1948
(image source: Picture Archive of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Or Yehuda, Israel)

Naji fled to Iran when he was released from prison in 1951, choosing not to immigrate to Israel. Many of the very well-to-do Iraqi Jews never considered Zionism and some of them stayed in Iraq after most of the community left. Naji did well in Iran and then had to flee again when Ayatollah Khumeini came to power – a reminiscent of the story of the Jews who fled from Spain to Portugal, only to find themselves fleeing again shortly after). Again, Israel wasn’t his preferred option. He came to Israel in 1980 only because he couldn’t go to the United States.

The arrest and hanging of Ades in 1948 signified an important turning point for many Jews. Many Jew were arrested, as the Iraqi government was going after Zionist activities. During 1948, all the Jews in governmental jobs were dismissed, and restrictive laws forbade Jews from banking, import and export, and higher education. In 1949, martial law was lifted and Jews started to leave in large numbers. In 1950, the Iraqi government passed a law that allowed Jews to leave if they gave up their Iraqi citizenship and relinquished their assets. Thanks to a secret deal between high rank Iraqi government officials, who owned the airline, and an Israeli secret agent named Shlomo Hillel, Jews were airlifted by Iraqi airplanes to Iran, and from there they were taken by Israeli planes to Israel. (A temporary camp was built in the Jewish cemetery in Teheran to accommodate those who were waiting to be airlifted to Israel.) In 1950, a few bombs were exploded in a synagogue in Baghdad and in the American consulate. This increased the sense of urgency and Jews felt that it was necessary to leave. (A rumor claims that the bombing was an act of the Israeli Mosad, attempting to persuade the Jews to move to Israel.) The Tenu’ah sent my father in 1945 to Israel due to illness. In 1950, he returned to Iraq as a secret emissary to help reorganize the activities of the Tenu’ah. At that time the situation became more and more difficult for Jews, as many of them lost jobs and lived in fear of arrest. He returned to Israel in 1951, when it became too dangerous to stay (after the arrest of the emissary Mordechai Ben-Porat by the Iraqi police) and he was actually the last of the Israeli emissaries to leave Iraq. 

ויזה טורקית של שלמה הלל על שם "ריצ'ארד ארמסטרונג", שם בדוי.
Image 15: Shlomo Hillel’s fake Turkish passport from 1950; he introduced himself to the Iraqi government as Richard Armstrong and arranged the airlift of Iraqi Jews
(image source: Operation Babylon, by Shlomo Hillel, 1987)
Image 16: My father, who changed his name to Yoav Goral when he moved to Israel, in Abadan, Iran, before re-entering Iraq on a secret mission to revive the Tenu’ah and organize the Aliya of remaining Jews; he was the last emissary to leave Iraq in 1950

Many Iraqi Jews in Israel are deeply proud of the success of their Aliya (immigration), as they feel that they initiated it and they were in charge of their own fate (notable is the difference from the North African Aliya, which was to a larger extent an initiative of the Israeli government, and attracted the poor, while many from the educated classes moved to France). In less than two years an ancient population of Iraqi Jews was reduced from 130,000 to 6,000 people. Most of them came to Israel, and unlike many North African Jews, they managed to integrate with the Israeli Ashkenazi population. Their successful positions in Iraq helped them to establish themselves in Israel, and just as their Aliya was largely their initiative, so was their integration. This integration of course had a price that some of them dismiss as unimportant. Most of them are now secular, and their Iraqi culture was kept only partially and mainly at home. Their children do not speak their Judeo-Arabic language, and although Jews in Iraq were the leading musicians for generations, in Israel many children of Iraqi Jews were not even exposed to this music. (A notable exception is the city of Ramat-Gan, where many Iraqi Jews live, which sponsors an Iraqi orchestra.)

Image 17: Saleh and Daoud al-Kuwaity with the national Iraqi Radio Orchestra, which they established in the 1930s; they were the Iraqi King’s favorite
(image source:

The Jews who stayed in Iraq were those who were too old to leave, those who didn’t “buy” into the Zionist ideas, and those who didn’t want to leave their wealth behind. The Jews that were left behind were allowed to attend Jewish schools, but apparently it was hard to find Jewish teachers. According to Sa’id Herdoon, who fled from Iraq to Israel in 1972 after spending six month in Abu-Ghraib jail, only a few Jews lived near the synagogue in Baghdad and so the rabbi declared that it was halakhically legal to come to the synagogue on Shabbat with a car, as long someone else drove, or to come by bus if the ticket was purchased on another day. Most of the Jews had to escape later, because after each war in Israel the Iraqi government acted against their Jews. In 1969, as a reaction to the Arab loss in the Six Days War, nine Jews were falsely accused of spying for Israel and they were hanged in Baghdad. Some half a million people paraded through to watch the hanging. As a result, in the early 1970s, groups of Jews crossed the border to Iran, assisted by the Kurds in the north, who smuggled them. The community is now dying out; as of 2005, only 76 elderly Jews were reported to live there, and no doubt that number is significantly lower now.

The 1969 public hangings of 9 Jews in Iraq who were falsely accused of  spying for Israel. Half a million peopl… | Middle eastern history, History  class, Persecution
Image 18: The 1969 public hangings in Baghdad of 9 Jews who were falsely accused of spying for Israel; half a million people paraded and danced past the scaffolds where the men were hanged
(image source:

A prosperous community of Iraqi Jews lives in London.  This community consists of Jews who immigrated there before and between the two World Wars and some who came in the 1960s. In the early 1980s, when the Diaspora Museum in Israel was planning an exhibition of the Babylonian Diaspora, to be curated by Sara Gilboa Karni, Shlomo Hillel – then a minister in the Israeli government – was sent to London to raise money, but the mission turned unsuccessful. The exhibition never happened and the book that was to accompany it was never published. Meanwhile, the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center was established in Or Yehuda, initiated by the former Knesset member Mordechai Ben Porat; its mission is to preserve Iraqi Jewish culture. The center was made possible largely thanks to donations from Iraqi Jews in the United States.

As of 2005, the estimate is that around 15,000 Iraqi Jews live in the United States. Generally, many Iraqi Jews in the United States are spread around, but two centers emerged, one on the West Coast and one on the East. In Los Angeles, Kahal Joseph Congregation was established in 1959 by Iraqi Jews who came from the Far East (India, Burma, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Indonesia) at the beginning of the twentieth century. Their synagogue follows “Nusakh Baghdad” (Baghdad custom and usage). In New York State there are two congregations. In 1934, Iraqi Jews first organized the “Iraqi Aid Society,” when, at the height of the great depression of the 1930s, many of the community’s members suffered its effects. It is important to note that most Iraqi Jews who came to New York were not poor, but on the contrary, they were among the more prominent families. The first communal action of the society was to buy a burial place for its members. The Iraqi Aid Society cemetery, inside the Montifiore Cemetery in Long Island, came into being in 1945 and since then it grew bigger as more plots were purchased. Until the mid-1980s, the community used to rent space at a few hotels to celebrate holidays. In 1983, a small synagogue that previously served the Afghani Jewish community was purchased in Jamaica, Queens, and a religious organization was established under the name of Congregation Bene Naharayim (which means, in Hebrew, “between the rivers”). Interestingly, their Religious Advisor and Chazan (cantor) is an Iraqi Jew from Calcutta (India), named Aaron Abrahams, who has been serving the community since the early 1970s. In 1997, members of the Iraqi Jewish community in Long Island established a second congregation in Great Neck, under the name of the Babylonian Jewish Center. Their mission statement is “the preservation, promotion, and continuation of the culture, tradition and identity of the Babylonian Jewish Heritage through religious, social and educational means.” In order to preserve the Babylonian Nusach (customs), their by-laws state that only Iraqi Jews can become members. But then the congregation couldn’t find a native Iraqi rabbi or cantor and hired an Israeli-Moroccan rabbi and a half-Iraqi cantor. Both of them, trained in Israel, pronounce their Hebrew letters differently (mainly they are not used to the Iraqi deep Koof and the Vav which should be pronounced as Waw). The congregation’s elders tried to train them in proper Iraqi pronunciation, but admitted that it was hard. A great percentage of this congregation’s members are actually Iraqis who came to the United States from Iran after the Islamic Revolution of Khomeini in 1980.

The synagogue reflects the somewhat easy going character of Iraqi Jews. Most of its members are non-observant Jews, and see themselves as Masorati’im (traditionalist). Yet, “orthodox” traditions are observed. The synagogue consists of one big room with an open center in the middle, for the Torah reading (there is no raised bimah). Surprisingly (for me) the men sit on the two sides, and the women sit in front of the Aron Hakodesh (the ark), behind a low partition. Their presence is very pronounced during the service (positioned well to throw candies on the Chattan Torah, when there is a celebration for an upcoming wedding, or at a Bar Mitzvah celebration). The gallery serves for babysitting (with non-Jewish babysitters). A few older women cover their heads with a kippa-size lace, fastened to their head. At an event such as a baby naming, the whole congregation (about 130 families) is present, and it feels like one big hamula (extended family). The languages spoken there are a mix of the Iraqi Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Many of those who left Iraq in the 1950s say that they can no longer speak the Iraqi Arabic, and need English to communicate with a non-Jewish Iraqi. When I asked about the second generation, many of them attest regretfully that their children only know a few words in this language. While this congregation is new, its leadership is old, and it is not clear how it will turn out in the future. On the congregation’s calendar, its president, Shlomo Bakhas wrote “Although most Iraqi Jews may not be traditionally religious, there is no question that we are religiously traditional, and proud of it.

Hagit Goral Halperin grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, where a group of young Iraqi Jews were among its founding members. She holds a master’s degree in Jewish Art and Visual Culture from the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as a bachelor’s in Restoration from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She holds an art teaching certificate from Ha’Midrashah Le’Omanut, an Israeli college for art education. Currently, Hagit teaches Hebrew at Fordham University, Dwight International High School, and JTS’s Ivry Prozdor program. Since 2006, Hagit has led tours in Hebrew at museums around New York, mainly for Ha-Ulpan students.


[1]  Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book (Philadelphia: JPS, 1979), 87-94.

[2] Ibid, 389-92.

[3] Jewish Virtual Library: Iraqi Jews (

[4] Reeva Spector Simon, , Michael Laskier, and Sara Reguer, eds, The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 359-362.

[5] According to a report the World Jewish Congress titled “The Treatment of Jews in Egypt and Iraq,” from 1948.

[6] See

[7] Spector Simon et al, The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times, 362-3.

[8] Spector Simon et al, The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times, 42 and 363.

[9] Golany, Babylonian Jewish Neighborhood and Home Design, 64.

[10] After the Young Turks Revolution in 1906, which allowed Jews to serve in the Ottoman army.


Atlas, Yehuda. Ad amud ha-tliya, alilot ha-machteret be-iraq. Tel Aviv: Ma’arakhot, 1969 (Hebrew).

Cohen, Ben. “Review (Book by Moshe Gat): Paradise Lost? The Jewish Exodus from Iraq, 1948-51.” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Summer, 1998), pp. 109-111.

Ivri, David. Doodi, from Bani-Said the Baghdadian Slum, Autobiographical Novel. Jerusalem: Research Institute of the Zionist-Pioneer Underground Movement in Iraq, 2002 (Hebrew).

Golany, Gideon S. Babylonian Jewish Neighborhood and Home Design. The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999

Senhav, Yehuda. “The Jews of Iraq, Zionist Ideology & the Property of the Palestinians Refugees of 1948: An Anomaly of National Accounting.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Nov., 1999), pp. 605-630.

Snir, Reuven. “Review: Kazzaz, The Jews in Iraq in the Twentieth Century.” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 84, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 495-500.

Spector Simon, Reeva, Michael Laskier & Sara Reguer, eds. The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Stillman, Norman. The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Philadelphia: JPS, 1979.

Warkov, Esther, “Revitalization of Iraqi-Jewish Instrumental Traditions in Israel: The Persistent Centrality of an Outsider Tradition.” Asian Music, Vol. 17, No. 2, Music in the Ethnic Communities of Israel (Spring – Summer, 1986), pp. 9-31.

World Jewish Congress. The Treatment of Jews in Egypt and Iraq. 1948.



Yoav & Aliza Goral (parents)

Fu’ad (Fred) Gigi

Sa’id (Sid) Herdoon

Su’am Tweig

Sara Gilboa Karni


Yoav Goral, Yearzeit book: Mordechai Bibi, Aliza Katan, Ya’akov Tzemach