Americans know nothing of Jews from Arab lands

Following last week’s feature on the last Jews of Baghdad, The New York Times has published this letter:

“It was moving to read “Baghdad Jews Have Become a Fearful Few” (front page, June 1). As a first-generation American, born to an Iraqi Jewish father, I not only grew up hearing about the once vibrant Jewish community in Iraq and its special customs, but also grew up knowing that Americans knew next to nothing about the unique Jewish communities in Arab countries, or that they had existed at all.

“More than half of Israel’s population is made up of Jews with heritages from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Morocco and other Middle Eastern countries.

“For many such as those featured in your article, leaving Iraq was unimaginable, for their identities were as much Iraqi as they were Jewish.

“For the last 45 years, my father has spent tireless hours on behalf of Jews from Iraq and other countries in that region, trying to ensure their political safety whether they left or ultimately decided to stay. He has also cared deeply about the future of Iraq after this mess of a war that the Bush administration has led America into.

“Unfortunately, many of the contributions that these diverse Jewish communities brought to their countries have gone unnoticed, unappreciated and even undermined.”

Ava Geffen
Brookline, Mass.

Read letter in full

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