Israeli expert denies there are Jews in Kurdistan

An Israeli minority affairs specialist has denied reports that there are 430 Jewish families, or any Jewish community at all in Kurdistan. Some Ben-Ju (Kurds of Jewish ancestry) did come to Israel but promptly went back. However, the Jerusalem Post reports, along with other media, uncritically the appointment of Sherzad Omer Mamsani as the Jewish Affairs director when there are grounds to suspect that he is an Iranian agent who abducted the editor of the Israel-Kurd magazine. Sherzad admits that one of the objectives of the new Directorate is to attract ‘Jewish’ money. 

Sherzad Omer Mamsani: Iranian agent?

“There is no Jewish community in Kurdistan,” said Dr. Mordechai Zaken, head of minority affairs in the Public Security Ministry.

There
were several dozen families that had some distant family connection to
Judaism and most of them immigrated to Israel in the aftermath of the
Gulf War, he explained.

“Most of these people are Muslim Kurds
who perhaps have a grandmother or great grandmother of Jewish origin who
converted to Islam two or three generations ago,” he explained.

“Most
of them came to Israel based on the law of return and based on some old
Jewish ancestry and pretended to convert to Judaism, but within several
years they all returned to Kurdistan or Europe,” Zaken said.

There are no operating synagogues in Kurdistan and nobody can be found praying there even on the high holidays.

Nonetheless, Zaken points out that this does not take away from the good relations between Israel and Kurdistan.

The
BasNews website, based in Erbil – capital of the autonomous Kurdistan
region in northern Iraq – reported on Wednesday that the Kurdistan
Regional Government plans to build synagogues for its Jewish community
of around 430 families.

The KRG representative of Jews in the
Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Sherzad Omer, told the
Kurdish website that Kurdish Jews see themselves as “Kurdish before
being Jewish.”

Omer encouraged Jews living abroad to donate money to their homeland to assist their people.

“We
have also not faced any obstacles from the Kurdish Muslim community in
opening a Jewish representative office in the KRG,” he said. As soon as
the KRG’s financial crisis passes, it may be possible to renovate
abandoned synagogues, he added.

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