US senator urges government not to send back archive

Senator Charles Schumer has called upon US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to return the Iraqi-Jewish archive, as mandated by an agreement signed between the provisional government in Iraq in 2003 and the US National Archives and Records Administration which shipped the archive to the US for restoration. To return the collection to its Jewish owners would require a new agreement, according to the Times of Israel (with thanks: Lily):

Schumer is among a group of US lawmakers who have joined Jewish groups in lobbying to keep the archive in a location accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants, who today live outside Iraq after being driven out amid intense persecution. Iraq and proponents of returning the archive say it can serve as an educational tool for Iraqis about the history of Jews there and that it is part of the country’s patrimony. “It’s disheartening that parchments of a Torah scroll and prayer books were discovered in such poor condition inside a flooded Baghdad Intelligence Center. After the United States preserved this ancient collection, it makes no sense to return the items to the Iraqi government, where they will no longer be accessible to the Jewish community,” Schumer said Tuesday in a statement released along with the letter.

Children’s Haggadah from 1902

 Earlier this month, Rodriguez (State Department spokesman Pablo) said the United States “will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and to make it available to members of the public to enjoy.”

Major Jewish groups have remained largely silent on the issue following the announcement of the 2018 return date. The Zionist Organization of America released a statement last month urging the State Department not to send back the archive, and Israeli lawmaker Anat Berko told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pressure the US to not send back the artifacts.

The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland from October 15 to January 15.


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