Iraqi Jew who remained hidden under Saddam’s regime

This extraordinary JTA story by Ben Sales about a Jew who recently left Iraq, Ceen Gabbai, has been widely disseminated in the Jewish media. It has met with scepticism from Iraqi Jews, who had never heard of her and say she was never part of the small Jewish community. Sources close to Point of No Return tell us that Ceen is the daughter of a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. They divorced long ago and she was brought up by her mother. While still in Iraq, she contacted a rabbi in New York to help her, ended up leaving Iraq and marrying him, and now lives in Brooklyn as an orthodox Jew.

Ceen Gabbai: sought asylum in the US

NEW YORK (JTA) — When Ceen Gabbai argued with her first-grade teacher about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, she didn’t realize how big of a risk she was taking.

 The year was 2000 and students across the world held strong opinions about the Second Intifada, an outbreak of violence that claimed thousands of lives and began in September of that year.

But Gabbai’s situation was different: She was one of the few Jewish students in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Standing up for Israel in a Baghdad elementary school was not an advisable move.

 “Saddam was all crazy about Palestine,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I go to school and they’re talking about what a horrible thing that is and how Israel was horrible. And I go and I’m like, ‘I think that’s a lie.’
Gabbai was called to the school office, took a letter home to her mother and her parents had a meeting with the principal.

Soon after they moved homes and she switched schools.

 Following the episode, her parents did not talk with her about Israel or Judaism.

Gabbai has had a dangerous life. Born a Jew under an Iraqi dictatorship, she endured constant anti-Semitism from a young age, then survived the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the years of war that followed.

 In 2015, Gabbai received asylum in the United States. She is now living in an Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn, raising a child, teaching elementary school and writing children’s literature.

 She does not look back fondly on the hardships she endured, but feels they taught her to persevere no matter the situation.

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.