The Iraqi Jewish Archives have revealed interesting details about the exodus of Kurdish Jews from Iraq, according to amateur historian Sami Sourani, who helped translate documents from Arabic.
The Kurdish Jews had to travel down to Baghdad in order to join the airlift to Cyprus and on to Israel.
During their exodus from Iraq during 1950 -1, the Baghdad Jewish community took charge of the welfare of the 18,000 Kurdish Jews who passed through the capital. It had to request a special budget to bury the many elderly Kurdish Jews who died in Baghdad.
According to Sami Sourani, who volunteeered to translate some files, the Baghdad Jewish community stepped up to the challenge of caring for the refugees during their short stay at the Massouda Shemtov synagogue.
The community took on the responsibility of feeding the refugees. The cook was Shalom Saleh who was hanged in January 1952 together with Yousef Basri on charges of Zionism.
Saleh worked very hard to feed the Kurdish arrivals. A ladies’ committee boiled 100 eggs a day.
The Community appointed a rabbi to take care of the Kurdish refugees. Some of the very old who could not stand the warm weather of Baghdad and passed away. To their credit, the Jewish community of Baghdad made sure that the dead were buried with dignity, regardless of their financial situation. This was done by the Hebra Kadisha – the Burial Society. The rabbi in charge wrote a letter to the Rabbanut of Baghdad asking for a special budget to buy cloth for shrouds.
The rabbi wrote that the dead people were so numerous, he could not afford to buy shrouds. He told how he was working every day until midnight just to talk to the refugees and deal with their welfare. Sometimes he had to buy them material using his own money. He requested a raise in his salary – about eight dinar per month, at that time. The Rabbanut responded favourably and he got what he wanted.
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