Baghdad’s Jews Live in Fear in Post-Saddam “Power Vacuum”

Source: Jerusalem Post

On September 29, 2004 the Jerusalem Post reported, “In many ways, this Rosh Hashana marked an ominous first for a man who embodies the very last vestiges of the 2,600-year-old Iraqi Jewish community. For the first time, [Emad] Levy, the community’s acting rabbi (there are no more certified rabbis), was unable to go to the synagogue and blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana. It was also the first time that Levy did not pray at the graves of his dead ancestors at the Baghdad Jewish cemetery – an Iraqi Jewish custom performed the day before Rosh Hashana. With some 3,200 graves, the large overgrown cemetery lies on the eastern edge of the capital. It is adjacent to Sadr City, a sprawling slum of more than two million Shi’ite Muslims, many of whom have been battling the US soldiers in their midst and blaming the Jews for the war. ‘If I go, they will know I am Jewish,’ says Levy, whose name is pronounced Lawi in Arabic. Today, being identifiably Jewish in the power vacuum of post-Saddam Iraq is practically suicidal. With roots that go back to 597 BCE, the once large and thriving Iraqi Jewish community has been reduced to a bunch of bachelors and elderly people living in fear for their lives.”