On May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, 16 American soldiers, entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, under four feet of water, they found 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents, in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, and English relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad. The Iraqi Jewish Archive was shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition, under the agreement that the US State Department would ship the trove back to Iraq after an exhibition of select documents in Washington DC. Using US tax dollars, the National Archives spent $3 million restoring select documents.
In October, 2013 the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) opened an exhibit in Washington DC, titled “Discovery and Recovery” that displayed 24 objects from the Iraqi Jewish Archive including: A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, a Torah scroll fragment from Genesis (one of 48 Torah scroll fragments found), a Zohar from 1815, materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, and other sacred ritual objects. Although there is no Jewish community remaining in Iraq, these items and the rest of the Iraqi Jewish Archive are slated to be returned to Iraq in May, 2016. Learn more by watching, “The Iraqi Jewish Archives: To Whom Do They Belong?” Legal Symposium at Cardozo Law