Databases and Collections
The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center houses a large, special collection of databases compiled over several decades, which reflect the life of the Jewish community in Iraq.
The collections contain manuscripts, films, photographs, liturgical songs, Iraqi-Jewish music, names and family trees. Some of the items in the collections are rare and can only be found at The Center.
Open your eyes, ears, and hearts to the story of the Jews of Babylon
The story of the Jews of Babylon, modern-day Iraq, began at their exile from the land of Israel. The circle closed in Israel in the end of the 20th century with the Aliya, or immigration, of most of the Iraqi Jewish community and the elimination of the Babylonian diaspora. In the intervening 2,600 years, Babylonia was the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical center of Jewish life.
The first Jews to settle in Babylonia arrived in an act of force. Uprooted from their homes in the kingdom of Judah, some 40,000 Jews were forced to follow Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylonia (562-605 BC), to his kingdom. After the king's death, the Jewish slaves were freed. In the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, they were allowed to go back to the land of Israel. Some did return (in what is known as Shivat Tsion or The Return to Zion) and built the Second Temple, only to be forced out again by the Romans in 70 CE, after the temple's destruction. In subsequent centuries Babylonian Jews took in new rounds of Jewish refugees from distant lands and formed a de-facto new national home base for world Jewry. Between times of peace and coexistence the community suffered frequent periods of great oppression by rulers including the Mongols, Arabs, Persians and ottomans.
Babylonian Jews became the keepers of the Bible in the 5th century BC. In the Talmudic Era they established the academies of Sura, Nehrdea and Pumbedita, whose heads were considered the highest authorities on religious matters in the Jewish world. These rabbis compiled the Babylonian Talmud, the spiritual codex of Judaism, and composed the writings of the Geonim (the great sages) that interpreted the Bible and Talmud. The Babylonian academies (Yeshivot) directed the Jews of the Diaspora in all matters of religion and law, and for more than 1,000 years Babylonian Jewry assumed the role of leader of the Diaspora communities.
For a small group of people that at no time numbered more than 150,000, the Babylonian Jewish community was very diverse. The Kurdish Jews, who lived in the rural mountainous regions in the north, were part of a route of international commerce in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the area was an important center of religious Jewish learning. Over time they developed their own special ethnic traditions, dress, and cuisine. The Jews of Basra, Iraq's Persian Gulf port, had close ties to the outside Arab world and the commerce centers of the Far East. Throughout Babylonia, the Jewish community maintained the ancient Jewish shrines, handing down that responsibility through the generations. In Baghdad, in the 19th century, were one-third of the city's population was Jewish and Jews comprise the majority of merchants, the city's commercial life came to a halt on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays.
Weakness of the government in Iraq, restrictive laws and persecution against the Jews at the end of the era of the Geonim (589-1038) caused Babylonian Jewry to go into decline. Restored revival occurred only in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the establishment of religious public educational institutions and modern communal schools. Their traditional occupations gave way to participation in international commerce and modern professions. Babylonian Jews set new standards in business and banking, where they thrived locally and internationally, opening up channels of commerce to India, china, Hong Kong, Burma and Australia to the east, and England and continental Europe to the west.
The year 1941 witnessed the Farhud, the pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad, inspired by the events occurring in Europe at the time. Later in the 1940s Iraqi authorities severely persecuted the Jews. As a result numerous fled from Iraq to Persia, and the government was forced to allow Jewish immigration to Israel. The Jews who were permitted to leave their natal country were deprived of their property and their ancient cultural heritage.
The 1950s culminated in a mass exodus of Jews from Iraq. The establishment of the state of Israel, in 1948, and Zionist ideology came at the right moment: many Iraqi Jews, whose ancestors had yearned for Zion through the centuries, were eager and ready to take part in building the prescient Jewish state, and others followed suit.
In 1950 – 1952, the Mossad L'Aliya Bet, the precursor of the Mossad, orchestrated a mass airlift that relocated nearly all of Iraq's 140,000 Jews to the newly founded state of Israel in operation Ezra and Nehemiah. Those who remained behind, some 6,000 Jews, later suffered at the hands of the Ba'ath party and also eventually left in subsequent decades.
The Jewish community in Iraq is no more. But there are still strong bonds and community life within Iraqi Jewish circles in Israel, England, the United States, and Canada. Today, the descendants of Babylonian Jewry carry on their ancestors' legacy and enrich the communities they live in. it is a legacy that values peace and partnership with other religious groups, one that is grounded in family and community, and in active involvement in the world of the intellect, music and the arts, science and commerce.
Family trees, prepared by families of Iraqi descent in Israel and around the world, have been collected at The Center. An online project has been initiated, to make these family trees, accessible to the general public.
The database is constantly growing. Visitors come to research their roots, and document and preserve their family trees, thus adding another branch to the family tree of Babylonian Jewry.
Unfortunately, Babylonian Jews left behind their property, most of their valuables, heirlooms and records. Very rarely were the family histories documented and written, and the impressions of the past remain memories alone. Today, you can document the information about your family on the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center site, and ensure that your family story will be preserved for future generations.
In Babylon, it was not customary to use last names. Instead, the father’s name was used. If there were a few people with the same name in the same area, they were given nicknames, either according to the place where the father of the family originated, his occupation, a deformity he had or a distinctive trait, in order to differentiate him from others with the same name.
Abu Al-Torshi – Pickle seller // Abu Al-Samak – Fish seller // Abu al-Pacha – Seller of sheep or beef intestines stuffed and cooked as hamin // Atraqchi – Owner of a Arab clothing store // Irani – Of Persian descent // Baher – Sailed in the ocean // Basrawi – From the city of Basra // Baqqal – owns a store for legumes, oil, sugar, salt and vegetables
Chitayat – Seller of embroidered fabric used as a headdress // Darzi – Tailor // Hillawi – From the city of Hillah
Kabi / Kobi – Endearing name for Yaakov // Hakak - a gold scraper that checks whether it is a pure gold or gold-plated object // Mislawi – From the city of Mosul // Nuri – Shortened from Nuriel // Sawdayi – Very black // Somekh – The cantor’s helper // Sehayiq – Little Yitzchak // Attar – Seller of spices // Fattal – Owner of a spinning wheel
Sayigh – Jeweller // Salah / Salih – Translation of Zadok // Sabbagh – Painter // Sadqa – From the family of Rabbi Tzadka Chotzin // Qazzaz – Seller of silk // Shami – Originating from Damascus Shahrabani – From the city of Shahraban.
The following is a partial list of such names:
Collection of Audio Recordings
The audio recordings collection contains approximately 1,500 recordings of interviews with various personalities in the Babylonian community on many topics: the Jewish communities in the cities of Iraq, The Zionist Movement, Operation Ezra and Nehemia, religious life, folklore, beliefs and amulets, idioms, and more.
A secondary collection is composed of a cantorial recordings collection, containing approximately 90 recordings of piyutim, shbahot, and Torah readings according to the tradition of Babylonian Jewry.
The Center also has a collection of approximately 400 records of the best folk melodies of Baghdad and songs by Jewish singers of Iraqi descent.
The collection of photographs has over ten thousand photographs of the daily life of the Jewish community in Iraq and around the world. The photographs, taken over a century, reflect the changes in the life of the community, and the transition from a traditional to a modern society. In addition, the collection contains postcards, home photos, and images of known photographers from Baghdad, such as: Arshak and Eldorado.
For more information, please contact the Treasures Department firstname.lastname@example.org
Mordechai Ben Porat stands on stage with another person. Behind it is a signboard of the event announcing the cornerstone laying ceremony for the building of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center.
The Tigris River on the right, on the left is the bank of the river with tall palm trees, and fishermen dressed in light robes hang their nets on the palms and prepare them for fishing.
A girl wearing a sarafan dress with a light-colored shirt underneath, sitting on the ground and behind her a low wall and an iron fence above it. Green and well maintained vegetation is seen behind the fence.
Magnificent entrance façade of a two-story building made of bricks, with pointed arches and semi-circular columns between the arches. The entrance is made of a higher and wider arch preceding with a protruding balcony stands out.
A narrow alley with adjacent buildings on either side. A number of passers-by walk along the alley.
Above a rectangular wall rises a conical tower decorated with reliefs of rows with semi-circular arches. In the background is seen azure sky.
Inside a room stands the artist, behind him is a wall with shelves. On the lower shelves are two portraits of men.
Peddlers in traditional clothes stand next to their wares which places on sacks with a basket full of the produce.
The Film Archive contains documentary films about the lives of the Jews of Iraq, filmed from the 1970s until today. The archive also contains films produced by The Center about the music of Iraqi Jewry and other selected topics from their lives.
The Zionist Underground Movement
The movement operated between 1942 and 1951 under strict underground conditions. Despite the military regime, the crises, the arrests, and the torture, the movement succeeded in a short period of time in realizing its objectives in the fields of education and immigration, as well as in organizing the defense of the Jewish Quarter.
In addition, the movement succeeded in illegally bringing about 13,000 Jews, who constituted about 10% of all Iraqi Jews. This move had a decisive effect on the decision of the Iraqi government regarding the Nationality Deprivation Law, on the one hand, and the massive size of registration for aliyah on the other.
The story of the underground incorporates the last decade of the Iraqi Jews, which began with the "Farhud" riots of 1941 and ended with their redemption in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.
(In Hebrew only)
Community Channel (98)
Community Channel Broadcasts 98 (YES and HOT),
On Wednesdays at 8:30pm Please notice that our broadcasts returned to 8:30 pm on Wednesdays
On Mondays at 1:00pm
songs as you wish
On Saturday nights at 9:00pm - 09:30pm
On Sundays at 9:00am - 09:30am
The programs on the Hamoreshet Channel, are dedicated to events at The Center and also to life of Iraqi Jewry through interviews, seminars, music and more. The channel broadcasts two new shows per month, as well as two new ‘Songs by Request’ programs broadcast on Saturday night.
The public is encouraged to send high quality materials which may be of interest to members of the community. The community programs have been broadcast for 15 years; our audience of viewers is large and our broadcasts are received across the country.
The programs can also be seen on YouTube.
For further information on the Local Channel programs, please contact:
03-5339278, or email@example.com