The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center was founded in 1973 as a non-profit organisation to preserve the heritage of the Babylonian Jewish exile which no longer exists today.
Located in Or-Yehuda, it is the largest institute in the world dedicated to documenting, researching, collecting and preserving the spiritual treasures and art created by Babylonian Jewry. Babylonia was the location of the most significant works of the Jewish nation, including: the Babylonian Talmud, the writings of the Geonim, the Responsa works, and more.
In order to preserve this heritage, collect the textual and visual materials and make them accessible to the general public, various branches of the Center were established: the museum, the research institute, the library and the treasures and guidance department.
Museum of Babylonian Jewry
The Museum features both permanent and changing exhibitions. The permanent exhibitions highlight a selection of topics from community life in Iraq and the Diaspora, and address the changes which they underwent during the past few centuries. The gallery of plastic arts at the museum features changing exhibitions related to the heritage and culture of Babylonian Jewry. The renovated auditorium hosts the opening events for exhibitions, film screenings and family events. School children and visitors of all ages visit the museum, from Israel and all over the world.
The Center, from its inception, worked to achieve the goal of conducting research on the Jews of Babylonia and disseminating the results throughout the world. To reach this goal, The Center established an academic council.
The library contains one of the largest collections in the world documenting the heritage of Babylonian Jewry. Thousands of stories recording the history of the oldest Jewish Diaspora community are kept here.
In addition, there are many special collections including photographs documenting the folklore of Jews of Babylonia and the diaspora; private anthologies of former Iraqi public activists; records of institutions and organizations of Babylonian Jewry which were active in Israel; oral documentation of testimonies by members of the community; certificates and documents including thousands of items amassed by Iraqi Jews; and a rare special collection of holy books printed in Baghdad and Far Eastern countries by Babylonian Jews, dating back to the mid-19th century until the mass immigration to Israel in the 1950s. This collection also includes hundreds of books that were brought from Baghdad with great difficulty after the fall of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. They constitute a rare historic testimony of the spiritual way of life of the community and its sages.
The library serves students and researchers and is a fundamental instrument in discovering the past of the Jews of Iraq.
The library is open to the public from Monday through Wednesday between 8:30 AM – 12:30 AM, by prior arrangement with the librarian, Library@bjhc.org.il
Education and Guidance
The Guidance Department offers guided tours for the general public of the permanent and changing exhibitions at The Museum. These can be combined with:
An actress depicting the life of a Jewish Iraqi woman
A musical show featuring authentic music
Lectures and other educational activities
For schools, a variety of topics are offered which are adapted to the school curriculum. The topics are suited to the age group, from kindergarten through high school, according to the level of learning of the children, and specifications of the teacher.
The materials are presented with various accompanying elements:
Films and slideshow presentations
Varied, interesting activity pages
Quiz games, plays
“Visual dialogue” – Discussions based on rare photographs from the archive
The Treasures Department works to build the exhibitions on display at The Museum on the topics of ethnography, Judaica, and the history of Iraqi Jewry. The Museum of Babylonian Jewry possesses a rich ethnographic collection, Judaica and artwork as well as original documents and photographs which were donated or loaned over the years by Jews of Iraqi ethnicity or their heirs. These items make up the basis of the museum’s activity, as they shed light upon the history and uses, and indirectly, about the culture and customs of the communities from which they originated.