Over 40 Organizations Join Conference of Presidents Statement Calling For Protection And Accessibility Of Iraqi Jewish Archives

New York, NY

A statement was released by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations calling on the Government of the United States to assure that the Iraqi Jewish Archives currently in Washington, DC, would be protected, and continue to be accessible to Iraqi Jewish communities around the world. The declaration called on Secretary of State John Kerry to “consult with representative bodies of Iraq’s expatriate Jewish community and officials before any further decision is made,” said Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The items were taken from Jewish individuals and institutions by the Baath regime in 1970s and 80’s. They were found in the basement of the Iraqi Security Ministry building. The Conference leaders have sent a letter with the statement and signatories to Secretary of State Kerry and White House officials detailing their concerns.

We are grateful for the rescue of the Iraqi Jewish Archives and for the restoration work that has been carried out by NARA. We look forward to the exhibition that will soon open. But we are deeply troubled by the prospect that at the end of this long journey the US government plans to return all of these items to Iraq.

The signatories cited the many other ritual objects and particularly the sacred Torah scrolls that remain in disuse and uncertain conditions in Iraq. These should be returned to synagogues of Iraqi Jews in the US and elsewhere to be used and their sanctity protected.

There are historical and legal precedents established by countries like The Czech Republic, Lithuania and Uzbekistan where they made available Torah’s and other ritual items for use in synagogues populated by former citizens and their descendants. The collection includes books, some of them rare and old, documents, community records and Torah scroll fragments.   

The signatory organizations cross the political and religious spectrum of American Jewry that see the Jewish protection of these archives as a moral responsibility and do not want to see the terrible injustices visited on the Jewish community of Iraq compounded by their being cut from future access to these vestiges of their rich culture and long history. The current agreement that calls for the return of these items to Iraq raises serious concerns that the signatories urge be reconsidered before any further decisions are made. 

 

Signatories:

 

  1. Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
  2. B’nai Brith
  3. Orthodox Union
  4. Rabbinical Council of America
  5. American Friends of Likud
  6. B’nai Zion
  7. Central Conference of American Rabbis   
  8. Religious Zionists of America
  9. ARZA
  10. AMIT
  11. MERCAZ USA
  12. WIZO
  13. NCSJ Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia
  14. World Jewish Congress, North America
  15. America-Israel Friendship League
  16. Women's League for Conservative Judaism
  17. Anti-Defamation League
  18. American Israel Public Affairs Committee
  19. Jewish National Fund
  20. American Jewish Committee
  21. National Council of Young Israel
  22. American Jewish Congress
  23. Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  24. Rabbinical Assembly
  25. American Zionist Movement 
  26. Emunah of America
  27. American Sephardi Federation
  28. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism 
  29. Rabbinical Assembly
  30. Jewish Labor Committee
  31. Ameinu
  32. World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI)
  33. Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
  34. LA Iraqi Jewish Synagogue
  35. Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. 
  36. The Jewish Federations of North America
  37. Union for Reform Judaism
  38. JCC Association
  39. Workmen's Circle
  40. AEPi
  41. ORT America, Inc.
  42. Justice for Jews from Arab Countries
 

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