Schumer: Ancient Iraqi Jewish Archive Was Stolen By Saddam Hussein Regime and Should Not Be Returned To Iraq


schumerIn a personal meeting, Senator Charles E. Schumer urged Secretary of State John Kerry to not return the Iraqi Jewish Archives to Iraq and to work with the Iraqi Jewish Community to find an alternate permanent location for the artifacts. In 2003, American soldiers found the 2,700 items of the Iraqi Judaica collection in a flooded Baghdad Intelligence Center. The collection, which includes partial Torah parchments and ancient prayer books, had been seized by Saddam Hussein’s troops and belonged to members of the once-vibrant, exiled Iraqi Jewish community. The collection is being preserved by the National Archives in Washington, DC and the United States has agreed to return the materials to Iraq in 2014. Last week, Schumer wrote to the State Department asking that the agency not return the items to Iraq because they were stolen to belong to the Iraqi Jewish community. After the State Department responded by saying they would not follow through with this request, Schumer today raised the concern at the highest level of the State Department.

“The Iraqi Jewish Archive belongs to the Iraqi Jewish community that was exiled many years ago and should not be returned to the current government of Iraq,” said Schumer. “Because these very sacred, ancient artifacts were stolen by the Iraqi government, the State Department should make sure they are returned to the Iraqi Jewish people and maintained in an appropriate manner that allows for their preservation and access by those to who this material belongs. Today, I am strongly urging Secretary of State Kerry to work with the Iraqi Jewish Community and organizations that represent the community to find an alternate location for this collection.”

In 2003, 16 American soldiers discovered 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents in a flooded intelligence building in Iraq. The collection had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad. The Iraqi Judaica includes a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, a Torah scroll fragment from Genesis, a Zohar from 1815 and other sacred ritual objects.

The Iraqi Jewish Archive was shipped to the United States and is now at the Washington, D.C. National Archives. The United States spent $3 million restoring select documents and on October 11th, the National Archives and Records Administration opened an exhibit that displays 24 of the recovered objects.

Items of the collection were seized by Saddam Hussein in 1984 from a Baghdad synagogue. The collection was placed there by Iraqi Jews during their mass exodus in the early 1950s. In the 1940s, outbreaks of anti-Jewish rioting occurred, and in 1948 Zionism was a capital crime. Between 1950-1952, more than 130,000 Jews left Iraq and were not allowed to carry more than one suitcase each.

The U.S. State Department has agreed to ship the collection back to Iraq in 2014.

Last week, Schumer called on the State Department to reconsider its decision to return the artifacts to Iraq. The State Department says they are “committed to returning the material to Iraq following the completion of the preservation project and the exhibition of the material in the United States.”

In a personal meeting with Secretary of State Kerry, Schumer called for the agency to not return the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq and to work with the Iraqi Jewish Community to find a permanent location for the artifacts.

{Gavriel Newscenter}


  1. Perhaps the Orthodox Union, The National

    Council Of Young Israel, the Agudah, or an

    attorney or any individual with the “feel”

    can assist in this matter.