Seventy-five years ago, the Jewish community of Iraq faced violent expulsion. Commemorating this dark - and oft-forgotten chapter in the Jewish people's history is The Algemeiner's Ben Cohen, whose own family escaped the tragedy that so many others did not:
In the case of my own family, it was a matter of heeding the advice of a Muslim business colleague of my grandfather, who told him that dark days were looming for the Jews, and that he would be wise to get his family out of the country as quickly as possible — which my grandfather did.
But my grandfather was part of a fortunate minority. When the Farhud — which means, in Arabic, “violent dispossession” — erupted, there were around 90,000 Jews still living in the Iraqi capital, the main component of a vibrant community descended from the sages who, 27 centuries earlier, had made the land once known as Babylon the intellectual and spiritual center of Judaism.
By the time the violent mob stood down, at the end of the festival of Shavuot, nearly 200 Jews lay dead, with hundreds more wounded, raped, and beaten. Hundreds of homes and businesses were burned to the ground. As the smoke cleared over a scene more familiar in countries like Russia, Poland, and Germany, the Jewish community came to the realization that it had no future in Iraq. Within a decade, almost the entire community had been chased out, joining a total of 850,000 Jews from elsewhere in the Arab world summarily dispossessed from their homes and livelihoods.
That the Farhud is even remembered today is in large part down to a handful of scholars and activists who have committed themselves to publicizing this terrible episode. During the week of the Farhud’s 75th anniversary, some of them — like the American writer Edwin Black and Lyn Julius, the British historian of Middle Eastern Jewry — have been organizing memorial ceremonies in the US, the UK, and especially Israel, which absorbed the great majority of Iraqi-Jewish refugees. I myself was honored to address the memorial ceremony at New York City’s Safra Synagogue, where 27 candles — one for each century of the Jewish presence in Iraq — were lit and then promptly snuffed out, to symbolize the sudden extinction of Iraqi Jewry...