Kurdish Jews

Kurdish Jews

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Kurdish Jews

caption = Asenath Barzani, Yitzhak Mordechai
pop = 150,000
region1 = flag|Israel
pop1 = 150,000
ref1 = lower| [cite web |url=http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5762summer/LEGAL-EA.PDF |title=What’s the Truth about...Aramaic? |accessdate=2007-01-14 |last=Zivotofsky |first=Ari Z. |year=2002 |work=Orthodox Union|format=PDF] [http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/meho/meho-bibliography-2001.pdf (p.2)] [ [http://www.jcjcr.org/kyn_article_view.php?aid=20 Kurdish Jewish Community in Israel ] ]
languages = As in their countries of residence, plus Mizrahi Hebrew (liturgical use) and traditional Kurdish, Aramaic and Azeri (in Iran) [ [http://www.eleven.co.il/?mode=article&id=12263 курдские евреи. Электронная еврейская энциклопедия ] ] dialects.
religions = Judaism
related = Other Jewish groups smaller|(Mizrahi, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, etc.) Kurds
in the 1940s and early 1950s, the Jews of Kurdistan lived as a closed ethnic community.

There are old bonds between Jews and Kurds. Tradition holds that Jews first arrived in the area of modern Kurdistan after the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel during the 8th century BC; they were subsequently relocated to the Assyrian capital. [Roth C in the "Encyclopedia Judaica", p. 1296-1299 (Keter: Jerusalem 1972).] During the first century BC, the royal house of Adiabene, whose capital was Arbil (Aramaic: "Arbala"; _ku. Hewlêr), was converted to Judaism. ["Irbil/Arbil" entry in the Encyclopaedia Judaica] King Monobazes, his queen Helena, and his son and successor Izates are recorded as the first proselytes. [Brauer E., "The Jews of Kurdistan", Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1993; Ginzberg, Louis, "The Legends of the Jews, 5th CD." in "The Jewish Publication Society of America", VI.412 (Philadelphia: 1968); and http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/kurds.html.]

According to the memoirs of Benjamin of Tudela and Pethahiah of Regensburg, there were about 100 Jewish settlements and substantial Jewish population in Kurdistan in 12th century A.D. Benjamin of Tudela also gives the account of "David Alroi", the messianic leader from central Kurdistan, who rebelled against the king of Persia and had plans to lead the Jews back to Jerusalem. These travellers also report of well-established and wealthy Jewish communities in Mosul, which was the commercial and spiritual center of Kurdistan. Many Jews fearful of approaching crusaders, had fled from Syria and Palestine to Babylonia and Kurdistan. The Jews of Mosul enjoyed some degree of autonomy over managing their own community [Ora Schwartz-Be'eri, "The Jews of Kurdistan: Daily Life, Customs, Arts and Crafts", UPNE publishers, 2000, ISBN 9652782386, p.26 ] .

Tanna'it Asenath Barzani, who lived in Mosul from 1590 to 1670, was the daughter of Rabbi "Samuel Barzani" of Kurdistan. She later married "Jacob Mizrahi" Rabbi of "Amadiyah" (in Iraqi Kurdistan) who lectured at a yeshiva [Sylvia Barack Fishman, "A breath of Life: Feminism in the American Jewish Community", UPNE Publishers, 1995, ISBN 0874517060, p. 186] . She was famous for her knowledge of the Torah, Talmud, Kabbalah and Jewish law. After the early death of her husband, she became the head of the yeshiva at Amadiyah, and eventually was recognized as the chief instructor of Torah in Kurdistan. She was called "tanna'it" (female Talmudic scholar), practiced mysticism, and was reputed to have known the secret names of God [Sally Berkovic, "Straight Talk: My Dilemma As an Orthodox Jewish Woman", KTAV Publishing House, 1999, ISBN 0881256617, p.226] . Asenath is also well known for her poetry and excellent command of the Hebrew language. She wrote a long poem of lament and petition in the traditional rhymed metrical form. Her poems are among the few examples of the early modern Hebrew texts written by women [Shirley Kaufamn, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Tamar Hess, "Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity to the Present: A Bilingual Anthology", Feminist Press, 1999, ISBN 1558612246, pp.7,9] .

Among the most important Jewish shrines in Kurdistan are the tombs of Biblical prophets, such as that of Nahum in "Alikush", Jonah in "Nabi Yunis" (ancient Nineveh), and Daniel in Kirkuk. There are also several caves supposedly visited by Elijah. All are venerated by Jews today. [ [http://www.kurdistanica.com/english/religion/judaism/judaism.html Keo - Religion ] ]

Kurdish Jews have also been active in the Zionist movement. One of the most famous members of Lehi ("Freedom Fighters of Israel") was Moshe Barazani, whose family immigrated from Iraqi Kurdistan and settled in Jerusalem in the late 1920s. Important in the preservation of their traditions and especially their language, Aramaic, after migration was the work of Yonah Sabar. [E.g., Yonah Sabar, "A Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dictionary", Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2002. See study by his son, Ariel Sabar, "MY FATHER’S PARADISE: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq"]

Recently, an important book came out, describing the interactions of the Jewish population in Kurdish towns and villages and their Muslim Kurdish neighbors and tribal masters, or chieftains (aghas) during the last few centuries and especially during the first half of the 20th century. [Jewish Subjects and their Tribal Chieftains in Kurdistan A Study in Survival By Dr. Mordechai Zaken Published by Brill: • August 2007 • ISBN 978 9004161 90 0 • Hardback (xxii, 364 pp.) • List price EUR 120.- / US$ 162.- • Jewish Identities in a Changing World, 9. About the book: This volume deals with the experience and position of Jewish subjects in Kurdistan. It is based on new oral sources, diligently collected and carefully analyzed. The four main parts of the book examine the relationships between the Kurdish Jews and their tribal chieftains (aghas) in urban centers and villages in Kurdistan, using numerous new reports and vivid examples. It also deals extensively with topics such as the security and murder of Jews in the tribal Kurdish setting, the question of slavery of rural Jews and the conversion of Jews to Islam. The last part of the book examines the experience of the Jews in Iraqi Kurdistan between World War I (1914) and the immigration of Jews to Israel (1951-52). Readership: All those interested in the history of oriental Jewry, Kurds and Iraq, minorities in the Middle East, tribal society, as well as oral historians, sociologists and anthropologists. Mordechai Zaken, Ph.D. (2004) in Near Eastern Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializes in the history of the Kurds, oriental Jewry, and non-Muslim minorities in the region. He served as Adviser on Arab Affairs to the Prime Minister of Israel (1997-99).]

See also

* Jewish ethnic divisions
* Mizrahi Jews
* Iraqi Jews
* Kurdish Christians
* Kurdish people
* Persian Jews

External links

* [http://israelkurdistannetwork.blogspot.com/ IKN - Israel Kurdistan Network]



* Mordechai Zaken, "Jewish Subjects and their tribal Chieftains in Kurdistan: A study in Survival," Jewish Identities in a Changing World, 9 (Boston: Brill Publishers, 2007)
* Asenath, Barzani, "Asenath's Petition", First published in Hebrew by Jacob Mann, ed., in "Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature", vol.1, Hebrew Union College Press, Cincinnati, 1931. Translation by Peter Cole.
* Yona Sabar, The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.
* Mahir Ünsal Eriş, Kürt Yahudileri - Din, Dil, Tarih , (Kurdish Jews) In Turkish, Kalan Publishing, Ankara, 2006
* Hasan-Rokem, G. , Hess, T. and Kaufman, S., "Defiant Muse: Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity: A Bilingual Anthology", Publisher: Feminist Press, 1999, ISBN 1-55861-223-8. (see page 65, 16th century/Kurdistan and Asenath's Petition)
* Berkovic, S., Straight Talk: My Dilemma as an Orthodox Jewish Woman, Ktav Publishing House, 1999, ISBN 0-88125-661-7.
* [http://www.caje-cbank.org/Vol15No3.pdf Rabbi Asenath Barzani in Jewish Storytelling Newsletter, Vol.15, No.3, Summer 2000]
* [http://www.kurdishjewry.org.il Kurdish Jewry] (יהדות כורדיסתאן) An Israeli site on Kurdish Jewry. he icon
* [http://www.yaleisraeljournal.com/spr2005/goodman.php The Jews of Kurdistan] Yale Israel Journal, No. 6 (Spr. 2005).
* [http://www.hadassah.com/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2003/03_NOV/isr-life.htm Hadassah Magazine, Nov. 2003]
* [ Towards a Sephardic Jewish Renaissance]
* [http://www.kurdistanica.com/english/religion/judaism/judaism.html Judaism in Encyclopaedia Kurdistanica]
* [ Schwartz, Howard. The Day the Rabbi Disappeared. Jewish Holiday Tales of Magic. Illustrated by Monique Passicot. Viking, 2000. ISBN 0-67-088733-1. $15.99. 80 pp.]
* [http://www.beyan.net/article.asp?id=242 Kurdish Jews; who are they?] sv icon
* Ariel Sabar, "MY FATHER’S PARADISE: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq". Illustrated. 332 pp. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Biography & study of Yona Beh Sabagha = Yona Sabar, native scholar of this community and its language. Reviewed in [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/books/review/Beckerman-t.html New York Times] , Oct. 10, 2008.

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