May 12, 2010
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
Dear Madam Secretary,
We are writing to urge the United States to ensure that the archives of the Iraqi Jewish Community, which were saved from destruction by U.S. forces, remain in the United States at this time, and that its final destination be determined in coordination with the descendents of the Iraqi Jewish community.
The archives, including Torah scrolls, religious books, and other precious community documents confiscated from the persecuted Jewish community by the Iraqi Government, were discovered in the flooded basement of the headquarters of the infamous Iraqi Military Intelligence in Baghdad in May 2003. The archive was brought back to the United States and is now housed in the U.S. National Archives where restoration work has begun.
The Jewish presence in Iraq is the oldest in the Jewish Diaspora, dating back to 721 BCE. With government harassment and persecution beginning in the 1940’s, this ancient Jewish community was forced to flee Iraq.These refugees then settled in Israel, the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Today, the remaining Jewish community in Iraq numbers but a handful of people.
We understand that the Iraqi government has sought to bring this precious Judaica back to Iraq. We urge the Administration to defer this request at this time. Decisions governing these objects and documents should not be made without the active participation of the descendents of the Iraqi Jewish community. The U.S. can play an important constructive role in encouraging the Government of Iraq to work with the descendents of the Jewish community of Iraq to come up with solutions to ensure that this rich treasure of Iraqi Jewry be preserved for future generations and be accessible and open to all who wish to experience it.
Thank you for your involvement in this matter.
Abraham H. Foxman