Kurds look to re­build shuls in north Iraq

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY NAOMI FIRSHT

IRAQI KUR­DIS­TAN has a new Jewish af­fairs rep­re­sen­ta­tive, who wants to re­build syn­a­gogues and re­con­nect Jews in the re­gion to their roots.

In May, a law passed by the Kur­dish par­lia­ment in the semi-au­ton­o­mous re­gion es­tab­lished seven new de­part­ments for var­i­ous reli­gious mi­nori­ties within the gov­ern­ment’s Min­istry for Reli­gious Af­fairs.

As well as Jews, Baha’is, Zoroas­tri­ans and Yazidis will be rep­re­sented.

Sherzad Omer Mam­sani was named Jewish af­fairs rep­re­sen­ta­tive and will be re­spon­si­ble for re­la­tions with the 200,000 Jews of Kur­dish ori­gin, the ma­jor­ity of whom live in Is­rael.

Mr Mam­sani has a long his­tory of pro­mot­ing ties be­tween Jews and Is­rael and Kur­dis­tan. He wrote a book on the sub­ject in 1997, which an­gered lo­cal Is­lamist groups and led to a bomb­ing in which he lost his hand.

Mr Mam­sani told Haaretz: “We work with the gov­ern­ment to re­unite fami- lies, and to help those Kurds who want to find out about their Jewish roots.”

An­other aim is to re­build syn­a­gogues in the re­gion. “We want one in ev­ery town, a meet­ing place for the peo­ple. But only af­ter the war, be­cause now there is no money,” he said.

He is open about his Jewish an­ces­try, pub­lishes a mag­a­zine called Is­rael Kurd, and has vis­ited Is­rael sev­eral times.

Iraq was once home to a large, an­cient com­mu­nity of Jews, but now only a hand­ful re­main. Mari­wan Naqsh­bandi, who works at the Min­istry for Reli­gious Af­fairs, es­ti­mated that there were 200-300 fam­i­lies in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan who con­verted to Is­lam out­wardly but se­cretly keep up some Jewish prac­tices.

Mr Naqsh­bandi told Haaretz: “Kur­dis­tan has no prob­lems with other cul­tures or re­li­gions. The Kurds love Is­rael, and Is­rael sup­ports our state,” he said.

‘We want to put a syn­a­gogue in ev­ery town’

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