Kurds look to rebuild shuls in north Iraq
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’