Last updated: 2 September, 2011

Only eight Iraqi Jews in Baghdad in 2009

Baghdad’s Jewish community numbered just eight people in late 2009, having fallen from 20 in 2003 due to deaths from old age and sectarian violence, and emigration, a leaked US diplomatic cable says.

A woman who spoke with a US embassy staff member in October 2009 said “there are now eight remaining members of the Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad,” including herself, according to the cable released by whistleblower website Wikileaks.

“She stated that the community had numbered 20 persons in 2003, but that the number has declined as a result of old age, emigration, and sectarian violence,” according to the cable.

It said the woman, a dentist, was “one of the last remaining Jews in Iraq.”

Her mother, she said, had died in the previous year, while her husband was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in 2005, and was most likely murdered.

The woman expressed interest in emigrating to the Netherlands, where two of her brothers lived.

She said a synagogue and Jewish cemetery in Baghdad have been shut since 2004.

But another synagogue in the southern port city of Basra had been turned into a warehouse.

When asked about Iraqi Jews living abroad returning to visit or re-establish connections here, the woman “was pessimistic, saying that latent anti-Semitism within Iraqi society would prevent this from happening anytime soon.”

There were about 150,000 Iraqi Jews before the 1948 creation of Israel. But between 1948 and 1951, nearly all of the country’s 2,500-year-old Jewish community fled amid a region-wide outbreak of nationalist violence.