Following the depredations of Islamic State, there have been some attempts—by local Gentiles, Jewish organizations, and even the U.S. government—to preserve the physical heritage of Iraqi Jewry. Salam Faraj writes:
Baghdad’s Meir Tweig Synagogue, built in 1942, seems to have been frozen in time. Behind its padlocked doors, the benches are covered in white cloth to shield them from the sun. The walls of the sky-blue two-story columned interior are crumbling. The steps leading to a wooden cabinet holding the sacred Torah scrolls are coming apart. Flanked by marble plaques engraved with seven-branched candelabras and psalms, the cabinet shelters the scrolls written in hand calligraphy on gazelle leather.
A report published in 2020 listed Jewish heritage sites in Iraq and Syria, some dating back to the first millennium BCE. The study identified 118 synagogues, 48 schools, nine sanctuaries and three cemeteries among the Iraqi Jewish heritage sites. Most are now gone.
In Mosul, Iraq’s second city and a melting pot of diverse ethnic and religious communities, colorful paintings signal the ruins of the Sasson synagogue at a bend in an alley. The synagogue’s collapsed ceiling vault exposes arches and stone columns. But all around is rubble, scrap metal, and dumped garbage.
In January, the United States consulate in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish region, which did not experience the same level of internecine violence, announced $500,000 in funding to restore the small Ezekiel synagogue near Akre. . . . U.S. funds also helped restore the tomb of Nahum, one of Judaism’s minor prophets, along with financial support from Kurdistan and private donors.