Legislative Updates: 113th Congress
Deutch Working to Protect Iraqi Jewish Community’s Access to Archives
Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21), Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, is working with Subcommittee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) and Congressman Steve Israel (NY-03) to protect the exiled Iraqi Jewish community’s access to a collection of nearly 2,700 Jewish artifacts, including Torah parchments, ancient prayer books, and other records. After Iraq’s Jewish community fled the country in the 1930s and 1940s, these items were seized under Saddam Hussein’s regime, rediscovered by U.S. coalition forces in 2003, and restored by the National Archives. However, the agreement to return the items to Iraq and not to their rightful owners was struck before the National Archives and Records Administration could fully examine and determine the significance of the collection.
Yesterday, the Members of Congress introduced H.Res 505, calling on the United States to renegotiate the terms of this agreement and ensure the Iraqi Jewish Archives can be preserved and accessible to descendants of the Iraq’s Jewish community, nearly all of whom reside in the United States, Israel, and Europe.
"When Iraq's persecuted Jewish families were driven from their homes, they had no choice but to leave behind many of their belongings,” said Congressman Deutch. “These precious artifacts were stolen by Saddam Hussein and hidden from the world for decades. With virtually no Jewish population in Iraq today, to send these items back to Iraq would be to deprive the Jewish people of the treasured remnants of a vibrant Jewish community.”
H.Res. 505 urges the State Department to use all available options to ensure the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archives to its rightful owners and descendants, ensure that the archives are adequately preserved, and guarantee access to Iraqi Jews and scholars of such material in order to secure justice for the Iraqi Jewish Community. The State Department is currently engaged in discussions with the Iraqi government on the future of the archives.