AIU Girls School at Baghdad, Iraq

In 1893, the Laurie Kadoorie School for girls was established with an identical curriculum to the Alliance Israélite Universelle's Boys School which had opened in 1864. The boys school had closed due to religious opposition, but reopened eight years later with the financial support of Sir Albert (Abdulla) David Sasson. The schools taught secular ideas which the Jewish rabbinate originally opposed, until Rabbi 'Abd Allāh Somekh sent his own sons to the boys school. During the 1930s and 40s, some of the AIU schools in Baghdad organized Hebrew literary societies which promoted Jewish nationalism and became linked to the Zionist movement. The AIU emphasized European languages and modern sciences in their curriculum, and the number of Jewish schools in Baghdad continued to grow to support over ten thousdand students [1].



Baghdad was home to the largest Jewish community in Iraq possibly from as early as its founding in the eighth century. By 1908, the Jews of Baghdad numbered around 53,000, about a third of Baghdad's total population, and lived in many quarters--including al-Tawrat, Tahat it-Takyah, Abu Saifan, and Suq Hannun. Although Jews were involved in local politics, new tensions began to rise between Jews and Muslims--leading to an anti-Jewish riot on October 15, 1908--and World War I forced many Jews to flee the city. In 1948, the Jewish community in Baghdad numbered around 77,000; however, the Jewish community began to fear life in Baghdad after the Farhūd, a pogrom which occured on June 1, 1941, left 130 Jews killed and millions lost in property damange. The Farhūd inspired the growth of Zionism and Communism among a minority of Jews in Baghdad who felt increasingly disconnected from the Iraq state. Bombings throughout the 1950s further estranged the Jewish community, and by 1952 only about 6,000 Jews remained in Iraq. The Jewish community endured further violence throughout Saddam Husayn's regime, and by 2003 the last synagogue in Baghdad had closed [2].

Baghdad, Iraq

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