From Baghdad to Boston and Beyond: Memoir of an Iraqi Jew
Amy S. Dane, contributor
Two tales are seamlessly intertwined: the death of an ancient and prosperous community and the reinvention of one man and his family in a new land. Now 90 years old, Jacob B. Shammash put his memories and reflection on paper several years ago, crafting his legacy. His eldest daughter, Amy S. Dane, elaborated on and shaped his story for publication. \t\tThere had been a vital and thriving Jewish community in Iraq for 2600 years, dating back to the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. When the author was a young teenager, one third of the population of Baghdad was Jewish. That community was obliterated through persecution and exodus for survival. This is a story of immigration. Generally, it will resonate for all Americans across ethnicities since America is a “melting pot.” Specifically, it is a story of Iraqi Jews and Jewish culture – customs, rituals and values. Immigration crises and debates are front and center today both at home and abroad. The book club section encourages readers to share their own immigration history and ethnic traditions and consider the fragility of specific minority communities worldwide. \t\tThe author describes his life starting with his idyllic youth in a land of date palms and orange groves. He is the third of nine children from what was a wealthy business and landowning family in Baghdad. Jacob immigrated to the United States in 1947 to attend Middlebury College. He had no idea that his timing was fortuitous, just before the situation of his people back home became dire. Other family members were not as lucky. Jacob immediately assumed an active role doing all he could from afar while they lived in fear, finally stripped of all their assets and citizenship. He helped them settle one by one as they arrived. They reinvented themselves, became successful, and held on to their Jewish Heritage. This is a true story of privilege, struggle, disaster and anguish – with an uplifting finale.