Army troops play key role in preserving Iraqi Jewish heritage

| ט״ז באב ה׳תשע״ט (17/08/2019) | 0 Comments

By Steve DeVane
Airborne & Special Operations Museum exhibit is on display through Sept. 22.

Airborne & Special Operations Museum exhibit “Discovery, and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage”

An exhibit of material related to the Jewish community in Iraq shows the important role Army troops can play in the preservation of culture, the director of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum said.

Airborne & Special Operations Museum exhibit “Discovery, and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage”

Special Operations soldiers played a key role in preserving material in the exhibition “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” which opened in July at the museum and runs through Sept. 22. The 1,500-square-foot exhibit, which was created by the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., with support from the State Department, includes 22 recovered items and a video of the preservation process.

Sixteen soldiers who were looking for weapons of mass destruction in May 2003 found the documents and other items in the basement of Iraq’s intelligence headquarters. Thousands of documents and books were under four feet of water, according to the National Archives’ website.

“A room in the basement was devoted to materials related to Iraq’s Jewish community,” the website said.

The soldiers recognized the significance of the material, said Jim Bartlinski, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum director. Civil Affairs soldiers who specialize in cultural issues worked to preserve the items, he said.

“They work to safeguard cultural heritage in war zones,” Bartlinski said.

The Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command is based at Fort Bragg.

“It’s here because Civil Affairs falls under Special Operations Command,” Bartlinski said. “Special Operations is more than just bullets and guns.”

Bartlinski said the museum has been working to get the exhibit for about three years. The facility is the first and only museum to showcase the exhibit, he said.

More 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents were recovered from the basement, according to the National Archives’ website. They date from the mid-16th century to the 1970s, it said.

The material includes a “tik,” which is a case used by Jewish communities to hold a Torah scroll, which includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. A fragment of a scroll that contains a text from Genesis also is on display.

A volume of the Hebrew Bible that dates to 1568 and a volume of the Babylonian Talmud from 1793 also are part of the exhibit.

Other items on display show Iraqi Jewish life. They include a prayer book that features the liturgy for Rosh ha-Shanah synagogue services and Hebrew calendars.

“This exhibit really showcases daily life for Iraqi Jews,” Bartlinski said.

Residents of Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington have viewed the exhibit, he said.

“If not for the United States Army, this heritage would be lost,” Bartlinski said. “I think that’s a great credit to the United States soldier.”

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Category: Preservation Promotion Education

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