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By Nissim Rejwan

As soon as upon a time, Baghdad used to be domestic to a flourishing Jewish group. greater than a 3rd of the city's humans have been Jews, and Jewish customs and vacations helped set the development of Baghdad's cultural and advertisement existence. at the city's streets and within the bazaars, Jews, Muslims, and Christians--all native-born Iraqis--intermingled, talking nearly an identical colloquial Arabic and sharing a typical feel of nationwide id. after which, virtually in a single day it appeared, the country of Israel was once born, and features have been drawn among Jews and Arabs. Over the following couple of years, approximately the total Jewish inhabitants of Baghdad fled their Iraqi native land, by no means to come back. during this fantastically written memoir, Nissim Rejwan recollects the misplaced Jewish group of Baghdad, during which he used to be a toddler and younger guy from the Nineteen Twenties via 1951. He paints a minutely designated photo of starting to be up in a slightly middle-class relations, facing a motley collection of pals and landlords, suffering in the course of the neighborhood faculties, and eventually researching the pleasures of self-education and sexual awakening. Rejwan intertwines his own tale with the tale of the cultural renaissance that was once flowering in Baghdad throughout the years of his younger manhood, describing how his paintings as a bookstore supervisor and a employees author for the Iraq instances introduced him friendships with the various country's prime highbrow and literary figures. He rounds off his tale by means of remembering how the political and cultural upheavals that observed the founding of Israel, in addition to extensive tricks despatched again through the 1st arrivals within the new kingdom, left him with a deep ambivalence as he bid a final farewell to a fatherland that had develop into opposed to its local Jews.

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After the rice and lentils were cooked, sesame oil was boiled in a separate pan, and after adding garlic and cumin and letting them fry to capacity, the contents of the pan were carefully added and the dish was ready to serve. But this was the simplest and cheapest category of a kedgeree meal, the one we always had. The less poor used butter instead of sesame oil, while the really well off always had it either with two fried eggs a head, a cupful of yogurt, or both. They also had large enough portions not to need to eat it with bread.

I never asked Father how and where he got his schooling. He knew the Torah and parts of the Prophets almost by heart, as well as the prayers, the Haggadah, and the various berakhot (blessings). He continued to preside over prayers and readings on all festive occasions—the Sabbath night kiddush, the two nights of the Seder of Passover, the festive night of Rosh Hashanah with the multitude of berakhot to be recited, the blessings said on Yom Kippur eves with the slaughter of sacrificial chickens, and the complex series of berakhot recited in the succah, which he himself used so expertly and elaborately to build in the days preceding Succoth (the Feast of Tabernacles).

The only occasion on which cocks were slaughtered in a self-respecting Jewish home was the eve of Yom Kippur, when the males of the family had to have a cock each for ritual sacrifice—and what used to save the day for us then were the females, who were privileged to have a sacrificial hen each. The day for purchasing the Sabbath hen was Thursday, and there was always a good deal of weighing of pros and cons. Then when the bird was finally purchased and brought home, always by Mother, there would be some agonized guesswork as to its worth in terms of the price paid, the amount of fat it had in it, whether there were inside it some yet unformed eggs—and whether Mother had made the terrible but not uncommon blunder of mistaking these egg yolks for a precious piece of fat 22 the last jews in baghdad usually to be located in the same vicinity—and which for some reason was called waqqa, the colloquial Jewish pronunciation for waraqa, Arabic for ‘‘sheet’’ (of paper).

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