Rediscovering the Iraqi Jewish Archives

Posted on April 1, 2020 by

While the museum is closed the JMM team is coming together to bring some of our favorite activities from our recent family programs direct to your homes. Each collection of materials will be inspired by either one of our exhibits, Jewish History, or a Jewish holiday. All of the activities we share will be designed for families to complete together and only require supplies you are likely to already have in your home. The activities we offer will be varied from crafts, activities, games, scavenger hunts, and online story times. You can check out previous activity packs here!

~The JMM Programs Team

The exhibit was originally developed by the National Archives and told the story of the recovery and preservation of a collection of 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents from the flooded basement of the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters. The materials gathered all relate to all aspects of Jewish life in Iraq and paint a wonderful picture of the centuries old Jewish community that existed in this area until the mid-twentieth century.

Explore an online version of the exhibit here and take a deep dive into the digitized parts of the collection here.  While much of the text is in Hebrew or Arabic, it’s very much worth taking a look even if you don’t read these languages.

While the exhibit was on display at JMM we were able to host a fabulous family day where we jumped into Jewish life in Iraq. We invite you to relive a piece of this experience with the hands-on activities shared below!

Don’t forget to share photos of you enjoying our crafts and activities on our FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Tumblr pages and use #MuseumFromHome.

Download the full Rediscovering the Iraqi Jewish Archives activity packet as a single pdf here.

Design your own Tiq

(Left) Tik from Baghdad, 19th-20th century. Iraqi Jewish Archives, courtesy of the National Archives. (Right) Baghdadi Torah Case (Tik), Iraq, 1897. Gift of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El from the Maurice Spertus Collection, 74.19.

A Tiq (or tik) was an important part of any synagogue in Jewish Iraq, an elaborate case in which the Torah was stored. The traditional Iraqi Tiq looks very different from the Torah covers found in most Ashkenazi synagogues! In this activity you will create your very own tik.

Supplies needed:

A plain box or tote bag

Sharpies, markers or other craft materials

Download Instructions to Make a Tiq

Make an Oud 

(Left) Figural ornament with “oudh” (lute) player, Iran, 1050-1200 ACE. Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum. (Center)Nahat Oud. Photo by Tdrivas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. (Right) Postcard of a traditional Chamber music ensemble from Aleppo, 1915. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Making musical instruments yourself is always fun, especially when you can recycle household objects! In this activity you will construct an oud, a stringed instrument similar to a guitar but with a very different body shape.

To learn more about your oud and traditional Judeo-Arabic music, take a listen:

Supplies needed: 

An oval or circular shaped container with a rounded back, something like a disposable burrito bowl is ideal.

Six elastic bands

Sheet of cardstock

Paint stirrer

Markers and stickers for decoration.

Glue or tape

Download Instructions for Making an Oud.

Hamsa Bracelet 

(Left) Pin, in the form of a Hamsa from Chana 5th Anniversary, November 2000. JMM 2000.171.1. (Center) Hamsa icon. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. (Right) One of the many hamsas available at Esther’s Place, the JMM gift shop.

The hamsa (also know as a khamsa) is a recognizable symbol in many cultures around the world. In this activity you can learn about its heritage and create a protective symbol for yourself or your home.

If a bracelet doesn’t appeal, you could also make a wall hanging!

Supplies needed: 

Paper or cardstock

String or elastic


Pencils and markers

Download Instructions for a Hamsa Bracelet.

Delicious Date Balls

(Left) Dates, illustration from The Encyclopedia of Food by Artemas Ward, 1923. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. (Right) Enjoying a sweet treat at the From Talmud to Tik Family Day, December 2017. Photo by Will Kirk.

Finish up your Jewish Iraqi experience with these simple and yummy treats!

Supplies needed:



Sesame seems

Download Instructions for Delicious Date Balls.

Looking for a bigger cooking challenge?

Archivist Lorie Rombro blogged about making Tbeet, an Iraqi-Jewish shabbat overnight stew. The recipe was shared with us by food writer Vered Guttman at our members-only event Feast of Flavors: A Cooking Demo and Tasting. She made sure to include a PDF of the recipe so you try it for yourself!

Keep Discovering:

Interested in learning more about Jewish life in Iraq? Check out some of the resources below in addition to the online exhibit of Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Archives.

For a real taste of life in Jewish Iraq, this blog from the Jewish Women’s archive has some great options.

When we hosted our Tik to Talmud Family Day, we were joined by the wonderful Silk Road Dance Company, who both demonstrated and taught some traditional dances from this region. Watch them perform a Lebanese dabke in the video below.

Finally, listen to the stories of those born and raised within the Iraqi Jewish community in their own words.

Make sure to share photos of you enjoying our crafts and activities on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr pages and use #MuseumFromHome!


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