From Baltimore to Iraq to India

Posted on December 27th, 2017 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

I recently traveled with my husband to India.  It was an adventure into a culture and way of life that was fascinating.  But what surprised me was the connection between the current exhibit at Jewish Museum of Maryland and my recent travels to India.

The David Sassoon Library and Reading Room

In the Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit there is a facsmile of business correspondence of the Sassoon family.  The memory of this was trigger when I saw a sign on a building in Mumbai “David Sassoon Library and Reading Room.”  I remembered that David Sassoon was a Baghdadi Jew who moved to what was once called Bombay and established an international trading business in the mid-1800’s.  What I have learned since, is that he remained an observant Jew and built 2 synagogues in the Bombay area.

David Sassoon (seated) and his sons Elias David, Albert (Abdallah) & Sassoon David. Via.

Just a few blocks from the Sassoon library I visited a synagogue called Keneseth Eliyahoo.  It was built by Davis Sassoon’s grandson in 1884 when there was a huge Baghdadi Jewish community living in the area.  Upon looking up the synagogue on the internet, I found that when the Keneseth Eliyahoo recently dedicated a new Torah, a representative of the Midrash Ben Ish Hai, a New York synagogue/school, spoke at the dedication.

Interior, Kenesseth Eliyahu Synagogue. Photo by Reuben Strayer. Via.

The name “Ben Ish Hai” triggered another memory.  In the Iraqi Heritage exhibit there is a 1906 religious guidebook for women written by Yosef Hayin ben Elijah al-Hakam, also known as Ben Ish Hai.  Ben Ish Hai was an international known and respected rabbi whose name and teachings and Baghdadi traditions are expounded at the New York Midrash Ben Ish Hai.

Who knew that a trip to India would illustrate to me that, as the final panel in the Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit states, “Iraqi Jewish life continues as a vibrant tradition in Iraqi Jewish communities worldwide.”

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Talmud to Tik: Iraqi Jewish Heritage Day

Posted on November 17th, 2017 by

JMM Insights: November 2017

On October 15th the Jewish Museum of Maryland opened our latest exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage. We have held six public programs in connection with the exhibit in its first month, averaging an audience of 75+ for each event. However our biggest program is yet to come. I have asked Trillion to outline the festivities we have planned for the first Sunday in December. 



Talmud to Tik: Iraqi Jewish Heritage Day is a full day celebration of the rich culture developed by the Jewish community in Iraq and preserved by their descendants across the globe.  I believe our guests will find something suitable for all ages and all tastes and that we will enable greater Baltimore to make a personal connection with that culture.

What can you expect on the day? Here are some of the highlights.

Rabbi Haim Ovadia will be joining us from Washington, DC to perform two concerts that will explore the origins and diversity of Jewish Iraqi music. The morning concert at 11am will be especially designed for kids and families, while the afternoon concert at 2 pm is for everyone.

Feel like dancing?  Enjoy and learn some of the traditional dances of the Iraqi Jewish community with the Silk Road Dance Company. This troop of dancers will actually put on three different performances on the 3rd, starting at 12:30, 1:30 and 3:30 pm.

If there is music and dance, can food be far behind?  Get a real taste of Iraqi Jewish culture, literally. Jackie Feldman of Sephardic Jews in DC, will lead a workshop making Baharat, a spice mixture eaten across the Middle East which is a critical building block for most Iraqi Jewish recipes. This tasty mixture can be taken home and combined into a variety of delicious recipes.

And one more treat for our youngest visitors.  We will also be joined by Violet Battat, representing SHIN DC who will be offering a special Jewish Iraqi story times. Violet will share with us stories passed down through her family, combined with singing and an exploration of Iraq. These sessions are specially designed for children aged 3 to 7 though the young at heart are also welcome.

If that isn’t enough we will also have several arts and crafts opportunities. Activities include making evil eye bracelets, decorating your own tik (the container traditionally used to hold an Iraqi Torah) and even making some delicious date balls to take home, or eat immediately, if you are feeling peckish!

The day is certain to be fun filled, we couldn’t have managed such an extravaganza were it not for the support of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

For more details or to buy your tickets please check our event page here. 

Hope to see you there.


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A Chicken Challenge!

Posted on October 27th, 2017 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

October 24th was our members event, Feast of Flavors: A Cooking Demo and Tasting for our new exhibit. Vered Guttman, a food writer, came and gave a cooking demo of Iraqi Jewish foods. All the recipes looked incredible but I really wanted to try making Tbeet, a Jewish Iraqi chicken and rice dish. I knew this was something my family would like and was different from what I usually made. We are an adventurous group when it comes to food and my husband and children always like to try something new. The recipe also looked easy, I’m not a bad cook but I really don’t have much time to put into making meals and a one pot recipe is always appreciated.

Vered shows off the ideal chicken at the Feast of Flavors cooking demo.

Vered shows off the ideal chicken at the Feast of Flavors cooking demo.

The audience was told to get a nice big plump bird, a fryer, so the chicken did not dry out. After 7 phone calls with my husband, who I sent out for the chicken, this was finally accomplished. You began by mixing the spices with the dried rice and stuffing the bird with the mixture and then tying the legs and closing the front with toothpicks so the rice doesn’t fall out. That part was a bit easier said than done. After breaking many tooth picks, I gave up and hoped for the best.

Stuffing the chicken with rice.

Stuffing the chicken with rice.

Tying the chicken shut.

Tying the chicken shut.

When the chicken was finally in the pot you cover it with more spices, cumin, cardamon, turmeric, paprika and pepper, add water and cover the chicken with what seemd like a large amount of rice. The eggs are added on top, everything is covered in tinfoil and placed it in the oven overnight at 225.

A well spiced chicken!

A well spiced chicken!

The finished product - delicious!

The finished product – delicious!

The next morning the kitchen smelled wonderful and the chicken was unwrapped and looked delicious. My eggs came out a little weird, but the chicken was moist and falling off the bone. This did make it a bit hard to find the chicken in the mounds of rice, and I think I will use less rice next time. But last night we all enjoyed the Tbeet and I will make this again. It actually was fun; the whole family was involved in our experiment and we not only had a delightful meal but we spent time together trying something new.

Want to give it a try yourself? Here's the recipe Vered shared with us!

Want to give it a try yourself? Here’s the recipe Vered shared with us! 

You can download a PDF of this recipe here.


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