04 November 2007

Bahrain's Jewish community

Researching the Iraqi Jewish community? This story may provide some hints to missing family branches in a little-known location.

The UK's Independent paper carried a story about the Jewish community in Bahrain.

Houda Ezra Nonoo is a pillar of Bahrain society. Her first language is Arabic and she was appointed by the King to sit in the parliament's upper house. It is only her middle name that gives away the fact she is a proud member of one of the Middle East's most surprising minorities.

Ms Nonoo belongs to Bahrain's tiny Jewish community, which, uniquely in the Gulf States, has managed to survive the massive upheavals that confronted Jews in Arab countries in the second half of the 20th century.

Her family moved from Iraq to Bahrain – they were on their way to India but decided to stay – in the 1880s and her grandfather Abraham, who was a child when he arrived, went on to build a flourishing foreign exchange business that she and her husband still run today.

Although today there are only some 40 people, prior to 1948, the community estimate was from 800-2,000.

While ministers and the royal family welcome them, they cannot call or visit relatives who live in Israel. The synagogue has not been used since 1948, although the Crown Prince offered to build one at the site. There is no rabbi, but Nonoo flew in a London rabbi for her son's bar mitzvah.

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