SCoJeC was delighted to welcome Carol Isaacs, musician and cartoonist, to our virtual forum to discuss her graphic memoir The Wolf of Baghdad, which tells the story of her lost homeland, Iraq. She calls the book "a wordless narrative by an author homesick for a home she has never visited", and explains: "When you're constantly asked where you're from, you start to question it yourself". She told us how, having discovered her drawing skills by chance, she used them as a means of connecting with her family history, and has also explored animation to combine drawing with Judeo-Arabic music.
In the 1940s, more than a third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish. Within a decade nearly all of Iraq’s 150,000 Jews had fled. Of those remaining, most escaped in the 1970s or were killed, and today very few remain – some say as few as three individuals. Carol reflected on a comment made by one of her relations, who noted that “even if we could go back to Iraq, it would be as Jewish ghosts.”
She also discussed the contributions of the Iraqi Jewish community to art, poetry, and music, and talked about her constant desire to visit, noting “there’s nothing left of my family [in Iraq] to see but I’d love to go and just open up a dialogue.”
The vote of thanks was given by Edwin Shuker, the outgoing Vice President of the Board of Deputies, who is an activist and public speaker on the issue of Jews from Arab countries. He thanked Carol and SCoJeC for helping to create the opportunity for people to connect to Iraqi Jewish culture. He said he related to many of Carol’s stories, particularly of generations sleeping together on the rooftops, and coming together as communities. Carol reflected on this, noting “we were Jews living together, you didn’t feel you had to ghettoise yourself.”
One participant said she had known very little about the Iraqi Jewish community, but this event had stimulated a desire to find out more, and others commented on the importance of keeping traditions alive, and passing on these cultures and traditions to future generations.