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THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC PATTERNS OF IRAQI JEWRY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Jewish Political Studies Review
Vol. 10, No. 1/2 (Spring 1998), pp. 19-35
Published by: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25834414
Page Count: 17
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The majority of the Jews of Iraq in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries lived in three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul. In the first half of the nineteenth century a process of modernization began in the Jewish community, paralleling the policy of Westernization and modernization in the Ottoman Empire, as reflected in the Tanzimet. The Jewish community was declared a millet, a religious community enjoying internal autonomy in religion and education. Like other minorities within the empire, the Jewish community was granted equal rights and security of life and property. The recognition of the Jewish community as a millet affected its reorganization. The hakham bashi, elected by the 80-member General Council, served as the head of the community, though actually, absolute control was in the hands of a narrow class of merchants, bankers, and rich landowners. Economically, the Jews engaged in foreign and domestic trade and in banking, two areas which they came to dominate. The mid-nineteenth century marked the beginning of development, progress, and prosperity within the Jewish community, which was reflected both in growing economic affluence and the modernization of education. The introduction of modern education, in which the Jews preceded the Muslim society around them, inaugurated a new era of far-reaching change in the community life. The Jews of Iraq were not characterized by any significant rifts, splits, or polarization. They succeeded in maintaining their religious framework and their collective and communal uniqueness.
Jewish Political Studies Review © 1998 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs