Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
10
THE IR CULTURAL LIFE AND L ITE R A R Y VALUES
It could hardly have been expected that Jews on this social-
economic level in the Kurdish diaspora, steadily exposed to inter-
tribal feuds, could have developed a cultural life and literary
values of their own. Yet, Hebrew-written letters from the 16th
century on, found in the Geniza, made available by Jewish
scholars (J. Mann, S. Assaf, I. Ben Zvi, M. Benayahu, W. J. Fi-
schel), shed some light on the communal, religious and social
conditions of the Jewish communities in Amadiya, Sandor, Zakho,
Nirva, Dehok and elsewhere. They indicated that there were
Hakhamim, among whom Rabbi Samuel Barzani Adoni and his
family figure most prominently. He had established
Yeshivot
in
various communities in Barazan, Mosul, Amadiya, Akra, among
others, and maintained close connections with the Jewish centers
in Baghdad, Aleppo and the Holy Land, especially Safed.
These letters, only a remnant of a much more extensive and
voluminous “correspondence literature,” served as the only
means of communication between the various communities
within Kurdistan and outside.
Their extensive letter writing in Hebrew was only one aspect
of their literary activities. They copied treatises on
shehitah,
Sab-
bath, Pesah and other aspects of the Halakhah, to which, as rab-
binical Jews, they strictly adhere; also midrashim and homiletic
expositions. They composed
piyyutim, pizmonim
and
azharot
for
all festive religious occasions and for all secular events. Proverbs
were particularly popular among them. The names of some thirty
Jewish authors of sacred and secular poetry have been uncovered
from over 150 poems of the 17th and 18th centuries, in Hebrew
and Aramaic, sometimes bi-lingual, with a great mixture of
Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Kurdish linguistic elements.
Besides these, they had their cabalistic treatises, portions of the
Zohar,
kameot, goralot,
talismans, amulets, and dream books, all
reflecting their world so deeply immersed in superstition, beliefs in
demons, evil-eyes and magic.
THE IR ARAMAIC CREAT IV ITY
The most characteristic feature of their literary activities is their
use of a dialect of their own, Aramaic. The 12th century Jewish
traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, drew attention to this linguistic od­