Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

Basic HTML Version

JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
12
of Ezekiel near Hilla; to the sepulchre of Daniel and his three
companions near Kirkuk, to Ezra near Kurna—all elevated to the
status of national sanctuaries to which the Kurdish Jews make
their annual pilgrimages.
I t must be emphasized that most of these literary treasures the
Kurdish Jews produced in Aramaic have not been fixed in a writ-
ten form. They were maintained as oral tradition, which was
transmitted by memory from generation to generation. In the last
century, Western scholars and Christian missionaries visiting or
residing in this region began to explore their Aramaic dialect.
By reducing some texts to writing they succeeded in transferring
this orally transmitted literary output into written literature.
Efforts towards a
Verschriftung
have been accelerated in recent
decades by Jewish scholars in Jerusalem. They have gathered por-
tions of the Kurdish Jews’ literary-cultural tradition as a basis for
a proper understanding of this intriguing type of literature. Spe-
cial credit should be accorded A. Z. Idelsohn, who collected tales
in the Aramaic dialect of Kurdish Jews residing in Jerusalem and,
as a famous musicologist, also assembled their songs. The Targum
literature was enhanced by the work of the late J. J. Rivlin, of
the Hebrew University, who chronicled the oral Bible version of
the Kurdish Jews from the lips of hakhamim. He has published in
his
Shirat Yehudei Targum
hitherto unknown Judeo-Aramaic
texts of the Kurdish Jews; this work was supplemented by A.
Ben Jacob’s
Kehillat Yehudei Kurdistan.
The Kurdish Jews’ love for Zion had brought many of them to
the Holy Land many decades ago, before their complete transfer
to Israel was achieved. This transfer from Iraqi-Kurdistan to
Israel and their rapid assimilation to their Hebrew-speaking en-
vironment threatens the loss of this century-long “oral” Aramaic
literature. To rescue from oblivion the still unexplored literary
heritage of these “remnants of Israel” in the land of Israel is a
cultural challenge to be met in our day.