Following World War II, members of the sizable Jewish community in what had been Kurdistan, now part of Iraq, left their homeland and resettled in Palestine where they were quickly assimilated with the dominant Israeli-Jewish culture. Anthropologist Erich Brauer interviewed a large number of these Kurdish Jews and wrote The Jews of Kurdistan prior to his death in 1942. Raphael Patai completed the manuscript left by Brauer, translated it into Hebrew, and had it published in 1947. This new English-language volume, completed and edited by Patai, makes a unique ethnological monograph available to the wider scholarly community, and, at the same time, serves as a monument to a scholar whose work has to this day remained largely unknown outside the narrow circle of Hebrew-reading anthropologists. The Jews of Kurdistan is a unique historical document in that it presents a picture of Kurdish Jewish life and culture prior to World War II. It is the only ethnological study of the Kurdish Jews ever written and provides a comprehensive look at their material culture, life cycles, religious practices, occupations, and relations with the Muslims. In 1950-51, with the mass immigration of Kurdish Jews to Israel, their world as it had been before the war suddenly ceased to exist. This book reflects the life and culture of a Jewish community that has disappeared from the country it had inhabited from antiquity. In his preface, Raphael Patai offers data he considers important for supplementing Brauer's book, and comments on the book's values and limitations fifty years after Brauer wrote it. Patai has included additional information elicited from Kurdish Jews in Jerusalem, verified quotations, correctedsome passages that were inaccurately translated from Hebrew authors, completed the bibliography, and added occasional references to parallel traits found in other Oriental Jewish communities.
Born in Berlin in 1895, Erich Brauer studied ethnology at the universities of Berlin and Leipzig. He lived for many years in Jerusalem where he devoted himself entirely to his scientific work. Raphael Patai (1911-1996) was a prominent cultural anthropologist, historian, and biblical scholar of international reputation. He was the author of more than three dozen books on Jewish and Arab culture, history, politics, psychology, and folklore.