Iraqi Jewish Culture
Jul 10

My Great Great Grandfather

This is the way to find family, to know your great great grandfather was the Chacham Bashi of Iraq. His
name was Chacham Moshe Chaim Shamash.

Because I share my passion/obsession with everything Baghdad and Iraq, one summer morning I was asked if I watched the video of Iraqi Piyutim – Babylonian Jewish prayer songs posted by a lawyer/singer as a You Tube link on our local cafe’s Whatsapp group chat.

This is how our conversation went:

“So did you watch my video?”
“I watched it but I didn’t comment.”
“Why didn’t you comment?”
“Because I’m embarrassed of my Hebrew,” I replied. What I do not add is that I often wonder where
my comments on Facebook go anyway.
“Comment in English,” he replies. “Comment, say how wonderful it is.”

His singing was wonderful so I commented and said it was ‘wonderful’, and told him about my
Iraqi Jewish writing, and he said, well his grandmother’s grandfather served as the Chacham Bashi,
the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad. He said it twirling his finger in the air, and I knew how important it
was, because I knew the name of the Chacham. I hold the same DNA wrapped around my index
finger that also twirls in the air, in recognition and in searching for where I come from, who and
where my community and family is. And here over a cup of coffee I find a distant, distant relation. Family in Jerusalem.

Another story to write.