Unsmiling figures with long beards and head scarves greet any visitor walking through the unmarked door at 85-34 Midland Parkway. These portraits - rabbis who lived in a faraway land centuries before it was known as “Iraq” - are a reminder that the Babylonian exile continues here, albeit comfortably, in a converted brick ranch house in Queens.
In New York City, there are perhaps a few thousand Iraqi-born immigrants. Most of them are Jews, and most of them, about 400 families, are on the mailing list of Congregation Bene Naharayim (”Children of the Two Rivers,” a reference to the Tigris and the Euphrates), which was founded in suburban Jamaica Estates in 1984. (more…)