The Kurdish Jew

Nothing will deter him from standing up for his beliefs,

even a terrorist attack that cost him his arm.

Sherzad Omer Mamsani is proud to be a Kurdish Jew and is letting the world know it. Nothing will deter him, even a terrorist attack that cost him his arm and left shrapnel in his legs. “This is my calling. How can I run away from it? This is my history. This is my faith. This is not something I do just for a living. It is my life.”

Kurdistan’s director of Jewish affairs since 2015, Sherzad welcomes any Jews who might come to visit for business or tourism. “Jews would be surprised to find that they are freer and safer here than in certain European capitals,” he asserts. He would like to revive Jewish life and see a synagogue in every town. As Iraqi Kurdistan’s first Jewish leader, he spearheaded the first Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Kurdistan in May.

Born in 1976 to a Jewish mother and Muslim father, Mamsani hid his identity for years—but has been proudly asserting his Jewishness for the past two decades. In 1997, he wrote a book about Kurdish-Jewish relations—resulting in death threats and three terrorist attacks. In a later book he explored the rise of Islamic extremism in Iraq.

His father belonged to the Peshmerga (translated as “those who face death”), nationalist fighters for an independent Kurdish state who were key in toppling Saddam Hussein and lately have been battling ISIS militants.


Przyslala Ala Elczewska

ala elczewska

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