32 July/August 2014 | BethesdaMagazine.com
itself—how to repair and protect and pre-
serve it. “I always loved paper, it’s an aes-
thetic issue but it’s also a technical issue,” she
notes. “Deterioration is very much based on
By the time she got to Baghdad, Ameri-
can authorities had packed the documents
into 27 steel trunks and stored them in a
freezer truck usually used for transport-
ing food. Still, the “chemical change” was
“Just climbing up this rickety little ladder
and opening the door of the truck, the smell
of mold just completely hit you,” she recalls.
After examining the documents, Ham-
burg and her team came to a conclusion.
“Everything looked pretty bad, but we saw
a way forward,” she says. “We saw that they
could be stabilized and become usable
again. They were not lost.”
The documents portrayed a community
that had been lost—the Jews of Iraq. For
2,500 years, through the 1930s, Jewish peo-
ple had played a major role in that nation’s
commercial and intellectual life.
Then came the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism. In 1941, a pogrom killed 180 Jews
in Baghdad. In 1948, violence spiked when
Iraq joined other Arab nations in attacking
the new state of Israel. In the early 1950s,
almost all the remaining Jews fled the country, stripped of their citizenship and assets.
No one knows why Saddam Hussein
gathered so many documents relating to
this vanished tribe. They included some
very precious items—a Hebrew bible from
the 16th century, a Passover Haggadah
from the early 20th century, hand-lettered
and decorated by a young student. And
some very mundane ones—elementary
school readers, class records, even personal taxi receipts and gas bills.
Taken together, says Hamburg, “they
give people a window into what life was
like within that community.”
The documents were flown to Texas
and subjected to a process called “vacuum
freeze drying,” which essentially converts
water into ice and then directly into vapor.
Once dried out, they were shipped to Col-
lege Park. There, the project languished for
lack of funding.
Eventually the State Department chipped
in $3 million, and today, more than 11 years
The Chevy Chase Building
5530 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 560, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
GENERAL, COSMETIC & IMPLANT DENTISTRY
Treating Your Family Like Family
Readers’ Pick Best Dentist, 2011
Readers’ Pick Runner Up
Best Dentist, 2013
Thank you to the readers of Bethesda Magazine!
DR. RACHEL COHN’S
ANNE ET VALENTINE • BARTON PERREIRA • JUICY • LAFONT
LINDBERG • LUNOR • OLIVER PEOPLES • PAUL SMITH • ROBERT MARC
1095 Seven Locks Road | Potomac, Maryland 20854 | 301.545.1111
Comprehensive Pediatric and Adult eye examinations
through state of the art eye care technology
Voted by the readers of Bethesda Magazine
“Readers’ Pick, BEST PLACE TO BUY GLASSES”