Memories on the Life Story of the
by David Kazzaz of Denver, CO.
Each copy is autographed by the Author
Dr. David Kazzaz was born in Baghdad ,
Iraq and attended medical school at the American University in
Beirut . He has completed his post doctoral training at Hadassah
Hospital in Jerusalem Israel and subsequently did a residency in
Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver ,
David Kazzaz, M.D., and his wife
After studying in Denver , Dr.
Kazzaz was asked by the Ministry of Health in Israel to develop a
pilot program on community mental health centers which was used as a
model for subsequent programs.
In 1962, Dr. Kazzaz returned to
Denver where he practiced psychiatry for twenty seven years. He
retired in 1989 and founded Project Pride, a program focusing on
anti-Semitism and racial hatred. In 1995 Dr. Kazzaz founded the
Hispano-Crypto-Jewish Resource Center at the University of Denver .
Since 2000 Dr. Kazzaz is a Research
Associate of The Institute for the Study of Israel in the Middle
East (ISIME). He is engaged in the study and analysis of events in
Iraq and other countries in the Middle East . He is a regular
lecturer in classes at the Graduate School of International Studies
at the University of Denver as well as a frequent lecturer on Middle
East topics in the general community.
Dr. Kazzaz is the author of “Mother
of the Pound: Memoirs on the Life and History of the Iraqi Jews.”
Hakham Moshe Shamash, David and
was the chief Rabbi of Iraq
|About 6 years ago Dr Kazzaz came into my store and asked if I
would carry his book -- over the years I have come to know him and
he believes passionately in this story and the message he
to pass on to future generations.
~~ Aharon of Aharon's Books and MileChai.com Denver "the MileChai City"
most of the world, 1945 marked an end of six years of wrenching
global warfare. But for over 120,000 Jews in Iraq, 1945 ushered in a
period of intense, government-sponsored persecution, a terrifying
era that would only end with their mass exodus to Israel five years
later. That exodus was sparked by a heroic young woman who would
become known from Baghdad to Jerusalem as "The Mother of the Pound".
Her story provided the inspiration for this book, which explores the
story of the Jews of Iraq, their deep historical roots, their
defining traditions and spiritual values. To that story, the author
brings both intimate knowledge, for he was born and and raised in
that culture, and unique insights gained in nearly three decades as
a practicing psychiatrist educated in Lebanon, Israel, and the
United States. In a personal and engaging fashion, this book
provides a panoramic view of this segment of the Jewish Diaspora,
and the author's psychological perspective gives new insight into
the evolution of culture and issues of religious and spiritual life.
Emphasizing the importance of pride in heritage, this story of the
survival of a people offers inspiration and direction for all who
confront discrimination and prejudice today.
by David Kazzaz
"Mother of the Pound" is a fascinating
tale of survival and triumph Dr. Kazzaz's retelling of the
experience of the Iraqi Jewish community, combined with his insights
into the psychology of Jewish survival, makes for an important
contribution to our literature.
-- Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
- "Viewing the panorama from the analyst's armchair on a
journey into the wealth of our traditions added a new dimension to
my understanding of the depth of our heritage. I thank David Kazzaz
for the gift Mother of the Pound will bring to future
generations." -- Rabbi Mordecai B. Twerski, Talmudic
Research Institute of Denver
- "This book included history, traditions psychological
insights. Dr. Kazzaz has unitized his scholarly skills and personal
reminiscences to create a fascinating book." -- Rabbi Marc
D. Angel, Congregation Shearith Israel, The Spanish and Portuguese's
- "This is a story well worth remembering and telling. I hope
many people will read it." -- Rabbi Harold Kushner, Author
of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, David Kazzaz attended college and medical
school at the American University in Beirut in the in the 1940s.
After marrying Louise in Israel in 1950, he pursued postdoctoral
training in neurology at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital before moving to
the United States to complete a psychiatric residency at the University
of Colorado Medical Center in Denver. In 1959, Kazzaz and his
young family returned to Israel after he was asked to institute a pilot
community mental health program for the Israeli Department of Mental
Health. In 1962, the family settled permanently in Denver, where
Kazzaz practiced psychiatry for 27 tears. Now retired from
practice, he is director of Project Pride, an organization he created in
1989 with the sponsorship of the Ant--Defamation League and the Central
Agency for Jewish Education. In 1955, he founded the
Hispano-Crypto-Jewish Resource Center, housed at the University of
Denver, which provides assistance to Hispanics who wish to trace their
Jewish family roots.
Here is a short passage from the chapter describing the celebration
Each person had a role in preparing and carrying out the festivities.
Women were largely responsible for all the food preparation, men handled
the heavy work, and children were expected to do their share of the
tasks. And when everyone finally came together at the table, important
participatory roles were played by adults and children alike. Soon, the
chanting of the Haggadah reverberated through the room and sailed out
the windows. Then the food was served, its rich aroma filling the air,
and that too crossed over to the houses close by. Since food was
prepared almost identically by each family, we could smell the delicious
scents wafting through our window and tell what portion of the meal the
neighbors were eating a given moment. All in all, it was an occasion
that no one would miss and an occasion on which we declared in the words
of the Haggadah: "Let all who are hungry come and eat and all who are
needy celebrate the Passover with us."
The Iraqi culture had developed many special customs of its own
surrounding the Pesach seder. For example, when it came time for the
children to ask the four questions, all the youngsters left the room
afikomen, the piece of matzah that is traditionally saved
for dessert, pretending to be travelers leaving the land of Egypt as the
children of Israel did. This little ritual reminded us of the Israelites
who carried their provisions of unleavened bread on their backs as they
fled Egypt. And like so many of our traditions, it made us, the
youngsters in the family, feel that we were a part of our own history.
For a brief moment, we could pretend that we were living in the time of
the Exodus, imagining that on our way to the Holy Land, we had somehow
stumbled into a modern time and happened upon adult Jews having a
strange celebration and doing all sorts of odd things. In this way, the
spirit of the reenactment was anachronistic and had almost a surreal
dimension as well.
When the moment came to ask the four questions, all of the children
travelers) came back and knocked at the door.
"Where did you come from?" the adults would ask.
"We came from Egypt," we responded.
"Where are you going?"
"Where are your provisions?" they queried.
This last question was certainly a logical one, for in a community
without hotels and restaurants dotting the horizon, travelers had to
provide their own sustenance and housing.
Furthermore, the question made reference to the travelers who were forced
to leave Egypt without having time to prepare for their sojourn in the
desert. But we children didn't answer this final question posed by the
adults. Instead, we paused to analyze the situation, saying to
ourselves, "Wait a minute. What are these people doing - and why?" so we
ignored this last question from the adults and went on to chant the four
questions heard around
seder tables across the world. Why is this night
different from all other nights...?
We also had a custom that differed from that of the Ashkenazi Jews in
regard to the afikomen.
During our seder, one male child was assigned to carry the afikomen on
his back and to zealously guard it from the other children, who tried to
steal it. The designated protector therefore had to remain awake and
vigilant throughout the evening. For the children, it was a long night
because the Haggadah was read to the fullest, each verse given in both
Hebrew and Arabic translations.
Another unique custom of our
seder centered around the ten biblical
plagues. Each time the head of the family announced the name of a
plague, he or another designated person poured wine from his own glass
into an empty one. Thus, after his recitation, was complete, the glass
symbolically held all ten plaques, as if the pain, suffering, and disease
they caused were contained in that one glass of wine. To help ensure
that no plagues would visit our house, one person then took the "glass
of plagues" away from the table and smashed it against an outside wall.
We were acutely aware of the fragility of Jewish safety throughout
history. Perhaps, in response, we created rituals that gave us power
against danger. Smashing the glass as if it actually contained the
plagues gave us a moment of security, and the children pretending to be
travelers participated in an exercise in survival and independence.
Both reenactments were enabling an empowering.