KIRKUK, town in N. Iraq. The first known Jewish settlement in Kirkuk dates from the 17th century. There is information available on local Jews who traded mainly with Baghdad during the 18th century. Various travelers – Jewish and non-Jewish – of the 19th and early 20th centuries report on the existence of a Jewish community numbering about 200 families which lived in a separate quarter in the town. In May 1918 the town was captured by the British with the assistance of its Christian and Jewish inhabitants. After two weeks the town was retaken by the Turks, who persecuted the Jews who had not succeeded in leaving. After the war the number of Jews in Kirkuk increased, especially after it became a center of the petroleum industry. In 1947, 2,350 Jews were counted in a census. The Jews engaged in commerce, hawking, and handicrafts. In 1913 an elementary school was opened by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, but it closed with the outbreak of World War I. It was only in 1934 that a Jewish school was founded in the town by the philanthropist Ellis *Kadoorie. Social progress was slow, and it was only during the 1940s that some of the youth who graduated from the government secondary school acquired an academic education. Some individuals now left the closed quarter in order to build houses outside it. The attitude toward the Jews by the population, which was mostly Turkish, was generally hostile. In 1888 a Jewish child was abducted by a maidservant and taken to a mosque, the Muslims refusing to return him. There were, however, no anti-Jewish riots as elsewhere in *Iraq, not even in 1941. All the Jews of the town immigrated to Israel in 1950–51.
A. Ben-Jacob, Kehillot Yehudei Kurdistan (1967), 117–22.
[Haim J. Cohen]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.