August 22, 2008 Baghdadi Jews in British Burma are Subject of Sept. 9 Lecture at the Library of Congress

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Anchi Hoh, (202) 707-5673; Gail Shirazi, (202) 707-9897

For more than a century, Jews from the Middle East—the Baghdadis—formed vibrant communities throughout Southeast Asia. Linked across the miles by tradition, family and economic ties, ideologically the Baghdadis existed between two promised lands: the religious ideal of Jerusalem and the political promise of England. Like other minorities in the complex society that was British India, the Baghdadis gradually refashioned their lifestyles and aspirations on the British model. Anthropologist Ruth Fredman Cernea will discuss the Jewish experience in the land of Burma in a lecture titled “Almost Englishmen: Baghdadi Jews in British Burma.” The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be delivered at noon, on Tuesday, Sept. 9, in the Asian Division Reading Room foyer (Room 150), located in the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The program is sponsored jointly by the Asian Division, the Asian Division Friends Society and the Library of Congress Professional Association’s Hebrew Language Table. Cernea is the author of the anthropological study of the Passover Seder titled “Afikoman in Exile,” the editor of “The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate” and numerous articles on Jewish society and culture. In her new book, she has reconstructed the history of the Jews of Burma through decades-long archival research and interviews in Burma, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, the United States and other places throughout the world. She has furthered Jewish and colonial studies by documenting a community and an experience that have been ignored in historical writings. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages. The Library’s Asian Division ( serves as a central repository for all types of Asian publications that are not broadly available at other locations in the United States. Initiated in 1869 with a gift of 10 works in 934 volumes offered to the United States by the Emperor of China, the Library’s Asian collection of more than 2 million items is the largest and most comprehensive outside of Asia. The Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division ( is the center for the study of some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. The division’s Hebraic Section is one of the world’s foremost centers for the study of Hebrew and Yiddish materials.


PR 08-141
ISSN 0731-3527