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Next Year in Sulaymaniyah

Passover takes on new meaning for a reporter far from home

Jessie Graham
March 27, 2007

When Jessie Graham first arrived in Sulaymaniyah, a Kurdish town in northern Iraq, she thought it would be best to keep her religious identity a secret. As an American she was already suspect; why complicate things?

Only a month into her stay, Jessie changed her mind. It was April, she was homesick, and she hated the idea of Passover going by without some kind of observance. So she outed herself, telling her Kurdish nationalist boss she’d like to host a small dinner party to celebrate an important Jewish holiday. Next thing she knew, he’d slaughtered a lamb for the occasion—enough meat to serve at least a dozen guests. Thus began preparations for the first seder to be held in Sulaymaniyah in decades. Jessie tells the story.

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