The poets Rabbi Suleiman Mani and Rabbi Abraham Baruch Mani, known as “The Mani Brothers", were the sons of Rabbi Eliyahu Mani, who was born in Iraq in 1818 and studied under Iraqi Jews’ then-Chief Rabbi, the great Torah scholar ‘Hakham’ Abdallah Somekh.

In 1857, the Mani family emigrated from Iraq to Ottoman-ruled Palestine; they initially lived in Jerusalem before eventually settling in Hebron, where from 1865 onwards, the elder Mani took over as Chief Rabbi (aka ‘Hakham Bashi’) until his passing in 1899, authoring and publishing two elegies in his lifetime. His sons, Suleiman and Abraham, went on to become significant poets in their own right.

The eldest, Rabbi Suleiman Menachem Mani, was born in Baghdad in 1850 and spent most of his life living in Hebron. From 1904 and until his death, Rabbi Suleiman Mani was Chief Rabbi to Hebron’s Jewish congregation. He travelled extensively until his death in 1924, visiting Syria, Egypt, India, Tunisia, and Algiers. In his lifetime, only five of his original poems saw the light of day, in addition to a handful of newspaper entries, and a short story titled “Valley of the Daemons.” After his death, an additional 90 poems he had authored were published posthumously.

Rabbi Suleiman Mani’s younger brother, Rabbi Abraham Baruch Mani, was born in Baghdad in 1854 and also lived in Hebron for his life, which was tragically cut short by a critical illness. He passed away in 1882 at the age of 28. In his lifetime, he only got to publish three original poems, however; after his death, a further 40 poems were unearthed and published. The two siblings’ diverse body of work substantiates their multifaceted ties to Hebrew poetry traditions, both in the Levant and in Europe.

For lack of space, Banipal 72 – Iraqi Jewish Writers, was not able to include an essay by Almog Behar about The Mani Brothers, with a poem by each brother, entitled Poems for the Incarcerated, with the essay and poems translated from the Hebrew by Eran Edry. It is included as an online only selection.

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Banipal 72 - Iraqi Jewish Writers (Autumn-Winter 2021)