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Wolpe Calls Iranian Protest, “A Vision of Freedom”

by Rob Eshman

June 20, 2009 | 9:17 pm

The rabbi to one of the largest Iranian Jewish congregations in the world spoke directly to some 1200 congregants on Saturday morning from the pulpit, saying the events unfolding in Iran echo the Biblical promise of freedom.

“The people marching on the streets of Iran have seen a vision of freedom,” said David Wolpe from the pulpit of Sinai Temple at Sabbath morningservices
Sinai is home to hundreds of Ianian Jewish families.  Most arrived in Los Angeles following the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago, and settled in the West Los Angeles neighborhoods around Sinai.

On Saturday morning, it was a largely Persian Jewish crowd that filled the pews.

“We all know that 50 percnt, 70 percent of Iran’s population is under 30 years old,” said Wolpe. “They do not know what it’s like to be free.  But they have heard.  They have seen. They have the vision of freedom, and that’s why they are marching.”

Wolpe echoed the beliefs of many of his congregants when he cautioned against over-optimism, even if the protesters get their way. Most Iranian Jews maintain that Iran will likely still remain a theocracy at odds with the United States and Israel no matter who is in power. 

But still, the rabbi said, the protests are hopeful sign that freedom is stirring and that Israel’s example of democracy in the Middle East may spread elsewhere.

Wolpe is a Conservative rabbi and author who was named as the top rabbi in America in a Newsweek magazine-published tory.

Two months ago, Wolpe and his congregation hosted New York Times columnist Roger Cohen after Cohen published a series of columns from Iran that Wolpe’s Iranian-bon congregants underestimated the cruelty and rigidity of the current regime. An outpouring of letters prompted Cohen to appear before the congregation to defend his views in a vigorous debate (click here for a video of the confrontation).

During the current post-election unrest, Cohen, reporting from Iran, has admitted his columns promoting the idea of a more democratic Iran were mistaken.

For more on Rabbi David Wolpe, click here.

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