Posted by Karmel Melamed
Following yesterday’s dramatic news of 40 Jews immigrating to Israel from Iran, the Iranian government has again marched out the leaders of the Jewish community in the country to do their public relations damage control. Maurice Motamed, the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament and Ciamak Morsathegh, who heads the Tehran Jewish Committee were both out in full force chatting with CNN , and other western media news outlets trying to portray the lives of Jews in Iran as “safe” and supposedly free from Anti-semitism. In an effort to combat the negative publicity about the Iranian government generated yesterday and make Iran sound like the “garden of Eden” for Jews, both Motamed and Morsathegh were almost parroting the same words Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic leaders have been saying recently about the country’s 20,000 Jews:
“We are one of the oldest communities in Iran. We are free to practice our religion. Anti-Semitism is a Western phenomenon but Jews have never been in danger in Iran. We are Iranian Jews and are proud of our nationality. No amount of money can encourage us to give up Iran. Our nationality is not up for sale,” Morsathegh said.
The hope of the mullahs who hold the true power in Iran is to reverse the bad press they have been getting as anti-Semitic jihadists. Undoubtedly news of 40 Jew leaving Iran in a covert mission is embarrassing to the regime who is trying to curry favor with European countries whom they want to trade with. What better way to combat any anti-Semitic rhetoric Iran’s President spews than to march out the countries Jews and have them say “great things” about the regime! You may wonder why the Jewish community leaders in Iran are so willing to praise the regime that is holding them hostage. The answer is simple…duress! They say whatever their captors tell them to say or else all Jews in Iran will suffer unknown persecution. For this reason, comments made by Motamed and other Jews in Iran lack all credibility.
If we are to believe the Jewish leaders in Iran and accept their words that Iran is a paradise for Jews to live in, then why has the once 100,000 strong Jewish community dwindled down to 20,000? Why have thousands of Jews fled Iran since 1979 and been forced to leave billions of dollars in assets behind if the regime is so fair and gives rights to Jews? If Iran is such a just and fair country to the Jews, then why do Iranian Islamic laws, have separate punishments for the same crimes depending on whether the victim is Muslim or not, or whether the offender is Muslim or non-Muslim? For example, in the case of rape…if the man is a Muslim and the woman a Jew (or any non-Muslim) the man will face no penalty, except pay the woman compensation if it was a very violent rape. But if a non-Muslim rapes a Muslim woman, the only punishment he will face is execution!
As a journalist who exclusively covers Iranian Jewry and has close ties to the community, I am personally baffled at how members of the media in the U.S. and Europe can make any assertions that life is supposedly “great for Jews in Iran”. On a regular basis, I am reminded by countless Iranian American Jewish leaders to watch what I might be writing about the Iranian government for fear that what I may report on may have negative repercussions on the Jews of Iran. So my question is why on earth are Iranian American Jews so concerned about my words and the safety of their brethren in Iran if everything is supposedly so fine and dandy for Jews in Iran?
But Jews are not the only victims of the Iranian government’s tyranny. Other religious minorities including Christians, Zoroastrians and Bahais are also prime targets for the fundamentalist Islamic strongmen in Iran’s government. According to Frank Nikbakht, director of the L.A.-based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, non-Muslims who convert to Islam are not abused but Muslims who convert to Judaism, Christianity, or the Bahai faith face execution for doing so. “Many converts and the advocates of conversion such as Christian priests and Bahai leaders have been executed,” said Nikbakht in a recent interview with me. Nikbakht added; “however during the past 10 years, in order to avoid international pressure for executing religious minorities, Iran’s Islamic Republic has done the following:
1) Closed down whole operations such as churches and imprisoned church or Bahai leaders.
2) Condemned to DEATH, several priests and Bahais leaders, but not carried out the sentences until their cases were forgotten.
3) Assassinated the person converting Muslims in a Muslim ritual manner by means of multiple stabbings the person in the chest or cutting their throat and dropping their body in front of his/her house where others can see. The government has giving media coverage to these crimes but not arresting anyone of them.
Hundreds of Bahais and dozens of Christians have been executed or killed in these ways. It is happening right now, perhaps two or three every year in order to keep everyone in line”.
Now if these laws and actions toward Jews and religious minorities in Iran are not signs of a totalitarian inhumane regime, then in the world has truly gone mad by not recognizing such evil. The news media in American and Europe need to wake up and recognize this propaganda the Iranian government is spewing out by using Jews as their publicity pawns. Their manipulation of Jews for publicity purposes is wrong, disgusting and must be exposed!
For those who do not believe that the Iranian government is using Jews for P.R. purposes, the following abbreviated list of the publicity stunts and propaganda moves that the regime has undertaken this year to fix their image is evidence of it:
Producing and broadcasting “Zero Degree Turn” a television series on Iranian state-run network which accepts the existence of the Holocaust and shows an Iranian-Palestinian man saving a Jewish woman’s life in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Despite the show’s efforts to show that Iran is supposedly tolerant of the Holocaust, it is full of inaccuracies and attacks “Zionists”. Jews are shown in a poor light in the program by speaking Persian inaccurately and portrayed as untrustworthy by accepting and giving bribes.
Announcing that the Iranian government supposedly “loves the Jews” by publicizing the Iranian regime’s plans to build a new 73,000 square foot cultural and sports complex for the Jewish community in central Tehran.
Putting out press releases and sending their lackeys in the Western media to say that Ahmadinejad’s comments about Israel being wiped off the map were “incorrectly translated”. What a bunch of horse manure! We all know very well what Ahmadinejad said and what he meant, there’s no way to back track on it.
Sending out press releases that Iran’s Jews condemn Ahmadinejad’s “mistreatment” at Columbia University in September. Here’s an example of one such: press release
Sending out press releases that Iran’s Jews participated in “Quds Day” an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan to voice support for the Palestinian people. Here’s an example of one such press release
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December 25, 2007 | 2:53 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
More than a dozen Iranian Jewish families were crying with joy today at Ben Gurion airport in Israel after the arrival of 40 of their family members who had secretly left Iran. According to Jewish Agency officials in Israel, the Iranian Jews flew into Israel via an unnamed third country in a covert and complex operation. This group of Jewish immigrants arriving from Iran is the single largest this year since the Chicago-based “International Fellowship of Christians and Jews” (IFCJ) offered $10,000 for each Jew who decided to leave Iran. So far roughly 200 Iranian Jews left Iran this year for Israel through funding provided by the IFCJ and the Jewish agency. Emotions were running high for the Iranian Jews who had just arrived:
“I’m in heaven,” gushed Avraham Dayan, 63, waiting for his son, daughter-in-law and grandson to arrive. He said he had not seen his 38-year-old son in 11 years, missing his son’s wedding and the birth of his grandson.
Michael, a 15-year-old Iranian Jewish immigrant, said he told all his friends where he was going, and they wanted to come along. “I was scared in Iran as a Jew,” he said.
While Jews who choose to leave Iran can appoint legal custodians to manage their assets, none of the 40 Jews who arrived from Iran today have appointed any such custodians and will most likely lose their assets entirely to the Iranian government. This event might have indeed been emotional for the Jews arriving from Iran, but there are still about 20,000 Jews still living in Iran and under potential danger from the regime. The Iranian government has been using them as propaganda pawns to supposedly show that they are “good to the Jews” despite comments made by Iran’s president calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
What troubles me is the fact that Jewish organizations in Europe and the U.S. have not done more financially to help lure the Jews of Iran to leave that country. Millions of dollars were raised to help bring over millions of Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel in the 1990’s but 20,000 Jews from Iran do not seem to be a priority for world Jewry. It is a sad day in the world when an Evangelical Christian group does more to help Iran’s Jews that Jewish groups in America and Europe! Yes it is true that some of the Jews living in Iran may not want to part with their money and assets there, but Israel with the help of American Jewish organizations needs to put together a comprehensive project that will provide decent livelihoods for them in Israel. Perhaps when these Iranian Jews see that there is no financial future for them in Iran which is experiencing very serious economic turmoils, then they may more quickly leave that country.
Unfortunately the majority of Jews who fled Iran in the 1980’s only did so under fear for their lives. After a few Jews were executed or imprisoned by Iran’s regime, did large groups of families leave their assets and often times illegally flee the country! Sadly it seems as if it takes dangerous events to prompt Iran’s Jews to leave their homes behind even though they know they are gambling with their lives everyday they wake up in Iran.
December 21, 2007 | 11:52 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Imagine you have a large home, luxury cars, maids and butlers, real estate holdings, a multi-million dollar business and of course a substantial fortune in your bank accounts. Then imagine one day, you just simply walking away from that entire lifestyle and start your life again from nothing in a new country where you know no one and do not speak the language. This was the very sad reality thousands of Jews living in Iran faced in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when they there forced to leave everything they owned behind. For many of us Jews living in the tranquility of the U.S. today, such harsh realities Iranian Jews had to endure is beyond all comprehension. It is even more difficult for us to understand why there are nearly 20,000 Jews still living in Iran despite that regime’s past hostility to Jews and calls for Israel’s destruction. I’d like to shed some light on the history and close ties Jews have had with Iran that may be a factor in their decisions not to leave that country.
This week my story in the L.A. Jewish Journal reflects on the lack of interest on the part of Jews still living in Iran to leave that country despite efforts by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), to lure them out with offers of $10,000 to every Jew immigrating to Israel from Iran. When I chatted with the IFCJ’s founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, he expressed his frustration at the fact that not many Jews in Iran were willing to take up the offer”
“If there is an attack by either the United States or Israel on Iran, it seems clear to me that even the Iranian Jews know it would be too late at that point for them to get out or not be persecuted. In my opinion, they are playing a very dangerous game of not committing to come out to Israel. I think there are some stereotypes [in the greater American Jewish community] that these [Iranian Jewish] people are rich; that they’ll only come to Israel to be rich—when in fact, these people come out with nothing because of the inflation. And their money is worthless when they leave Iran. But the $10,000 has been enough to tip the scales for them to make the move, because it will help them get on their feet in Israel.”
Aside from the financial hardship that may befall Jews who leave Iran nowadays, we must not forget the long and deep rooted history Jews have had for the past 2,000 with that country. The biblical books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther were not only written by these prophets while they were living in ancient Persia (modern Iran) but their books chronicle the lives of Jews living in exile there. For example, in the book of Ezra, the Persian kings are credited with permitting and enabling the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple; its reconstruction was affected according to the decree of Cyrus the Great, and Darius, and Artaxerxes kings of Persia. For the next several thousands of years Jews remained in ancient Persia which included much of the modern Middle East. Despite enduring horrible religious persecution from the Muslim majority over the centuries, they made Iran their home. So it’s no surprise that after such a long history of living in a certain place, some individuals would not want to leave that place.
It took the bloody 1979 revolution in Iran where more than a dozen Jews were killed or executed for sizable portions of the community to flee. But still there were those Jews who decided not to leave their homes and businesses behind despite the risks to their lives by Iran’s unstable radical Islamic regime. I’ve recently chatted with a handful of Iranian Jewish businessmen who travel back and forth to Iran under Islamic names and passports. They operate their businesses in Iran during a portion of the year, then return back to their families here in Los Angeles or New York. Of course this is not typical of Iranian Jews and very risky, but some are willing to take the risk because of their deep emotional and financial ties with Iran. While more than 100 Jews left Iran under the IFCJ’s immigration project this year, it may take a war or more serious persecution of the Jewish community to motivate them to leave their assets behind in Iran.
The following are just a few important Jewish sites in Iran:
Serah Bat Asher
According to Hebrew tradition it was Serah, the daughter of Asher and granddaughter of the Jewish patriarch Jacob, who first informed Jacob that Joseph was alive and the ruler of Egypt. Serah, play the harp for him and sing a song with the words “Joseph is alive”. It’s believed that out of gratitude for this Jacob asked God to make her immortal and his prayer was granted. Following the legend to the time of Moses, it was Serah who informed Moses where to find the bones of Joseph, so he could carry them back to the promised land as Joseph desired.
The site below is a Jewish cemetery referred to as “Serah Bat Asher” where it is believe Serah is buried. The cemetery is located in the town of “Kukuli” between the Iranian cities of Esfahan and Shiraz. Jews have often visited the site through the centuries and prayed for redemption and help.
The Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai
Located in the city of Hamadan, the traditional site of the tombs of Esther and Mordechai has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. The great archaeologist Ernst Hertzfeld, in his book, suspected that Esther and Mordechai were buried there, but later indicated that he believed “Shushandokht”, a Jewish woman who was the wife of Yazgerd I, an Iranian king, is buried there. Nevertheless Jews today still make pilgrimages to the sites.
The Tomb of Daniel the prophet
The tomb of the Jewish prophet Daniel is located in the Iranian city of Susa. A mosque was built around the tomb and Iranian Muslims also visit the site to pray there.
December 19, 2007 | 10:10 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Local Iranian Jewish young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s are looking to give back to their community through a unique mentoring program for Iranian Jewish teens. The new program matches high school students in the Iranian Jewish community with young professional mentors in select professional fields, including medicine, law, business, real estate, education, journalism, and Jewish communal/non-profit work. The mentors are successful Iranian American Jews who are carefully screened, trained and are accessible resources for the programâs participants. The project is indeed ambitious and the first of its kind for our community as there really has not been much outreaching to Iranian Jewish teens.
Set to launch in mid-January 2008, the program was organized by Jewish Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Los Angeles, Nessah Synagogue, and “Thirty Years After ,” a non-profit organization devoted to enhancing the role of the Iranian-American Jewish Community in American civic and political affairs. I was approached by the organizers of the program to serve as a journalism mentor to Iranian Jewish teens seeking to become news reporters and I found the opportunity exciting. What better way to pass on my knowledge about news reporting than to volunteer only a few hours each month to help a younger person. Unfortunately many of us Iranian Jews in our 20’s and 30’s did not have anyone to serve as mentors or guides while we were growing up. Our parents were unfamiliar with the American educational system and the various opportunities available in different fields. In fact many of our parents discouraged us from getting into field other than medicine, law or engineering because they felt those areas were more financially stable.
But now the times have changed and parents are more Americanized and perhaps more open to their children pursuing different careers. Another aspect of this project that I find interesting is the fact that one group in the local Iranian Jewish community finally decided to take responsibility for passing on Jewish leadership skills and a sense of Zionism to our teens. Hopefully this new generation of Iranian Jewish teens can carry the torch of community activism and also succeed in their own careers.
For more information on how you can serve as a mentor or get a child involved in the program, contact: email@example.com
December 14, 2007 | 2:21 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
If you come to Los Angeles seeking to find Iranian Jews, you’d likely find them either at their synagogues or at Elat Market, one of the most popular locations where countless Iranian Jews gather in the Pico Robertson neighborhood. The market is not your typical grocery store but somewhere in between an American style supermarket and Persian style bazaar with a cornucopia of delectable delights to choose from. The store has more than 3,000 kosher items as well as produce, meat, fish, bakery items, nuts and dry goods, deli foods, frozen foods and also an array of Persian music you can buy over the counter. For the past 23 years Elat Market has grown from a small unknown 2,000 square foot grocery store to a near 20,000 square foot food emporium catering to the surrounding Jewish community. Some may consider Elat Market a shopper’s paradise just like the resort city in Israel, while others believe the market is a chaotic madhouse where only the bravest shoppers dare to enter!
In March of 2003, I had the rare opportunity to chat with one of the co-owners of Elat Market, Kevin Novin, for an article in the Beverly Hills Weekly newspaper. He explained that his store has become somewhat of a landmark not only for Iranian Jews but folks of various nationalities. “This store is famous internationally because we have a lot of experience in the business with fresh items, cheap prices and we offer hands-on personal service to all of our customers,” Novin said at the time. “About 50 percent of our customers are from Beverly Hills and they are Iranians, Israelis, Americans, Arabs, French and Russians.” The market’s store manager informed me that their biggest seller is Persian style cucumbers with approximately 2,000 pounds worth being sold per day and four palettes sold in a week. They also sell more than 1,000 pounds of lettuce and 1,000 pounds of grapes per day.
So you wonder just how in the heck Elat market can provide such fresh produce at such substantially lower prices than most supermarkets out there? The answer Novin gave was quite simple…“we can offer low prices because we buy in high quantity, have a low margin of profit but a high turnover rate.” This perhaps is the best reason why the store is often bursting at the seems with customers doing their weekly shopping and fighting for parking spaces around the store. Often times I’ve driven by there and seen folks waiting for hours on end to get inside as security officers have had to keep some shoppers out for periods of time because of the potential fire hazard with too many people inside the store.
Even when you get inside the store it can be quite the ordeal and there have been nasty exchanges between various shoppers vying for produce. I can recall one time when I had accompanied my grandmother to Elat Market and one young woman got into a near altercation with another older woman. The younger woman had picked out nearly a dozen Persian cucumbers and placed them in her shopping cart when the older woman just outright took the cucumbers from her cart and started walking off. Turning around, the younger woman caught the older woman walking away and called out “what the hell are you do with my cucumbers? Why don’t you go and pick out your own!” Everyone just stared at the two women briefly and went back to their shopping. The older woman ignored the younger woman and walked off. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed and just shrugged at the younger woman who was visibly furious but not willing to make a bigger scene for fear of ruining her reputation.
Before major Jewish holidays such as Passover, Elat Market is considered a war zone by many Iranian Jews in the community because so many folks are rushing to get their food shopping done before sundown. Most local younger Iranian Jews will probably tell you that they avoid going to Elat Market like avoiding the plague because of how busy and emotionally troubling the experience can often be. “Are you mad? I’d never go to Elat Market even if I was starving!” said one 24-year-old Iranian Jewish woman to me when I asked her about the market. “That store is one of the focal points of gossip, jealously and fake smiles in the community!” She then showed me her sister’s ankles that were bruised by women banging their shopping carts at her sister in order to get by at Elat Market. I’ll tell you, it’s a wonder to what extent people will go to get good deals on groceries these days!
Parking seems to be another serious issue for shoppers to Elat Market and with more cars packed into the residential streets surrounding the market, there is more noise for the neighbors. Fisible signs surround the exterior of the store asking shoppers not to honk their car horns. So you wonder why the owners of Elat Market don’t expand their store if it’s so packed? Well, from what I’ve been told the landlord who owns the entire block of stores refuses to permit any further expansion by Elat’s owners despite their very lucrative offers to him. Instead the “stubborn” landlord has for some reason leased the adjacent store to a competing Persian style grocery market! The adjacent market is called “Glatt Mart” and has been closed for rebuilding after a 2004 fire , completely destroyed it and is still under reconstruction and yet to be reopened. Glatt Mart is also owned by five other Iranian Jewish partners who were seeking to cash in on the grocery business that Elat had successfully tapped into.
When I asked Novin if he was concerned about competition from other markets in the area, he was quite confident. “Even if 10 more markets open up around Elat, it won’t make a difference to us because our quality and service are second to none and people will always compare our service with the new stores and come back,” said Novin. And that is exactly what has happened. Back in 2003, the grocery store next to Elat Market was called “Alef Market” and owned by Iranian Muslims who just could not compete with Elat and sold the business to Glatt Mart’s owners. “Zafar Market” was another grocery market in the same vicinity as Elat Market, located on the corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Pico Boulevard that also folded because they were unable to keep their prices low and offer high quality produce like Elat.
Even though they have made a substantial amount of money, Elat Market’s owners have been generous when it comes to giving to charitable local Jewish causes and giving their excess food to poverty stricken Iranian Jews in the Southern California area. “We give money to the needy and we are well known in the local synagogues for giving donations,” said Novin.
December 11, 2007 | 10:20 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Ask him what his name means in English, and Iranian Jewish stand-up comic Marvin Kharrazi will sarcastically say, “satisfied donkey!” His parents, however, are less satisfied. “I still can’t have a conversation with my mom without her pleading with me to return to law school, or even consider medical school!” the 33-year-old Bay area based comic said.
I met the very funny Kharrazi two years ago when he contributed his funny articles to the Iranian Jewish Chronicle magazine. He pokes fun at the cultural differences between young Americanized Jews of Iranian heritage and their older traditional parents. He is one of a small group of young Iranian American Jews trying to make a living as an entertainer amidst criticism from family members in the community who are not to pleased with his financially unstable career choice. In one article he states:
“As I go down the list of traditional Iranian Jewish tenants, it seems like I am going for a perfect record of breaking them all. Not being a doctor or lawyer - check. Not living at home with my parents until I get married - check. Having long-term romantic relationships outside of my racial/religious heritage - check. And now there’s a new one that may soon be added to the list: not having an income large enough to ensure my parents, as well as myself, are financially well supported - C-H-E-C-K. Too bad I can’t cash in those checks, everybody would be happy”.
Kharrazi is indeed not alone when it comes to being a stand-up, Dan Ahdoot, the 20-something Iranian Jewish comic hailing from New York is another up and coming successful entertainer from our community. While Ahdoot has hit the college circuit doing his routine, Kharrazi has been performing at corporate parties and various comic clubs including the Laugh Factory, the Comedy Store and the L.A. Improv. Funny enough he also does comedy roasts at private parties where the guest of honor, who is typically having a birthday, is “roasted” much to the pleasure of his/her family members. Kharrazi has had some moderate success with the comedy career so far as and was a semi-finalist at the “Rooster T Feathers” comedy contest in Sunnyvale. Those interested in Kharrazi’s comedy services are asked to call: 831-535-2369.
The following are clips from one of his most recent performances:
December 10, 2007 | 10:43 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
While giving gifts on all the eight nights of Chanukah has become one of the most common and popular norms for American Jews, the tradition is fairly new for local Iranian Jews. Not having to compete with Christmas like most Ashkenazim, Jews living in Iran do not give gifts for Chanukah. Only recently has the community that has resettled in the United States adopted the tradition.
“Chanukah is not a major holiday in Iran [for Jews]. We used to light candles, and maybe every family would have a special meal for only one night,” said Dr. Nahid Pirnazar, UCLA professor of Judeo-Persian history. “Of course, we would light the candles for eight nights, but there was only one night of a feast.”
The tradition of gift giving among Jews living in Iran is and has always been popular during Purim but has not been continued among Iranian Jews living in Southern California, Pirnazar said.
“For Norooz [Persian New Year], the Iranians have the tradition of receiving gifts from the elders,” Pirnazar said. “Since this holiday normally coincides with Purim, the Jews in Iran also follow the same tradition and give gifts to those who are younger on this occasion.”
Iranian Jewish parents living in Southern California have taken on the American Jewish tradition of giving gifts on Chanukah to their children but have only been doing so for the first night, Pirnazar said.
Iranian Jewish scholars said that while Iranian Jews today are using the Festival of Lights as a holiday to encourage community fundraising through events, within a few generations, the giving of gifts on Chanukah may become more commonplace.
December 9, 2007 | 11:39 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Kudos to Farideh Goldin for not letting Iranian Jews and other individuals in the world forget the injustices our grandparents and ancestors had endured in Iran! Iranian Jewish author Goldin’s recent story in the Jerusalem Post recalling conversations she had with her late father about anti-Semitism in Iran is perhaps one of the most accurate reflections of differing attitudes about Iran among the younger and older generations in the Iranian Jewish community living outside of Iran. Goldin’s very frank and heart-wrenching responses to her father’s rosy colored depictions of Iran, reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with L.A. area Jews who once enjoyed tremendous prosperity and tranquility in Iran.
Many of these older Iranian Jews who now live in the U.S., Israel, and Europe, are now looking back with nostalgia to better times they enjoyed under the rein of the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran. They have unfortunately forgotten the 2,500 year history of continuous harassment, pogroms, mass murders, rapes, and forced conversations that the Jews of Iran had to endure. Goldin’s painful reminders of these past crimes against Jews in Iran are both refreshing and necessary for both young and older Iranian Jews to keep in mind:
“Baba, didn’t you tell me of dark nights of pogroms in the Jewish ghetto of your youth? Returning from his synagogue one rainy Shabbat morning, your white-bearded father, the community rabbi, was beaten bloody for daring to walk outside the walls of the ghetto.
Baba, we were not allowed to become six millions. We suffered in silence. Our history not recorded and publicized, our murdered ancestors die repeatedly in the elimination of their names, their stories and their faces. The Jews of Tabriz, men, women and children, were decimated in the eighth century. The Jews of Mashhad were forced to convert in the 17th century. Baba, don’t help erase the past because you still yearn for your farms and orchards in Shiraz, because after such a long period of emotional and financial despair, you became a prosperous landowner under the shah’s rule.
Baba, I remember you lighting the Hanukka candles in the corner, where no one could see from the outside. You mumbled the prayers so that no one could hear you beyond your family.
Baba, and then the tornado of the Iranian revolution shattered your life, your farm, your house and your respected status. Fleeing in a hurry, you left them behind. You forgot that as Jews you must not invest in property that you cannot secure in your pocket, in the hem of your daughters’ dresses. How can you long for your life in Iran?
I light my hanukkia by an unobstructed window. Let the candles light, growing more intense every night for eight nights, brightening my house, and the faces of those walking by the window. Let the neighbors and passersby know who I am - a Jew, no longer afraid.”
We as Jews who lived in Iran must never forget our long history and how we survived despite constantly living under the threat of annihilation in Iran. Yes, there were good times between 1925 and 1979 under the Pahlavi kings and also under the reign of Cyrus the Great in ancient times…but what about everything else that occurred between these two dynasties? What about the confiscations of property, assets, and businesses that Jews faced in Iran following the 1979 revolution? What about the two dozen Jews that have been executed or killed by the Iranian regime since 1979? We cannot close our eyes or to these sad realities.
Unfortunately the 20,000 Jews still living in Iran have ignored this long history of anti-Semitism in Iran. Sadly today as Iran is on the brink of war, the Jews in that country may not be so lucky to escape from the grips of Iran’s fundamentalist radical Islamic leaders who will undoubtedly seek revenge on them at anytime. Those who do not recall the lessons from their history are doomed to repeat the failures of the past. The Jews of Iran and Iranian Jews elsewhere in the world are no exception to this rule. We cannot forget these crimes against our people in Iran and more importantly let them occur again.