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.