For Iranian Jews living in the U.S., Israel, Europe and especially in Iran today, Purim is a very special Jewish holiday for the community as it takes place in ancient Persia. It is some of the very few Jewish holidays that Iranian Jews take great pride in celebrating. Hearing the megillah and giving Purim gifts to one another is key to many Iranian Jews having the full Purim experience. In Los Angeles a significant number of Iranian Jews attend local synagogues to hear the story of Purim read aloud and some of them even have the megillah read at their homes by local cantors or rabbis. The following is brief video footage I captured this past Saturday of an Iranian cantor reading the megillah aloud in the traditional Mizrachi melody inside a private Iranian Jewish residence…
While the Jews of Iran have for centuries taken pride in the story of Purim involving Moredchai and Esther’s triumph over the anti-Jewish Haman, during certain periods of time in Iran’s history they have had to face Muslim hatred over anti-Purim incitements in Iran. According to L.A.-based Iranian Jewish activist, Frank Nikbakht during World War II, the anti-Purim propaganda was broadcasted from the Farsi language Radio Berlin based in Iran. This Nazi-influenced radio programming was geared toward Iran’s Muslim majority preparing them for the entry of the Nazi armies into Iran as they were battling the Russians in Stalingard. Such anti-Purim broadcasts resulted in “scores of Jews being expelled from public schools in Iran, some Muslim Iranians threatening Jews with imminent home invasions, as well as Muslims in Iran beating Jews on the street because they believed the Nazis would invade Iran soon,” said Nikbakht.
The situation for Jews in Iran celebrating Purim has not improved in recent years under the current radical fundamentalist Islamic regime ruling Iran with an iron-fist. In January 2011 the “Fars News” Iranian-state run television broadcasted violent demonstrations outside the Shrine of Esther’s tomb in the Iranian city of Hamadan. Hundreds of radical Islamic “Basji” thugs with pick axes and shovels in hand were ready to destroy Esther’s shrine in front of television cameras and called for the destruction of the site which symbolized the evil of “Jewish Zionism”. They ultimately removed the Star of David that appeared on the front gate of the shrine during that violent riot. Likewise Nikbakht and Jews living in Hamadan today whom I have interviewed in recent years have indicated that the land which the shrine resides on and the nearby Jewish cemetery (that has been there for nearly two thousand years), has been expropriated by the Iranian regime in recent years! The Iranian regime is sadly trying its hardest to erase whatever Jewish history and traces of Purim exist in Iran today.
This is a recent response article I wrote about how Jews living in Iran are facing difficult living circumstances and cannot freely celeberate Purim.