May 12, 2008
Insights into why seven old Tehran synagogues were razed
Several weeks ago various Jewish news sites and Jewish blogs were abuzz over news from Iran that seven old synagogues were razed in the old Jewish ghetto neighborhood in Tehran. The main story quoted various Iranian government officials who claimed the synagogues were razed “to make way for residential skyscrapers and other urban renovation”.
Always being the skeptic of any news put out by Iranian state-run media, I checked with my own sources here in Southern California and Jewish friends who regularly travel to Tehran. Sam Kermanian, a spokesperson for the L.A.-based Iranian American Jewish Federation set the record straight in my story published in the L.A. Jewish Journal several weeks ago confirming the accuracy of these synagogues being razed. Kermanian also offered me the following insights about these old synagogues in Tehran’s once Jewish ghetto which shed light on why they were razed:
2) Not majestic synagogues
3) Not anti-Semitically motivated
While many Jews in Iran and Jews of Iranian heritage in Southern California may not give this incident a second thought, in a way the razing of these synagogues is heartbreaking considering the history of Jews living in Tehran for so many years. Today Iranian Jews may not know or may have forgotten that their ancestors for centuries were forbidden by the Muslim authorities from leaving their ghetto or “ma-ha-lay” in each Iranian city, including Tehran. Or they may have forgotten the mistreatment Jews through beatings they received from many Muslims in Iran nearly 70 plus years ago while it rained and they were trying to get back to their ghettos. They were beaten in the rain merely because the rain would hit a Jew and then hit a Muslim causing the Jew to “spread his ritual impurity” (also known in Persian as being “najes”) to the Muslim. These were all very tragic realities the Jews in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan and other Iranian cities encountered while living in their ghettos. Therefore in my honest opinion, to destroy the structures in these old Jewish neighborhoods is like trying to erase the history of Iran’s Jews.