August 3, 2012
Finally, It’s Time to Recognize and Remember
30 YEARS AFTER, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization, applauds the bipartisan sponsorship in Congress of legislation that would offer due recognition of the undeniable plight and suffering of Jews who were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries over the past 60 years. An estimated 850,000 Jews were displaced from their homes throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf since 1948, many of them having fled under increased threats of violence that often brutally targeted them simply because they were Jews.
If passed, the bill, which is currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, would be particularly significant as it would ensure that the stories and struggles of these long-forgotten Jewish refugees would take their rightful place among the international dialogue of all relevant organizations and entities that seek to address a lasting solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the United Nations, which has consistently slammed the Jewish state with anti-Israel resolutions for the past 64 years, most of which have focused solely on the issue of Palestinian refugees and have completely ignored the reality of almost 1 million displaced Jews.
As the children of Iranian Jews, members of 30 YEARS AFTER, now young professionals living in the United States, feel particularly connected to the objectives of this bill and are deeply and personally invested in its passage.
For those of us in 30 YEARS AFTER who were born in Iran and were a part of its once-vibrant and ancient Jewish community (totaling roughly over 100,000 before 1979), we recall all too well the sting of childhoods endured in the Islamic Republic and the turmoil and confusion of escape from the land that we had known for thousands of years, and from the homes, friends, and especially beloved family members that many of us were to never, ever see again.
Our plight—the thousands of stories of Iranian Jews that in the last thirty years were forced to escape the country by hiding in the backs of mule carts, of sleeping children that were gently pulled from their beds in the middle of the night by their mothers and fathers, only to wake up the next morning and find themselves already hundreds of miles away from Iran’s borders, of rabbis and elders that would discreetly enter our synagogues in the darkness of the night to take Sefer Torahs and prayer books out of these spaces, so that they would not be destroyed upon their escape (many of these precious Sefer Torahs can now be found in the homes and synagogues of Iranian Jews from Los Angeles to New York); from desperate families that were informed at airports that they would not be allowed to leave the country together, so that children would bid goodbye to fathers and wives would be separated from husbands for years to come. These are the stories that have been all but ignored by almost every single international entity that seems to focus entirely and at times even obsessively on the plight of Palestinian refugees. While their stories and painful hardships cannot be denied, it seems that ours were never even acknowledged to begin with.
30 YEARS AFTER applauds the efforts of Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Joe Crowley (D-NY), and Bob Turner (R-NY) and encourages our community to contact their respective offices and thank them for their initiative. We strongly and sincerely urge the United States Congress to pass this legislation on behalf of millions of Americans, thousands of whom are themselves the children of displaced Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries and have since taken their rightful part in the rich fabric of American life, while remembering to keep alive the inspiring stories of how and why they came to arrive to this incredible country in the first place.
To hear more about the remarkable stories of Iran’s Jews, please visit 30 YEARS AFTER’s video testimonial initiative, “Our Legacy Project,” at www.ourlegacyproject.org.