August 18, 2015


How Iran's Jews Survive in Mullahs' World (Larry Cohler-EssesAugust 18, 2015, the Forward)

[T]hose who live in Iran today are choosing to do so. Even cash bonus offers from Israel ranging from $10,000 for individuals to $61,000 for families have failed to move those now living there to leave.

According to Moreh Sedgh, those who have stayed are primarily members of the middle class -- shop owners, small businessmen and professionals. "The rich had the money to move to America and re-establish themselves there," he said. "The poor, who had nothing to lose, moved to Israel." But Najafabadi assured me that a strong contingent of the poor remained among Iran's Jews.

"We have people who receive charity from the community, including meat, rice and fruit," he said.

Those making the choice to stay, even as their leaders bristle with hostility toward Zionism and the State of Israel, live under an umbrella of government protection.

And Jewish life in Iran can be rich. In Tehran alone there are 13 active synagogues, five Jewish schools, two kindergartens and a 100-bed Jewish hospital, where Moreh Sedgh serves as director. There are active communities in several other cities, including Shiraz, Isfahan and Kermanshah, with institutions of their own.

But living as protected second-class citizens under a Shiite Islamist regime is complicated.

As Najafabadi put it: "There is no oppression. But there are limitations."

Working in the Jews' favor is the deeply embedded nature of their presence in Iranian society, where they have never been ghettoized, and in which they are seen -- and see themselves -- as pre-eminently Iranian, woven into 2,700 years of

Iranian history. This facilitates the rigid compartmentalization the government maintains between Zionists, who are seen as a malign outside force, and the unquestioned indigenous character of their own Jewish citizens.

But implicitly, this also means Iranian Jews must take care not to be seen as interested or involved in Israel, though it is an open secret that many have family there, and that many have even visited Israel themselves via third countries.

Posted by at August 18, 2015 5:38 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus
« IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD: | Main | ...AND CHEAPER...: »