…introduction by Jonas E. Alexis, VT Editor

Benjamin Netanyahu should really be ashamed of himself by now because his own diabolical ideology is being indirectly repudiated by Jews in Iran. He has perpetuated for years that Iran is the enemy of the Jewish people, but the Jewish people in Iran are essentially telling the world that Netanyahu is lying. In fact, Iran’s head rabbi, Yehuda Gerami, declared last year that Netanyahu doesn’t represent Judaism.[1]

So, what should we do with a guy who has a history of lying to much of the world? I think it’s time to dismiss that man from any political platform. It’s just that simple.

‘Peaceful existence’: Jews in Iran freely observe their religion, communal leader says

–by Gary Rosenblatt

Contrary to a commonly held belief, Jews living in Iran find it easier to practice their religion today than they did prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, according to a longtime leader of the Jewish community in Tehran.

Speaking live via Zoom on Sunday — Shushan Purim — from the land of Queen Esther and the Megillah, Arash Abaie, a civil engineer and prominent Jewish educator, cantor, Torah reader and scholar, explained why he believes Jews living in the country have intensified their religious observance over the past four decades.

Abaie said the Islamic Republic, with its deep commitment to religious law, interacts best with citizens, including Christians and Jews, who are themselves observant. He said Muslims respect Jews who pray regularly, fast, abstain from certain foods and believe in the Messiah.

“They look for commonalities” with Islam, he said, “and this leads to peaceful existence.”

The rare interview, conducted by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, was sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, where Schacter is senior scholar. He is also university professor of Jewish history and thought at Y.U.

The rabbi explained at the outset that he met Abaie at an international conference 18 years ago in Sweden sponsored by the U.S.-based Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Schacter was impressed with Abaie’s deep knowledge of Jewish texts, saying that “in a class I was giving on Talmud, his knowledge of even the most obscure references I made was outstanding.”

This led to conversations between the two men during the conference and to their staying in touch over the years.

The 50-minute program on Sunday focused on what Jewish life is like today in the former Persia. The unspoken context for the discussion was that the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world is able to live in peace as long as its members steer clear of political involvement or showing support for Israel.

Shortly after the ’79 revolution, several Iranian Jews were accused of spying for Israel and executed. In an effort to stabilize relations with the Jewish community, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed: “We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless Zionists.” Nevertheless, 30,000 Jews left within months of the revolution.

Khomeini’s statement has not been forgotten, and Iran’s Jewish population has largely managed to navigate the complexities of a situation that allows them official minority status, a permanent seat in parliament and freedom to practice their religion in return for eschewing Zionism.

Abaie noted that historically, Jews were protected in Persia, though they were treated as inferior to the Muslim majority. He described a kind of uneasy peace, but acknowledged that over the centuries there were “periods of conflict.”

He did not elaborate on any current tensions, though Iran considers Israel its enemy.

Abaie explained that observant Jews are respected in the Muslim society as the People of the Book. (The Jewish and Christian Bibles are considered holy books and are part of Islam’s doctrine of progressive revelation; the narratives of Moses and Jesus lead to the story of Muhammad, the ultimate divine prophet, according to the Quran.)

Like nearly all the remaining Jews in the country, Abaie was born in Iran, as were his parents, grandparents and ancestors going back to “the time of Mordechai and Esther.”

Iranian Jews believe that the remains of the heroes of the Purim story rest side by side in a small, immaculately maintained prayer site in Hamadan, about a six-hour drive from Tehran. Declared a World Heritage Site by the Iranian government in 2008, the tombs are visited each year at Purim by many Jews.

Due to COVID, the site is closed temporarily.

According to Abaie, about 10,000 Jews live in Iran today, down from 100,000 before the revolution. It is believed that most are either too poor to consider leaving or believe they would be less financially secure if they left the country.

Abaie, who edited a Persian-Hebrew dictionary and puts out a weekly Torah portion flyer in the synagogue, spoke with pride of how the members of the Jewish community are permitted to maintain an active and robust religious life, with synagogues, youth organizations, kosher facilities and four Jewish schools.

In addition, Jewish students who attend public school are required by the government to spend two to four hours a week on religious studies administered by the Jewish community.

Following the interview, Schacter told The Jewish Week that he was grateful for “the extraordinary opportunity to hear Arash describe firsthand how, though the Jewish community is shrinking, its religious life seems quite robust.”

There were a few anxious moments during the live broadcast when, just after being introduced to the audience, Abaie disappeared from the screen. But he was soon back, indicating that the problem was only technical.

[1] Iran’s head rabbi berates Israelis, Netanyahu: ‘You don’t represent Judaism,’” Times of Israel, May 26, 2020.

Biography
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, history of Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book Zionism vs. the West: How Talmudic Ideology is Undermining Western Culture. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled, Kevin MacDonald’s Abject Failure: A Philosophical and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and White Identity. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.
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6 COMMENTS

  1. “It is believed that most are either too poor to consider leaving or believe they would be less financially secure if they left the country.”

    I don’t know a poor Jewish Iranian still living in Iran. Most are affluent but humble people and void of the Beverly Hills pompous effect. Like everything else it has to be seen in context. They don’t want to be asking for asylum and be on welfare like the rest of the settlers in the US. It’s a question of pride.

    But that terrorist trash Bibi tried about fifteen years ago to bribe the Iranian Jews to leave Iran for Israel for some worthless few shekels and they all said no.

    Lookup on YouTube “Iranian Jews to Israel: Our National Idenity is Not for Sale”

  2. Trump’s primary con is that he was an America-firster, when in fact MAGA has always been MIGA, Make Israel Greater Again. Everything Trump did was designed to bring on that apocalyptic transformative war with Iran that is the wet-dream of his Christian Zionist supporters. First off, he killed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), then he murdered General Soleimani. Along with the evil Michael Pompeo, he almost got the war they wanted but he ran out of time. ReTrumplicans always seem to forget that.

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