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Kirmanshahchi, Heshmatallah

(339 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Dr. Heshmatallah Kirmanshahchi (Pers. Ḥishmat-Allāh Kermānshāhchī) was born in 1926 in Kirmanshah. In 1936, his family moved to Tehran, where he earned his high school diploma from the American College. At nineteen, he graduated magna cum laude from the pharmacy school of Tehran University. Later on in life, he took correspondence courses in political science, economy, management, and international economy from New York University, the University of Chicago, University of Michigan,  and the University of California, Los Angeles. Kirmanshahchi’s social activism began in 19…

Kūrosh School

(342 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
The Kūrosh (Pers. Cyrus) School in Tehran was largely the idea of two Zionist activists, Farājallāh Ḥakīm and Dr. Ḥabῑb Levy. With the help of Ismāʿīl Ḥayy, Azīz Elqānyān, Rabbi ʿAzīzullāh ben Yūnā Naʾīm, and a few others, the Jewish community of Tehran founded the school as an elementary institution, but soon expanded it to include the high school grades. The founding of the Kūrosh School was a highly significant act. Its curriculum, in contrast to that of the Alliance Israélite Universelle schools, emphasized Hebrew and Persian rather than French. Its …

Nehūrāy, Ayyūb Loqmān

(391 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Ayyūb Loqmān Nehūrāy was born in Kashan in 1882 and died in Tehran in 1952. He was the Jewish representative in the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, from the second through the thirteenth session (1909–1943), with the exception of the fifth Majlis (1924–1926), when Shemu’el Haïm was elected as Jewish representative. Nehūrāy’s father was Ḥakīm Ayyūb, the son of Nūr Maḥmūd, one of Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh’s (r. 1848–1896) physicians. Nehūrāy earned his medical degree at Dār al-Funūn, the first polytechnic school in Iran, and then opened a clinic in Tehran. …

Aliya to Mandatory Palestine and Israel from Iran

(640 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Other Middle Eastern Jewish communities have all but disappeared, but Iran is still home to around 15,000 Jews (or perhaps 30,000 according to some estimates). On the eve of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, some 80,000 to 100,000 Jews lived in Iran, but by 2008, over 60,000 had emigrated, especially from Tehran, among them the majority of the community’s leaders, philanthropists, and professionals. Iran’s remaining Jews live mainly in the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. Towns and villages …

Moreh, Ḥayyim

(505 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Ḥayyim Moreh was a scholar, educator, and rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran. The son of Hājī Mordechai Shirāzī ben Elijah and Rachel bat Yādegār Isfāhānī, he was born in Tehran in 1872 and died there in May of 1942. He married, and had a son and three daughters. Blind in both eyes since the age of two as a result of a severe illness, Moreh lost his father at the age of five, after which he was raised in the home of his maternal grandfather, Yādegār ben Shlomo Solomon Isfāhānī. He studied at the bet midrash (Pers. maktab-khānah) of Hākhām Eleazar Melammed of Yazd. Because of his blindness …

Davīdī, Ḥakham Uriel

(512 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Ḥakham Uriel Davidi was born in Khunsār in the province of Isfahan in 1925. His father, Rabbi Me'ir, was the local rabbi and also a circumciser (Heb. mohel) and ritual slaughterer (Heb. shoḥeṭ) in nearby towns. Ḥakham Davidi was the youngest in a family of fourteen children. His father died when he was seventeen, and he himself married at the age of eighteen. He continued his Torah studies in his hometown and, at the same time, taught at the local Talmud Torah. Later he also taught at the Ozar Hatorah school in Tehran. Besides…

Serah bat Asher

(1,148 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Serah bat Asher was a granddaughter of the biblical patriarch Jacob (Genesis 46:17). A cave and synagogue connected with her in central Iran, 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) west of Isfahan, near a village called Pīr Bakrān in the area of Linjān, has become one of the holiest places of Iranian Jewry and an important pilgrimage destination. Legend explains how Serah ended up so far from the land of her forefathers and why this place is so holy for Jews. According to a local tradition partially based on Midrash ha-Gadol, when the sons of Jacob returned from their second journey to buy food in …

Ḥakīm

(681 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
The term ḥakīm (Ar./Pers. physician) was used by both Jews and Muslims in Iran to designate Jewish physicians. The profession of ḥakīm was highly respected in Iran. As elsewhere in the Islamic world, the practice of medicine provided an entrée to the royal court. Few Jews made their living from medicine, and most of those who did were autodidacts or learned their skills from family members. The profession and its associated high social status were usually passed down from father to son. Jewish physicians generally s…

Anjuman-i Markazī-yi Tashkīlat-i Ṣiyyonīt-i Irān

(540 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
News of the Balfour declaration reached Iran at the end of 1917 and inspired the country’s Jewish community to undertake a series of Zionist-oriented activities. The surge of activism began with the founding in Tehran of Anjuman-i Taqhviyat-i Zabān-i ʿIbrī (Pers. The Association for Strengthening the Hebrew Language) under the leadership of Soleymān (Shelomo) Kohan Ṣedq. As indicated by its name, the new organization initially focused on promoting the Hebrew language. In 1919, it expanded its mission and changed its name to Anjuman-i Markazī-yi Tashkīlat-i Ṣiyyonīt-i Irān (AM…

Elghanian (Elqāniān), Habībullāh

(452 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Habībullah Elghanian (Elqāniān),  was a major industrialist and factory owner in Iran prior to the Revolution of 1979. With his brothers, he built one of the country’s largest and most successful, diversified manufacturing conglomerates. Born in 1911 in Tehran, Elghanian was educated in the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and after graduation managed a hotel on Ferdowsī Boulevard that belonged to his uncle Hajjī ʿAzīz Elghanian. Later he became the manager of several shops on Lālehzar Street tha…

Morad, Aryeh

(322 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Aryeh Morad was an Iranian Jewish businessman and communal leader. Born in Kashan in 1900, he moved to Tehran at the age of thirteen in order to join his older brother's businesses, after which he opened his own. The Morad family owned Īrāna , the largest tile-manufacturing company in Iran. In addition to serving as head of the Anjumān-i Kalīmīan (Jewish Association), Morad was the Jewish representative to the thirteenth through the twentieth sessions of Iran’s parliament, the Majlis (February 1944 - October 1963), with the exception of the nineteenth session…

Or Shargā (Shragā), Rab Joseph

(399 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Rab Joseph Or Shargā (Shragā) was a rabbi in eighteenth-century Yazd who was believed to have possessed miraculous powers. He was born in Sabzehvār around the middle of the eighteenth century and died in Yazd in 1793. His shrine in Yazd has become a pilgrimage site for both Jews and Muslims. Many stories and legends were associated with Rab Or Shargā during his lifetime and after his death. In one tale, a Muslim pilgrim from Yazd is on the way to Mecca. His ship is caught in a storm and about to founder. The other passengers pray with no result, bu…

Naʼīm, Azizullah

(262 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
ʽAzīzullāh ben Yūnā Naʼīm (1889–1946), a leader of the Iranian Jewish community at the beginning of the twentieth century, was born in Damāvand and died in Tehran. Also known as Rāb (Rabbi) Naʼīm, he led and inspired the first generation of young Zionists in Iran. By profession Naʼīm was a merchant. He was one of the founders of Ha-Histadrut ha-Ṣiyyonit, the first Zionist committee in Iran, in 1919, and became its second president. In December 1920, Naʼīm published in Tehran Tārikh-i Junbish-i Ṣiyonit (Pers. The History of the Zionist Movement), the first book on Zionism writ…

Hamdānī , Rabīʽ Mushfiq

(314 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Rabīʽ Mushfiq Hamadānī was born in 1912 in Hamadan and attended both the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and the elite Dār el-Funūn school. He translated two works of philosophy into Persian before the age of twenty. Hamadānī studied to be a French high-school teacher and completed his higher education in two years of philosophical and cultural studies, during which time he also served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not long after, he was appointed head of the Pars news agency. Hamadānī’s journalistic career began at the Iranian newspapers Mehr and Mehrgān. On the eve of th…

Omidvār, Manūchehr

(387 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Manūchehr Omidvār was born in 1925 in Ahvāz to parents who came from Isfahan. He graduated from the American College of Tehran in 1943 and then earned a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Law, Political and Economic Sciences of the same institution in 1950. Afterwards he enrolled in the Faculty of Letters, University of Tehran, graduating with a B.A. in Persian language and literature in 1957. Omidvār also attended the College of Journalism at the University of Tehran, graduating summa cum laude in 1953 with a thesis entitled “Zionism in the Modern Age and the Jewish Quest…

Kohan-Ṣedq, Janet

(274 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Janet Kohan-Ṣedq was a Jewish Iranian national track-and-field champion. Her life is an example of modern sports as a vehicle of social integration. Kohan-Ṣedq was born in 1945, graduated from Anūshīrvān High School, and received a degree in physical education from Tehran University. She entered her first 100-meter race in 1960 and won third place. In 1961, in her first adult-league competition, she won the 80-meter race with a record time of 11 seconds. In October of the same year, at the age of sixteen, weighing 40 …

Hekmat, Shamsi

(158 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Shamsi Hekmat (Shamsī Murādpūr Ḥikmat) (1921–1998) was a women’s rights activist in the Jewish community of Iran. She was an advocate of changes in the inheritance laws for the benefit of women and in 1947 was one of the founders (with Maliḥeh Kashfī) of Sāzmān-i Bānovān-i Yahudī-yi Irānī (The Jewish Women’s Organization of Iran). She subsequently served as its president and was a member of its board of directors for thirty-two years. Working with the Women’s Organization, Hekmat helped to establish day care centers for children from poor families. She was also the treasurer…

Kohan Ṣedq, Soleymān (Shelomo)

(307 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Soleyman (Sulaymān/Shelomo) Kohan Ṣedq (1886–1946) was a modernist leader of the Jewish community in Iran. His family moved to Tehran from Gulpāygān. Kohan Ṣedq became an officer in the gendarmerie and served as its treasurer. He was one of the first Zionist activists in Iran. After the Balfour Declaration (1917) the Anjuman-i Farhangī-yi Javānān-i Yahūdī (Pers. Cultural Association of Young Jews) was founded in Tehran. Under the leadership of Kohan Ṣedq it organized a committee called Anjuman-i Taqhviyat-i Zabān-i ʿIbrī (Pers. Association for Strengthening the Hebrew L…

Anjuman-i Kalīmīān

(850 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
The Anjuman-i Kalīmīān-i Tehrān (Pers. Jewish Association of Teheran) was a communal entity in Teheran that in cooperation with committees in other towns oversaw the interests and activities of Iranian Jewry. The AK developed in the 1940s out of the Va‘ad ha-Qehilla (Heb. Jewish Community Council), which was also known as the Ḥebra Israʾel, or Ḥebra.  It was headed by the Jewish representative in the Majlis (parliament). The other members were mostly powerful lobbyists whose fortunes gave them influence at the court and in the wealthier circles of t…

Halevī, Menaḥem Shemu’el

(508 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Menaḥem Shemu’el Halevi was born in 1884 in Hamadan. He was educated at the local religious maktab (Heb. ḥeder) and then at the traditional primary school of the Alliance Israélite Universelle when it opened in 1900. He was subsequently employed at the Alliance school for twelve years, first as a teacher, later as its vice-principal (1907) and principal (1910). His education and communal activism soon made him the Jewish community’s civil leader and representative to the municipality of Hamadan as well as its chief rabbi. Halevi fought zealously against assimilation and conversi…
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