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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 …

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…

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…

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. …

Haïm, Shemu’el

(476 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Popularly known as "Mister Haïm" or "Monsieur Haïm," Shemu'el Haim was a modernist communal leader of Iranian Jewry at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was also a journalist, a Zionist, and a member of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. Shemu'el Haïm was born in Kirmanshah in 1891 and was educated in the school of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, where he acquired a thorough command of English and French. In 1914 Haïm entered the customs service in Kirmanshah. While working there he became a political consultant to the British embassy, but his connec…

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…

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…

Dilmāniān, Yaʿqūb

(265 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Yaʿqūb Dilmāniān (Yaghoub Dilmanian), a Jewish merchant from Mashhad, Iran, compiled a history of the forced conversion to Shīʿī Islam of the city's Jewish community who were known as the Jad īd-i Islām (lit. "the new ones of Islam"). He was born in Mashhad in 1902 and died in 1988. As a businessman he traveled frequently and spent many years outside Mashhad in places such as Bombay. When Dilmāniān turned thirty-two, he decided to gather the recollections of the Mashhadi community elders and write a history of the Allāhdād (Pers. God gave), the forced conversion of the Jews of Mash…

Ḥakīm Yazghel Ḥaqnaẓͅar

(327 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Ḥakīm Yazghel, known as Ḥakīm Ḥaqnaẓͅar (Ar. True-sighted), was the court physician of the Qājār rulers Muḥammad Shāh (r. 1834–1848) and Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh (r. 1848–1896). He had a close relationship with Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh’s mother and with Jayrān, one of the shah’s wives. His grandfather, also a physician, came to Tehran from Khunsār in 1821. Haqnaẓͅar was the founder of the Ḥakīm synagogue in Tehran’s Jewish quarter.  He had three brothers who were also court physicians. One of them, Ḥakīm Mūsa (d. 1881), also served Muḥammad Shāh and Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh. Haqnaẓͅar excelled …

Mizraḥi, Mullāh Ḥayyim Eleazar

(226 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Mullāh Ḥayyim Eleazar Mizra i, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, was born in 1858 in Tehran. In addition to his attending the maktab (traditional Jewish primary school), he studied Torah with his father and with a shadar (rabbinical emissary from Palestine) hired by his father. At the age of fifteen he acquired the honorific title of mullāh because of his extensive knowledge and fascinating sermons. Mullāh Ḥayyim Eleazar worked in the pearl trade and also received financial help from his father. He became an important religious leader and scholar, and led a campaign against the Bahā'īs, publicly …

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…

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…

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 …

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 …

Jāme-yi Rowshanfikrān-i Yahūd-i Irān

(363 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Jāme-yi Rowshanfikrān-i Yahūd-i Irān (Pers. The Organization of Iranian Jewish Intellectuals), a body that deals with Iranian Jewish communal matters, was founded in March 1978 when the new generation of progressive Jewish Iranian intellectuals succeeded for the first time in supplanting the established Jewish communal organization, Anjumān-i Kalīmīān. The Anjumān was replaced by the radical and moderate young intellectuals. Due to internal tense conflicts, the new body wasn't able to function and a decision was made to set new elections. A…

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…

He-Halutz

(1,169 words)

Author(s): Ruth Kimche | Orly R. Rahimiyan
1. Egypt Starting in the 1930s, a number of organizations calling themselves He-Halutz ( he-ḥaluṣ, The Pioneer) appeared in Egypt. The first was established during the summer of 1933 in Cairo and served as a Zionist training center (Heb. hakhshara). It did not offer an ideological educational program and operated for only a few months before disbanding. In 1934, Moshe Ben-Asher, a local Zionist activist, established a branch of the global He-Halutz organization in Alexandria. Most of those who joined the hakhshara saw immigration to Palestine as the solution to their economi…

Majlis (Iran), Jews in

(1,367 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Iran’s first constitution was enacted in 1906 and a Majlis (parliament) was established. The constitution gave the Jewish, Armenian, and Zoroastrian religious minorities civil rights almost equal to those of Muslims.Each of the minority groups was given the right to elect a representative to the Majlis. Under the 1906 constitution, a Jew could only be elected to parliament as a representative of the Jewish community. They voted in elections to the Majlis as members of an ethnic group and not as individuals. There was, however, a slate of ca…

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…

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…
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