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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, …

Kūrosh-i kabir

(342 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
The Kūrosh-i Kabīr (Pers. Cyrus the Great) Jewish youth club in Tehran was founded in 1953 by a group of activists that included Moshe Kermaniyān, Avraham Moreh, ʿAṭāllāh Amīryān, Mordekai Fīrūz Ṭāleʿ, Amīr Elīyasī Tarshīsh, and Manūchehr Omidvar. The club, which was funded by the Jewish Agency, was affiliated with Anjuman-i Kalīmīyān (Pers. [Teheran] Jewish Association). Its goal was to teach the Hebrew language and instill the spirit of the He-Halutz Zionist youth movement. Its program was directed mainly at young people who lived in the maḥalla, Tehran’s Jewish quarter. In 1963, f…

Lalehzari, Iraj

(260 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Dr. Iraj Lalehzari was an Iranian Jewish research scientist in chemistry and pharmacology. Born in 1930, he obtained a doctorate in pharmacology at the age of twenty-one from Tehran University and a second doctorate in organic chemistry in Paris in 1953, where he remained for post-doctoral studies. He returned to Iran in 1958 as professor of chemistry at the University of Tehran, becoming chairman of the department in 1970. In 1973, he was promoted to dea…

Ḥebra (Israʾel)

(407 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
The Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and…

Mehdī, Āghā Jān Mullāh

(220 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Āghā Jān Mullāh Mehdī [Mashiaḥ], the head of the Jewish community of Mashhad, Iran, in the 1830s, was nicknamed Vāqʿ nigār (Pers. one who keeps an eye on/records/takes advantage of contemporary events) because of his ability to use his connections with the British. A well-established …

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 he learned passages of Torah and Talmud by heart. His phenomenal memory, intellectual competence, and fervent religious devotion were noted early on by his teachers Mordechai Tsionit, Eleazar Melammed, and Ezekiel of Yazd, who later ordained him as a rabbi in Teheran. A…

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 served a Jewish clientele, but Muslims also turned to them. Jew…

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 sever…

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, but when he cries out to “the God of Or Shargā,” the storm abates at once. Ever after, the …

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…

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 …

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 the Jewish community. Members served by invitation and did so voluntarily.…

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 a…

ʿEzrī, Tzion

(302 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Tzion ʿEzrī, born in 1892 in Isfahan, was one of the first graduates of the Alliance Israélite Universelle school founded in Isfahan in 1901. He completed his studies, which included the French language, in 1913, and in 1915 began working at the Isfahan branch of the Iranian Ministry of the Treasury, collecting taxes on alcoholic beverages and teaching French. Dismissed from the ministry after four years, he served in a secretarial and bookkeeping capacity in the Sixth Gendarmerie Regiment until 1921. ʿEzrī visited Palestine at the beginning of 1925. After his return to Isfa…

Haïm, Soleiman

(385 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Soleiman Haïm, born in the Jewish quarter of Tehran in 1886, was an Iranian Jewish scholar, lexicographer, playwright, and the editor of a series of bilingual dictionaries that earned him  the nickname ustād-i kalām (Pers. master of words). He died in Tehran in 1970. Haïm grew up in stark economic conditions. His early education was in a traditional Jewish elementary school (Pers. maktabkhāneh) . In 1906 he entered the American College of Tehran (a secondary school run by Presbyterian missionaries), and he began teaching English there in 1915.  He was brie…

Ḥanina Mizrahi

(209 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Ḥanina Mizraḥi was born in Tehran in 1886. His father was Rabbi Ḥayyim Eleazar Mizraḥi, the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Tehran. The family emigrated to Palestine in 1895, and there Ḥanina Mizraḥi attended the Lemel school in Jerusalem, the Mizraḥi seminary for teachers, and Yeshiva Tiferet Yerushalayim. A teacher, educator, and public figure,  Mizraḥi wrote the first  works about the folklore and customs of the Jews of Iran. His books are   Ba-Yeshishim Ḥokhma: Arba'im S ippure ʿA m mi-pi Yehude Iran-Paras (Wisdom Is Among the Elderly: Forty Folktales from the J…

Hatef (Hātif)

(179 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Hatef (Hātif; Pers. The Crier), a Jewish women’s organization in Iran, was active in the 1960s and 1970s. It was led by Dr. Azīza Barāl and functioned in cooperation with Sāzmān-i Bānovān-i Yahudī-yi Irānī (Pers. The Jewish Women’s Organization of Iran). Hatef concentrated its efforts on women in Tehran’s Jewish neighborhood and engaged in social, family, cultural, health, and economic activities. It had branch offices in other cities, among them Isfahan, Shiraz, and Ārak. The organization taught women to read and write as w…

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 …

Qānūn-i Khayr-khwāh

(361 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Qānūn-i Khayr-khwāh (Pers. The Goodwill Center) is a Jewish charitable organization that helps build hospitals, medical clinics, and orphanages throughout Iran. In the early 1940s the Qānūn-i Javānān-i Īsrā'īl-i Irān (Pers. Center for Young Jews of Iran) was established by doctors and young Iranian Jews to aid the needy, raise living standards, and improve sanitary conditions in the Jewish quarter (Pers. maḥalla) of Tehran. Many of its members were at first greatly influenced by the leftist ideologies of their time but became devoted Zionists in later years. During World War II, u…

Kadkhudā

(841 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
In premodern Iran, the   kadkhudā (Pers. master of the household; later, mayor or alderman) was the administrative head of a Jewish community. He had the same  standing as the community’s religious leaders. While they handled internal religious matters, the kadkhudā managed internal communal affairs as well as relations with persons outside the community, and especially government officials. He was the Iranian equivalent of the public administrative figure that in other Jewish communities of the Islamic world was known variously as nasi, nagid, shaykh, muqaddam , or qāʿid . Before t…

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…

Kohan, Yosef

(290 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Yosef Kohan (1927–1981), an attorney, was the last Jewish representative in the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, before the Revolution of 1979. Born and raised in Tehran, he attended the Kūrosh School and the Alborz high school, and in 1950 graduated from TehranUniversity’s Law School. Kohan became a member of Anjuman-i Kalīmīan (Pers. Jewish Association) and was appointed its vice president in the mid-1950s. He became the first Jewish member of Tehran’s Municipal Council. He championed  Jewish women’s rights and supported the passage of the women’s inheritance law. In 1976…

Shofet, Yedidya

(585 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Yedidya Shofet (1908–2005), a leading religious authority of Iranian Jewry, hailed from Kashan and was descended from twelve generations of rabbis there. His first teacher of Torah and Jewish religious subjects was his father, Rabbi David Shofet. Later, he studied in the maktab (Ar./Pers. Jewish religious school, equivalent to Heb. ḥeder; see Kuttāb) with Mullāh Matanya, Mullāh Yeḥezqel Nāmrudī, Ḥakham Rofeh, and Ḥakham Shemuel Yerushalmi, the latter two of whom were emissaries (Heb. shadarim) from Jerusalem. Following elementary school, he studied in Mullāh Yeḥezqel’s bet mi…

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…

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…

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…
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