Tag Archives: jewish

“Seekers of Light” opera performed at Boston museum by joint Israeli-Iranian band

BOSTON — Surrounded by a rotating crowd of 2,200 onlookers in a museum courtyard, Israeli and Iranian musicians premiered scenes from “Seekers of Light,” an opera written by Boston-based Matti Kovler.

[…]

The local pool of Israeli and Iranian talent, combined with an invitation to stage a musical installation at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s first Hanukkah festival, proved irresistible to Kovler, who decided to premiere seven scenes from “Seekers.” […]

According to the composer, the full opera will premiere in 2017 at a theater under construction in Prague, designed in part with “Seekers” in mind. For this week’s teaser performance, Kovler conducted and accompanied fourteen musicians playing classical and Persian instruments, with most vocals in Hebrew and Persian.

Playing the lead role of “Sabbatai’s soul” was Iranian musician and Berklee student Parham Haghighi, who wore a full-length white robe and burgundy scarf and sash. […]

A long way from his original home, Haghighi chanted Hebrew while surrounded by Jewish families at an American Hanukkah celebration — something Kovler called “a miracle in itself.”

“Some of the musicians arrived from Iran just two months ago and speak just a few words of English,” said Kovler. “The existence of this ensemble is very much in the spirit of Hanukkah and the freedom to seek out light in one’s own way,” he said.

Tomb of Hebrew prophet Daniel in Susa, Iran

The Book of Daniel mentions that Daniel lived in Babylon and may have visited the palace of Susa‌, Iran, but the place where he died is not specified; the tradition preserved among the Jews and Arabs is that he was buried in Susa. Today the Tomb of Daniel in Susa is a popular attraction among local Muslims and Iran’s Jewish community alike.

Susa, Iran - Tomb of Daniel at night

Susa, Iran – Tomb of Daniel at night

Source: wikipedia

BBC: Iran’s proud Jews – “anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon”

Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel.

About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures – as proud of their Iranian culture as of their Jewish roots. […]

It is dawn in the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and Iranian Jews bring out the Torah and read the ancient text before making their way to work. It is not a sight you would expect in a revolutionary Islamic state, but there are synagogues dotted all over Iran where Jews discreetly practise their religion.

“Because of our long history here we are tolerated,” says Jewish community leader Unees Hammami, who organised the prayers. He says the father of Iran’s revolution, Imam Khomeini, recognised Jews as a religious minority that should be protected. As a result Jews have one representative in the Iranian parliament.

“Imam Khomeini made a distinction between Jews and Zionists and he supported us,” says Mr Hammami. […]

In the Yusufabad synagogue the announcements are made in Persian – most Iranian Jews don’t really speak Hebrew well.

Jews have lived in Persia for nearly 3,000 years – the descendants of slaves from Babylon saved by Cyrus the Great. […]

It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora – something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents.

Most of the patients and staff are Muslim these days, but director Ciamak Morsathegh is Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it’s not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon – anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon,” he says, arguing that Jews in Iran even in their worst days never suffered as much as they did in Europe. […]

In one of Tehran’s six remaining kosher butcher’s shops, everyone has relatives in Israel. […]

In between chopping up meat, butcher Hersel Gabriel tells me how he expected problems when he came back from Israel, but in fact the immigration officer didn’t say anything to him. […]

“Whatever they say abroad is lies – we are comfortable in Iran – if you’re not political and don’t bother them then they won’t bother you,” he explains. […]

His customer, middle-aged housewife Giti agrees, saying she can easily talk to her two sons in Tel Aviv on the telephone and visit them. […]

“In the last five years the government has allowed Iranian Jews to go to Israel freely, meet their families and when they come back they face no problems,” says Mr Mohtamed. […]

The exodus of Jews from Iran seems to have slowed down – the first wave was in the 1950s and the second was in the wake of the Iranian Revolution.

Those Jews who remain in Iran seem to have made a conscious decision to stay put.

“We are Iranian and we have been living in Iran for more than 3,000 years,” says the Jewish hospital director Ciamak Morsathegh.

Source: BBC News

Abdol Hossein Sardari – The Iranian Muslim that saved the lives of thousands of Jews from the Nazis

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Abdol Hossein Sardari: Iranian Schindler

An Iranian official risking his life to save Jews? This scenario, while implausible nowadays, actually happened during the Holocaust.

Meet Abdol Hossein Sardari, a diplomat at the Iranian mission in Paris during the 1940s. Known as the “Iranian Schindler,” he helped thousands of Jews escape certain death – by turning the Nazi race ideology on its head. […]

Born into a privileged Iranian family, Sardari was a junior diplomat at the Paris embassy who enjoyed fine dining and the company of pretty women. After the Germans invaded France and the Iranian ambassador left the capital and went to Vichy to reconstitute the embassy there, Sardari was put in charge of consular affairs in Paris. When the Nazis started implementing anti-Jewish decrees in occupied France, Sardari made it his mission to protect his fellow Iranians in the region, regardless of their religion. […]

Writing on the letterhead of the Imperial Consulate of Iran, Sardari tried to convince the authorities that according to “an ethnographic and historical study,” the members of the Jewish communities of Persia and central Asia were not Semitic but rather Aryan, like the Germans themselves. […]

Sardari’s plan actually worked. When Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, a directive was issued that Iranian Jews should be exempt. In addition, Sardari gave out between 500 and 1,000 Iranian passports, without the consent of his superiors. This saved 2,000 to 3,000 Jewish lives, as passports were issued for entire families.

Sardari never took any credit for what he did. When Yad Vashem asked him in 1978, three years before he died a poor exile in London, about his wartime activities, he responded: “As you may know, I had the pleasure of being the Iranian consul in Paris during the German occupation of France, and as such it was my duty to save all Iranians, including Iranian Jews.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and other Jewish institutions have posthumously honored Sardari for his actions.

Read more: Beating the Nazis at their own game | The Times of Israel

The BBC adds:

When Britain and Russia invaded Iran in September 1941, Sardari’s humanitarian task become more perilous. Iran signed a treaty with the Allies and Sardari was ordered by Tehran to return home as soon as possible. But despite being stripped of his diplomatic immunity and status, Sardari resolved to remain in France and carry on helping the Iranian Jews, at considerable risk to his own safety, using money from his inheritance to keep his office going. […]

Fariborz Mokhtari, the author of “In the Lion’s Shadow: The Iranian Schindler and his homeland in the Second World War,” a new biography about Sardari states:

“Here you have a Muslim Iranian who goes out of his way, risks his life, certainly risks his career and property and everything else, to save fellow Iranians,” he says. “There is no distinction ‘I am Muslim, he is Jew’ or whatever.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16190541

Iran and Iranian Jews today…Did you know?

“Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, many of them with Hebrew schools. It has two kosher restaurants, and a Jewish hospital, an old-age home and a cemetery. There is a Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament.”
http://www.sephardicstudies.org/iran.html

“There are about 100 synagogues in Iran of which about 26 are in Tehran.”
http://www.iranjewish.com/Essay_E/Essay_e1.htm

“Despite the offence Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has caused to Jews around the world, his office recently donated money for Tehran’s Jewish hospital.

It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora – something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents.

Most of the patients and staff are Muslim these days, but director Ciamak Morsathegh is Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it’s not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon – anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon,” he says, arguing that Jews in Iran even in their worst days never suffered as much as they did in Europe.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5367892.stm