Jewish Life In Iran Was ‘Always Better Than In Europe’

DW's Theresa Tropper spoke with Siamak Morsadegh, the director of Tehran's Jewish Committee.
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    Iran is frequently at odds with Israel, despite having the second biggest Jewish community in the Middle East. DW’s Theresa Tropper spoke with the director of Tehran’s Jewish Committee, about why that is the case.

    DW: How is life as a Jew in the Islamic Republic?

    Siamak Morsadegh: It’s a lot better than many people think. Jews are a recognized minority here, so we can practice our religion freely. We have more than 20 working synagogues in Tehran and at least five kosher butcheries. In some European countries that is not allowed because of animal rights. In Iran, it is.



    Generally speaking, the Jews’ condition in Iran has always been better than in Europe. In our country’s history, there was never a time when all Iranians had the same religion, race or language, so there is a high degree of tolerance. Jews and Muslims respect each other, but at the same time, we know there are differences. So the rate of intermarriage between Jews and other groups in Iran is the lowest one in the world, it’s less than 0.1 percent.

     

    Does that mean Jews live in the same places but are separate from other religious groups in Iran?

    Not at all. We have economic relationships with Muslims, my closest friends are Muslims. The hospital I work in is a Jewish hospital, for example, but more than 95 percent of both our personnel and patients is Muslim. It’s strictly forbidden to ask about religion there because the most important verse of Torah, which is written on top of the hospital, says: “Treat other people like yourself.” It does not say “other Jews,” it says “other people.” It shows that we have a practical relationship with each other and cooperate to make the world a better place.

     

    Mideast Iran Jews

    Iranian Jews pray at the Molla Agha Baba Synagogue, in the city of Yazd 420 miles (676 kilometers) south of capital Tehran, Iran.

    But Jews are not treated equally under the law. You are not allowed to be judges or hold high political office. Doesn’t that bother you?

    Of course being a religious minority causes some problems. Due to the economic crisis here, many Iranians are having problems finding jobs, and, for us, that is even harder, as there are some limitations according to the law. For example, we cannot work as officers in the army; we can only be simple soldiers. We are doing our best to change that. It is a gradual process and cannot be done overnight, but we are making progress. One of our biggest successes of the past years is the fact that Jewish kids who go to public schools are now allowed to stay at home on Saturday, if they want to observe the Sabbath – and many of them do because most Iranian Jews are orthodox.

     

    After the Islamic Revolution in 1979 many Iranian Jews left the country. Why didn’t you?

    Back then, many people left the country, even many Muslims. For Jews emigrating was easier, so more of them did. But I am Iranian – I pray in Hebrew and I can speak in English, but I can only think in Persian. In my opinion, there is a big difference between nationality and religion; they are not in opposition to each other. Going abroad – and especially going to Israel – is not an option for me, because I think the idea that Jews have to live in one special place in the world is rooted in the idea that we are different from other people. But I think we are equal.

     

    In Iran, it is prohibited by law to have any contact with Israel. Is that difficult for you as Jew?

    According to our religious teachings, we must obey the laws of the country we live in. And being a Jew is very different from being a Zionist. There are – and have always been – Jews all around the world who are very critical of the behavior of Israel’s government and army. Being a Jew means we must obey Torah and Talmud. Invading other countries and killing innocent people are not Moses’ teachings. We cannot accept Israel’s behavior as Jewish; it is a political and not a religious movement. I personally think that, as the victims of the greatest genocide in the world, Jews should have more empathy with the Palestinian people.

     

    The very genocide you just mentioned was the reason for controversy a few years ago. What did Iranian Jews think about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s public Holocaust denial?

    We did not agree with President Ahmadinejad, and we told him so. He did not directly deny the Holocaust, he questioned it – but I do not even accept questioning it. It doesn’t make sense to question things that are completely clear and accepted all around the world.

    But that did not disturb our day-to-day life. The financial help for our Jewish hospital by the government, for example, started during Ahmadinejad’s presidency. He was anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic. Iran’s general policy is not changed by its presidents anyway. The main policymaker is Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], and the main framework is the constitution.

     

    Still the president does have a lot of influence and a new one is being elected this Friday. What’s at stake for Iranian Jews?

    Iranian Jews do not have a specific candidate, people will vote for one of the candidates according to their political interests. This election is all about the economy. The candidate who offers the best solutions to our economic crisis will win. Apart from that, it does not make a difference for us as Jews who is elected. We are Iranian citizens and everyone who is elected must work under the framework of the constitutional law.


     © Deutsche Welle

     

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.

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    • tapatio

      Christian Churches operating in Iran today, with FULL religious freedom. The only real restriction is that they may not proselytize outside of their own facilities/buildings. Each has multiple facilities throughout Iran ……………….

      Armenian Apostolic Church of Iran ( 300,000 adherents)

      Assyrian Church of the East of Iran (about 11,000 – 20,000 adherents)

      Chaldean Catholic Church of Iran (about 7,000 Assyrian adherents)

      Persian Apostolic Church of the East

      Roman Catholic Church of Iran (about 21,380 adherents)

      various other denominations, some examples are:

      Presbyterian, including the Assyrian Evangelical Church

      Pentecostal, including the Assyrian Pentecostal Church

      Jama’at-e Rabbani (the Iranian Assemblies of God churches)

      and the Anglican Diocese of Iran.

      Listed below are the Jewish synagogues operating in Iran today, with FULL religious freedom. The only real restriction is that they may not proselytize outside of their own facilities/buildings ……………….

      Tehran
      Abdullah Zadeh Synagogue (Tehran)

      Abrishami Synagogue (Tehran)

      Aziz Khan Synagogue (Tehran)

      Bagh Saba Synagogue (Tehran)

      Danial Synagogue (Tehran)

      Darvazeh Dolat Synagogue (Tehran)

      Ettefagh Synagogue (Tehran)

      Ettehad Synagogue (Tehran)

      Ezra Yaghoub Synagogue (Tehran)

      Fakhrabad Synagogue (Tehran)

      Gisha Synagogue (Tehran)

      Gorgan Synagogue (Tehran)

      Haim Synagogue (Tehran)

      Hakim Asher Synagogue (Tehran)

      HaRambam Synagogue (Rambam Synagogue) (Tehran)

      Fakhrabad Synagogue (Tehran)

      Kohan Synagogue (Tehran)

      Kourosh Synagogue (Tehran)

      Khorasaniha Synagogue (Tehran)

      Levian Synagogue (Tehran)

      Mahariv Synagogue (Tehran)

      Molla Hanina Synagogue (Tehran)

      Nosrat Synagogue (Tehran)

      Orsharga Synagogue (Tehran)

      Pol-e-Choobi Synagogue (Tehran)

      Rafi Nia Synagogue (Tehran)

      Rah-e Danesh Synagogue (Tehran)

      Seid Khandan Synagogue (Tehran)

      Synagogue of Gisha (Tehran)

      Tafian (Hakim)(pesyan) Synagogue (Tehran)

      Tarasht Synagogue (Tehran)

      Yusef Abad Synagogue (Tehran)

      Yousefzadeh Synagogue (Tehran)

      Zargarian Synagogue (Tehran)

      Kenisa-ye Kohanim (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Molla (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Molla Mishi (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Molla Owram (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Rabbizadeh (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Shokr (Shiraz)

      Khorasaniha Synagogue (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Bozorg (Shiraz)

      Kenisa-ye Bozorg (Mirakhor’s kenisa) (Isfahan)

      Kenisa-ye Molla Rabbi (Isfahan)

      Kenisa-ye Sang-bast (Isfahan)

      Mullah Jacob Synagogue (Isfahan)

      Mullah Neissan Synagogue (Isfahan)

      Kenisa-ye Keter David (Isfahan)

      Kenisa-ye Kamal (Yazd)

      Molla Agha Baba Synagogue (Yazd)

      Mizan Synagogue (Yazd)

      Hadash Synagogue(Yazd)

      Hakham Synagogue(Yazd)

      Eliahu Hanavi Synagogue(Yazd)

      Eli Synagogue(Yazd)

      Molla Shlomo Synagogue(Yazd)

      Kenisa-ye Bozorg (Sanandaj)

      Kenisa-ye Koochik (Sanandaj)

      Kenisa-ye Ghadim (Rafsanjan)

      New Synagogue (Rafsanjan)

      Kerman Synagogue (Kerman)

      Kooti Synagogue (Bushehr)

      Kenisa-ye Bozorg (Hamadan)

      Kenisa-ye Koochik (Tabriz)

      Daneshgah-e-Kalimi (Urmia)

      • tapatio

        James Wherry, whose pseudo-Christian Zionist hate mongering is below, is lying. Shia Islam (Iran) is extremely tolerant of other religions. The primary restriction on Christian churches and Jewish synagogues is that they can’t proselytize in public.

        The large Iranian Jewish community is NOT “questioned for its loyalty” beyond the fact that Iranians are as aware as any other culture that Judaism has been a breeding ground for treachery and crime for 3000+ years. They are also very aware that, for 25 years, the Jewish state has been trying to push the United States into war with Iran because Iran is the ONLY real impediment to Israel’s dominance of the Middle East and Iran has huge oil and natural gas reserves.

    • James Wherry

      Relatively speaking, sure: when Islam came along, it was a minority, and even in lands it had conquered it needed religious allies and so extended tolerance to other religions.

      Unfortunately, waves of intolerance have occurred, and Jews are questioned for their loyalty.

    • Guy

      The Jewish people of Iran refuse to move to the zionist state of Israel ,and for good reason .Although I also question some aspects of the Holocaust during WW2 ,the statement

      ” I personally think that, as the victims of the greatest genocide in the
      world, Jews should have more empathy with the Palestinian people.”

      says it all.

      • James Wherry

        I suppose that it has been the genocidal attempt to destroy Israel and the Jews of Israel for the past 100 years that creates “a certain amount of animosity” by the Israelis toward the Palestinians.

      • tapatio

        The greatest genocide in history was the slaughter of 100+ million indigenous Americans by Europeans over the last 500 years.

        The Jews lost, AT MOST, 5+ million in World War II. The Roma (Gypsys) were almost wiped out. Western Russia lost twenty million civilians to the Germans. More than twenty million Chinese were slaughtered by Japan.

        America’s invasion of Vietnam killed more than four million Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians. America’s imperialistic wars have killed many more millions………..all for the profit/power of the Rothschiild-Bilderberg cartel.

        There is no way of knowing how many citizens of Canaan (now Palestine and the Levant) were slaughtered in the Jewish invasion of that country 3200 years ago.

        It was the limitless greed of the Jewish Rothschild family that caused Hitler’s rise to power and the subsequent “holocaust”. BTW, fewer than two million Jews can be accounted for as killed by Naz! Germany. So, by comparison to other genocides, the Jewish one is fairly small – grotesquely inflated by the decades of constant screaming and “guilt-tripping” on the part of Judaism.

        • Charles Soupios

          Try to remember the
          Idea of “Zionism” is based in a political agenda and promoted by the banking families as part of a globalist agenda. The Jewish culture was co-opted to further this end since those banksters originally converted to Judaism to avoid the Crusades. They were not truly of Jewish descent.

    • James Wherry

      Relatively speaking, sure: when Islam came along, it was a minority, and even in lands it had conquered it needed religious allies and so extended tolerance to other religions.

      Unfortunately, waves of intolerance have occurred, and Jews are questioned for their loyalty.

      • TecumsehUnfaced

        So it’s okay for Zionist chicken hawks to smear Muslims, eh?

      • tapatio

        THE CREDIBILITY OF US ARMY MAJOR JAMES “PEDERAST” WHERRY (whose Zionist hate mongering is above) A SELF-STYLED “CHRISTIAN” ZIONIST (How can any human claim to follow Christ and promote the crimes of Zionism?) TROLL IN THE EMPLOY OF ISRAEL CAN BE JUDGED FROM WHAT HE IS…………………………

        JAMES WHERRY WAS STUPID ENOUGH TO USE HIS NAME AND A PHOTO THAT COULD BE TRACED. TURNS OUT THAT HE IS……………..

        1 A SELF-STYLED “CHRISTIAN” ZIONIST. THESE, AH, PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT, ONCE ALL OF THE JEWS ARE GATHERED IN PALESTINE, SOMETHING CALLED “ARMAGEDDON” WILL HAPPEN AND ALL OF THE “CHRISTIAN” ZIONISTS WILL BE WHISKED UP TO HEAVEN WITH THEIR BODIES INTACT IN THE HOLY 0RGASM THEY CALL THE “RAPTURE”. NOBODY HAS EVER EXPLAINED TO THE OTHER 99% OF CHRISTIANITY HOW THESE FUNDAMENTALISTS WHACK-A-MOLES CAN BELIEVE THAT JESUS OR HIS DAD WOULD EVER SUPPORT SUCH FANTASIES OR THE CRIMES SUPPORTED BY PSEUDO-CHRISTIAN ZIONISTS.

        2) A MAJOR IN THE US ARMY FROM “CIVIL AFFAIRS”. BABY-BOOMERS MIGHT RECALL THAT “CIVIL AFFAIRS” WAS PROMINENT IN THE “PHOENIX PROGRAM” IN VIETNAM……..THOSE WONDERFUL FOLKS WHO TOLD THE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE, “LOVE AMERICA OR WE’LL NAPALM YOUR VILLAGE.” WHERRY HAS ALSO BRAGGED ABOUT HELPING TO TRAIN THE STATE TERRORISTS OF UGANDA.

        3) A “GAY” PREDATOR THAT BOUGHT A BOY FROM THE PHILIPPINE SLUMS TO USE AS HIS SXX TOY. PRESUMABLY, THIS BOY HAS PAPERS CLAIMING THAT HE IS OF AGE. BUT, HE COULD PASS FOR A JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL KID AND YOU CAN HAVE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE MADE IN THE PHILIPPINES FOR $100..
        https://www.facebook.com/james.wherry.39

        http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/news/local/article29462263.html

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtrbvD22CEQ