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Jewish Community


Since WWII Jews have faced periodic persecution, racism, anti-semitism and the like in the middle east, Eastern Europe and around the world. In 1939 The Holocaust, the systematic extermination of Jews in Germany and Europe, began. The process did not end until 1945 with the conclusion of World War II. Some six million Jews, including 1.5 million children, were systematically exterminated simply because they were Jews. In 2007 Anti-Semitism is again on the rise. In Europe and Russia, for example, anti-Semitic hate crimes are at an all time high since WWII. Jewish synagogues and cemeteries have been desecrated and Jews have been beaten and even murdered. The persecution is far from over especially for those living in the Middle East outside of Israel.


For example in Iran, official government-controlled media often issues anti-Semitic propaganda. A prime example is the government's publishing of theProtocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious Czarist forgery, in 1994 and 1999.2 Jews also suffer varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and public accommodations.3

The Islamization of the country has brought about strict control over Jewish educational institutions. Before the revolution, there were some 20 Jewish schools functioning throughout the country. In recent years, most of these have been closed down. In the remaining schools, Jewish principals have been replaced by Muslims. In Tehran there are still three schools in which Jewish pupils constitute a majority. The curriculum is Islamic, and Persian is forbidden as the language of instruction for Jewish studies. Special Hebrew lessons are conducted on Fridays by the Orthodox Otzar ha-Torah organization, which is responsible for Jewish religious education. Saturday is no longer officially recognized as the Jewish sabbath, and Jewish pupils are compelled to attend school on that day. There are three synagogues in Tehran, but since 1994, there has been no rabbi in Iran, and the bet din does not function. 4

Following the overthrow of the shah and the declaration of an Islamic state in 1979, Iran severed relations with Israel. The country has subsequently supported many of the Islamic terrorist organizations that target Jews and Israelis, particularly the Lebanon-based, Hezbollah. Nevertheless, Iran's Jewish community is the largest in the Middle East outside Israel.

On the eve of Passover in 1999, 13 Jews from Shiraz and Isfahan in southern Iran were arrested and accused of spying for Israel and the United States. In September 2000, an Iranian appeals court upheld a decision to imprison ten of the thirteen Jews accused of spying for Israel. In the appeals court, ten of the accused were found guilty of cooperating with Israel and were given prison terms ranging from two to nine years. Three of the accused were found innocent in the first trial.5 In March 2001, one of the imprisoned Jews was released, a second was freed in January 2002, the remaining eight were set free in late October 2002. The last five apparently were released on furlough for an indefinite period, leaving them vulnerable to future arrest. Three others were reportedly pardoned by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.6

At least 13 Jews have been executed in Iran since the Islamic revolution, most of them for either religious reasons or their connection to Israel. For example, in May 1998, Jewish businessman Ruhollah Kakhodah-Zadeh was hanged in prison without a public charge or legal proceeding, apparently for assisting Jews to emigrate.7

Today, Iran's Jewish population is the second largest in the Middle East, after Israel. Reports vary as to the condition and treatment of the small, tight-knit community, and the population of Iranian Jews can only be estimated due to the community’s isolation from world Jewry.