Chief Rabbi of Yazd, Iran, 1903 (Photo of the Day)

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The Chief Rabbi of Yazd, Iran, in the center

Iran’s population in 1900 was around 10 million. There were roughly 100,000 Jews in Iran at that time.

Lord Curzon wrote in the late nineteenth century of different treatment of Jews in different parts of the country:

“In Isfahan, where they are said to be 3,700 and where they occupy a relatively better status than elsewhere in Persia, they are not permitted to wear kolah or Persian headdress, to have shops in the bazaar, to build the walls of their houses as high as a Moslem neighbour’s, or to ride in the street. In Teheran and Kashan they are also to be found in large numbers and enjoying a fair position. In Shiraz they are very badly off. In Bushire they are prosperous and free from persecution.”

From M. E. Hume-Griffith and A. Hume, Behind the Veil in Persia and Turkish Arabia: An Account of an Englishwoman’s Eight Years’ Residence Amongst the Women of the East (1909).

There are currently 8,000- 25,000 Jews in Iran (the Jews themselves claim the larger number), and they have a representative in the Iranian parliament. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, thousands of Iranian Jews have left for the United States and Israel (the latter has some 200,000 Iranian Jews). About one fourth of the population of Beverly Hills, Ca., is Iranian, and mostly Jewish Iranian. Mayor Jimmy Delshad is from that community. That milieu has been depicted in ways critics charge are unfair in the Bravo television show, “Shahs of Sunset.”

6 Responses

  1. “different treatment of Jews in different parts of the country” is way too euphemistic. In fact there were several pogroms in Iran before and after the long reign of Nasir al-Din Qajar, for instance in Mashhad (1839), Barfurush (1867), Shiraz (1910). It was largely the legal attitudes of the Shi’ites toward the Jews, in particular, considering them as impure (najasat-e ahl-e kitab) and inferior as compared to Muslims. It is interesting to see that under the Sunni Muslim Nadir Shah (r. 1736-47) who abolished Shi’a Islam in Iran, Jews experienced a short period of relative tolerance. They were then even allowed to settle in the holy city of Mashhad (see, for instance, Daniel Tsadik. Between Foreigners and Shi’is. Nineteenth-Century Iran and its Jewish Minority. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California 2007).

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