What’s It Like to Be a Jew in Iran?
I can’t help but hear about Jews in Iran and ask, “What are they thinking?”
But that is my bias.
It is an easy jump to align the situation of today’s Iranian Jews with pre-World War II era Germany because of the parallel rhetoric of Hiter and Ahmadinejad.
You may be surprised to learn that Jews in Iran report feeling relatively secure. They do not express a sense of danger or desire to escape. In a community of 25,000, only 150- 300 accept offers to immigrate to Israel each year– and these numbers are dropping.
The $10,000 Offer
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is offering every Iranian Jew $10,000 to immigrate to Israel. That’s in addition to the stipend they would automatically receive from the Jewish Agency under their Right of Return.
The Fellowship’s original offer of $5,000 met with so few takers that they doubled the incentive.
To date, $1.4 million has been raised in support of this project.
One Israeli’s Reaction
I spoke with Sara Fahima Badani, 79, who came to Israel with the first wave of Iranian immigrants in 1950. What did she think of this recent development?
“Ten thousand dollars,” she said shaking her head. “We should have waited.”
Learn More About the Iran’s Jewish Community
The article reports: “Jews are permitted to practice their faith as a community on the condition that they remain out of politics and do not speak out in favor of Israel.”
Approximately 80% of the Jewish community left in the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and those who stayed had low mobility (being elderly, monolingual Persian speakers, lacking external ties, etc).
Sam Kermanian, a well known member of Los Angeles’ Persian Jewish community comments: “Given the situation and the current climate, some Jews there will say things are not too bad, but the totality of the picture is negative.”
Amir Cyrus Razzaghi, a non-Jewish Iranian journalist explains: “There is a genuine interest to keep the Jewish community in Iran to demonstrate to the world that the government is anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish. This is especially important to a government that strives to be not only the leader in the Islamic world, but also a key regional and global player.”
Somehow that all sounds a little too familiar.
About the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
The International Fellowship of Christian and Jews’ mission is that “Jews and Christians will reverse their 2,000 year history of discord and replace it with a relationship marked by dialogue, understanding, respect, and cooperation.” (Sounds good to me.)
Its four primary programs are:
- On the Wings of Eagles: helping Jews immigrate to Israel
- Guardians of Israel: assisting survivors of poverty, terrorism, and war
- Isaiah 58: supporting children and elderly Jews in the Former Soviet Union
- Stand for Israel: mobilizing Christian supporters on Israel’s behalf
Want to Learn More?
“Israel Philanthropy Update: 40 Iranian Jews Arrive in Israel with Help of Jewish Agency” (200 Iranian Jews made aliyah in 2007, up from only 65 in 2006)
For more information on Jews from Arab countries, I highly recommend the documentary film, “The Forgotten Refugees.”
Now I would like to ask from you, my readers, a favor. I know that I have a number of Christian readers who are involved in Israel support organizations.
I would love to hear your voice and experiences: how your organization was founded, its primary goals and target audience, how it achieved its fundraising success, etc.
Please leave me a comment or e-mail me at mnorton [at] TheNewJew.org. I want to learn from you.