Monday, October 12, 2009

Virtual welcome to Heskel Haim synagogue in Iran

With thanks: Lily and Olivia

The folks who run the Moshe Heskel Haim (Ettefagh) synagogue in Tehran are nothing if not computer-savvy. They have set up an impressive website: it bids you welcome in both English and Farsi, as you listen to the haunting tune of El-Nora Alila, traditionally sung in Sephardi synagogues just before the closing service on Yom Kippur.

But the Moshe Heskel Haim synagogue is no run-of-the-mill Iranian synagogue. It's an Iraqi Iranian synagogue. There's always been an interchange between the Jews of Iraq and Iran, but never more so than in the last century, when Iran was at times more politically stable than Iraq. Thousands of Iraqi Jews passed through Iran, many fleeing persecution, and some decided to stay on, set up businesses and bring up families there.

The turning point for the Iraqi-Iranian Jews, as it was for all Jews in Iran, was the 1979 Islamic revolution. Some 80,000 Jews fled Iran and, almost the entire Iraqi-Iranian Jewish community, except for three Iraqi families. This begs the question, who belongs to the Moshe Heskel Haim synagogue nowadays, and what ( if anything) is still Iraqi about it?


MK Gross said...

Google translate can be used to view the Farsi text in English with

bataween said...

Thank you Michelle. The translation tells us that the influx of Iraqi Jews peaked when persecution in Iraq was at its height (1948 -50), and that the synagogue was built in the Babylonian style. It also tells us that only three Iraqi families remain, the rest of the community having emigrated after the 1979 revolution.