Sunday, February 03, 2019

Forty years since Iranian revolution prompted exodus

It is 40 years since the Iranian revolution deposed the ruling Shah and precipitated the exodus of  most of the country's Jews. The Tablet, under the guest-editorship of Miriam  Levy-Haim, is running a series of articles examining various effects of this cataclysmic event.

But while revolutions overturn governments and political entities, they also overturn communities, families, and the lives of individuals. How do people maintain and reconstruct a sense of self when everything that has grounded them for centuries and even millennia has been irrevocably changed?

When 75 percent of the Iranian Jewish community fled, a significant number of Jews decided to stay and they continue to remain there, living and working and practicing as Jews. Roya Hakakian describes the remaining Jewish community as a hopeful elegy, a metaphor for the Iranian people’s striving for freedom.

An excerpt from Lior Sternfeld’s excellent, recently released history of 20th-century Jewish life in Iran explores Jewish attitudes toward the Revolution, and how and why some young Iranian Jews participated, as patriots and as Jews. Majid Rafizadeh describes when he first met a Jew in Iran.

 The Iranian regime is notoriously belligerent toward Israel. Tony Badran writes about the role of the PLO and Yasser Arafat in the Islamic Revolution. How do Jews who left Iran mediate their Persian identity? Novelist Gina Nahai reviews some post-revolutionary memoirs by Persian women.

Asher Shasho Levy explores how Persian music reflects the Jewish experience in Iran in an interview with Maureen Nehedar, an Iranian-Israeli paytanit—liturgist. The revolutionary ideology was grounded, in part, in resentment of the West. Thamar Gindin explains the history and lingering legacy of that resentment.

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