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03 May 2011

Jews of Iran

Recently the records of the Battat Family of Iraq were added into the Knowles Collection - Jews of Africa and the Orient database. This great family had a tremendous history throughout the region. One of the areas that the family journeyed to often was the land of Persia, which is modern day Iran. This has made many people inquire as to the history of the Jews of Iran. Besides families such as the Battats, Iran has always been a home to many Jews.
The Jewish community of Persia, dating back well into the sixth century B.C.E., is one of the earliest Jewish communities. As with the neighboring Jews of Babylon, the Jews of
Persia have always been a people living under constant change. Some examples include;

  • From about 226 - 642 C.E., Persia was under the Sassanid Dynasty which was favorable to the Jews, which allowed the Jewish community to grow and eventually move to other locations.

  • In 642 C.E. Persia was invaded by Arab Muslims, who made Islam the state religion and placed restrictions upon the Jews. Many of the freedoms they previously had were now gone.

  • Into the 1800's the Jews of Iran were often tormented and persecuted for their beliefs. This led to a lot of immigration into the land of Israel.

  • In 1925 Iran fell under the rule of the Phalevi Dynasty. They moved Iran toward a more Western lifestyle. This was wonderful for the Jews as they gained more freedoms and indeed became a community that flourished. By the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were somewhere between 80,000- 90,000 Jews living in Iran.

  • After the Revolution of 1979, the Jewish community found itself in a state of uncertainty, which caused thousand to flee the country, leaving behind their homes and businesses. Those that remain live under the scrutiny and restrictions of the government. Even with the restrictions, the Jewish community is still of good size, possible only Israel has a larger one in the area.

The records of some of the Jews of Iran are included with the Battat family. Those and others families, such as the Sassoons who had connections to Iran, can be found in the Knowles Collection - Jews of Africa and the Orient database.

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