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  JEWISH AND KOSHER LIFE IN IRAN   יהודי איראן

JEWISH AND KOSHER LIFE IN IRAN      יהדות איראן

 
 
 
  IRAN    
 

NOTABLE PERSIAN JEWS:

Notable Persian Jews

Hakham Yedidia Shofet, former Chief Rabbi of Iran, until 1980.

Iranian Jews: Hakham Yedidia Shofet, former Chief Rabbi of Iran, until 1980, and a worldwide spiritual leader of Persian Jewry. Rabbi Yedidia Shofet, A worldwide spiritual leader of Persian Jewry. 1908-2005.  ©Source: International Sephardic Leadership Council.

Early Life and Biography

Yedidia Shofet was born on 14 November 1908 in Kashan, Iran and was descended from twelve generations of Persian rabbis. Hakham Shofet was a remarkable rabbi who was reported to have known the entire Torah by heart and was a world authority on Jewish law and practice. He promoted unity and acceptance among all Jewish people.

According to Shofet's 2001 memoirs, written in Persian by Manucher Cohan, he was born in the central Iranian city of Kashan into a family with 12 generations of rabbis. Over the years, Shofet gradually gained prominence among Iran's Jews and non-Jews for his eloquent speeches and his ability to connect easily with all who approached him for help. Ultimately, he became a liaison and spokesperson for Iranian Jews before the Shah, government officials, and Islamic clerics. There's no such equivalent position for an Iranian Jewish leader in the United States.

In Iran, Shofet commanded enough respect to intervene when Jews were in dire trouble, for example, with the Iranian government. He was instrumental in persuading the Shah and other government officials in the early 1950s to allow Iraqi Jews, who had been forced to leave Iraq, to find temporary refuge in Iran before eventually immigrating to Israel, said Ebrahim Yahid, a close colleague of Shofet.

"We had many rabbis, teachers and hachamim in Iran, but he was the most open minded and most beloved of them all," Yahid said. "He was even respected by the most fanatic Islamic clerics in Iran who did not have friendships with Jews -- all because of his gentleness and humility."

Following the 1979 Iranian revolution, Shofet, along with thousands of other Iranian Jews, eventually immigrated to Southern California. While no longer working as a liaison for Iranian Jews, he continued to serve as a symbolic religious figure, urging Iranian Jewish families to preserve their Jewish tradition. In the United States, Shofet, with his son and other community leaders, helped establish the Nessah Educational & Cultural Center (Congregation Nessah Israel), first in Santa Monica and then in Beverly Hills, California.

Death

Over the final five years of his life, Shofet was gradually forced to retire from community work due to failing health. His son took over day-to-day leadership duties.

He died on 24 June 2005 in Los Angeles; thousands attended his funeral. At his funeral, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ovadiah Yosef, referred to Hakham Shofet as the "Prince of Torah." Hakham Shofet is buried at Eden Memorial Park in Los Angeles and Jews around the world continue to visit his grave to ask that he pray on their behalf.

Legacy

"Replacing Hacham Yedidia is impossible. The closest we can come to him is his very able son, Rav David Shofet, who has dedicated his life to Iranian Jewry like his father did," said Andy Abrishami, a Nessah board member and the elder Shofet's son-in-law. "It's hard to be a rabbi under any circumstances, especially when you're a rabbi for Iranian Jews, because their expectations are much higher, but he [David Shofet], with his humility and dedication, has captured the Iranian Jews' favor."

Hacham Uriel Davidi, Chief Rabbi of Iran 1980-1986. Photo: Reubenzadeh
JEWISH COMMUNITY OF IRAN: Hacham Uriel Davidi, Chief Rabbi of Iran 1980-1986. Photo: ReubenzadehHacham Uriel Davidi Khansari (1922- December 24, 2006) was a famous Jewish (Judæo-Khunsari) religious leader and theologian, who was born in Khansar (Iran) and died in the Neve Yaakov section of Jerusalem, Israel, where he had spent the last 12 years of is life.  He was descended from a long line of rabbis who preceded him in leading the Jewish community in Iran. Born to Hacham Meir Davidi, he continued the tradition of a learned scholar and after moving to Tehran, became a more prominent community leader in his own rite. In the late 1970s, Davidi along with the late chief rabbi, Hacham Yedidia Shofet made annual visits to the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as representatives of the Jewish community. In 1979, shortly after the Islamic revolution, Davidi and Shofet along with a few other members of the Jewish community of Tehran met with the new leadership of the Islamic Republic in order to preserve the rights of the Jewish community.

Hacham Uriel Davidi served as the chief rabbi of Iran after Hacham Shofet left, from 1980 to 1994. On January 17, 1994, he moved to Jerusalem, Israel.

One of his sons is Rabbi Nissim Davidi, the Kashrut Administrator of the Rabbinical Council of California in Los Angeles, California . He is also certified mohel like his father and paternal grandfather were before him.

 

Hakham Yousef Hamadani Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Iran. December 5, 2009. Photo: Reubenzadeh

IRANIAN JEWS: Hakham Yousef Hamadani Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Iran. December 5, 2009. Photo: Reubenzadeh

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IRANIAN JEWS: Rita Jahanforuz, an Israeli pop-star of Persian descent

Rita Jahanforuz, an Israeli pop-star of Persian descent. Photo: Itzik Edri, 2009

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