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Attacks On Jewish Synagogues In Shiraz Worries The Community

A synagogue in Shiraz, Iran. File photo

In a joint statement Iranian American Jewish Federations in Los Angeles and New York have expressed their deep concern after two synagogues were attacked and vandalized in the city of Shiraz.

A statement released earlier this week by Susan Azizzadeh, the president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) in Los Angeles, and Robert Kahen, the president of the IAJF in New York, expressed a “deep concern” over the recent incidents.

The statement, a copy of which was received by Radio Farda, says, “In light of these clearly anti-Semitic incidents, we call upon the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure the protection of all places of worship as well as all members of our community, and to bring the perpetrators of these criminal acts to justice.”

According to news reports, vandals broke into the Kenisa’eh Hadash (New Synagogue) on Sunday night, desecrated two Torah scrolls and prayer books, and destroyed furnishings. The damage was later discovered by three local Jews who came to pray. Iranian police are said to be investigating the incident. It is not clear who was behind the attack, Tablet reported.

The city’s Kashi Synagogue was attacked Sunday night, while the Hadash synagogue was attacked Monday afternoon, according to Sam Kermanian, senior adviser to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation, who has been in touch with Jews from Shiraz. The local Jewish community believes the attacks were committed by more than one person, but does not know who perpetrated them or why, Jewish News reported.

“Two sacred Torah scrolls were desecrated, torn and sacred books used for rituals were thrown into toilet”, an active member of Jewish community in Los Angeles, George Harounian told Radio Farda.

“Based on security concerns, local Jewish citizens in Shiraz prefer not to talk about the incidents on the phone,” Harounian said, adding, “The security and police forces have not allowed taking picture of the vandalized synagogues”.

Furthermore, the Iranian Jewish community is also roiling from unconfirmed reports that several Jews had been arrested on unknown charges.

On Tuesday, reports began circulating that several Jews had been arrested, though it is not known who they are or on what charges. Because of the precarious position of the Jewish community in Iran, fears of retaliation are running high, making it difficult to confirm these reports, Jewish News reported.

Among a flurry of messages and voice notes circulating around the Iranian Jewish communities in Los Angeles, New York City, and elsewhere, a long comment written in Persian has gone viral.

The comment begins by referencing to the ancient roots of the Iranian Jewish community, dating back to the times of Ezra the Scribe. It notes that though the Jewish community in Iran has suffered insult under the Islamic Republic, an attack on a synagogue or religious place is unprecedented under the Islamic regime.

The Jewish community of Shiraz, which today numbers about 2,000, according to Sam Kermanian, has faced adversity before. In 2000, ten members of the community were sentenced to prison terms charged with spying for Israel. The U.S. government and Jewish organizations protested the charges and verdict.

There are contradictory reports on the number of Jews still living in Iran. Sam Kermanian believes that about 10,000 Jews live in Iran at present. However, in an interview published in Kermanshah Daily two years ago, representative of Jewish community to majlis (the Islamic Republic’s parliament), Siamak Moreh Sedq said about 25,000 Jews were living in Iran. The number of Jews in pre-Islamic revolution was reportedly more than 120,000.