Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More on Mid East Jews

A guest post by E-Fink

Do Anglo/American Jews care enough about our middle-eastern Jewish brothers and sisters?

Yesterday DovBear posted a really great Op-Ed piece from the NY Times.

In fact. before checking his blog I even emailed the article to him as I assumed he would find it interesting.

Of course, I was too late as it had already been posted!

What occurred subsequent to his posting of the article was even more interesting.

But first let's go to the NY Times column. An exiled Egyptian Jew recounts the persecution his family experienced in Egypt. His issue is that President Obama took the time to mention the suffering of Palestinians and ignored the suffering of middle-eastern Jews outside of Israel. A worthwhile read.

On Twitter DovBear posted this observation:
Egyptian Jew criticizes Obama in Times oped. TBF (to be fair), when was the last time any Ashkenazi Jew shed a tear for what happened to MidEastJews?

I responded with my experience:
R' Herman Neuberger dedicated YEARS of his life to save Iranian Jews. TBF - he not only shed tears, but years and saved thousands.

Which DovBear countered with a hilarious (and sad) take:
kol hakovod (kudos) for your yachid (individual). Average cholent fresser (eater) from flatbush doesn't know and doesnt care.

It seems to me that DovBear is right. Where is the outrage from Ashkenazic Jews? Why does it seem like we don't care?

The rest of this post is dedicated to bringing awareness to the plight of middle-eastern Jewry and an invitation for those of you may have first hand information regarding living as a Jew in Iran, Iraq, Egypt or any other middle-eastern country to contribute.

My first step was to contact a grandson of the aforementioned Rabbi Herman Neuberger.

Eli Neuberger relayed the following history of Iranian Jewry that is related to his grandfather's involvement. (I have edited his comments for brevity, grammar and overall fluidity.)

The traditional Iranian Jewish schools were run by an umbrella organization called Otzar HaTorah.In the mid 70's the Shah and his government decided to nationalise all religious schools, Jewish and Islam alike in order to curb the radical influence that was gaining traction amongst the Muslims. My Grandfather was approached by a Mr. Sasson from London, to travel to Iran to negotiate with the Government in order to minimize secular influence on religious studies.

While in Iran, my Grandfather visited the community in Shiraz. He thought that if a group of promising Iranians would come to learn at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College (NIRC), where he was the Dean. Then they could return to Iran and become the Klei Kodesh (spiritual leaders) that could lead the community.The first group arrived in 1977.

Meanwhile in 1979 the Shah was overthrown by radical Islamists.The students in NIRC could not expect to return home. At the time, many Iranian Jews were able to leave Iran and when they arrived in Austria, Italy etc. they were granted refugee status and were able to continue on to the US.

The situation became far more dire in 1980 when the Iran-Iraq war started.Boys as young as 12-13 were sent to the front lines to be used as mine sweepers. Many Jews were smuggled to Turkey or Pakistan. These trips were fraught with danger, even after they were able to leave Iran. My grandfather was instrumental in assuring good treatment in Turkey and safe passage to Europe. He made many trips to the corridors of power in DC to speak to Congressman,Senators and Diplomats to be able to insure this continuing clandestine exodus.

Many of the boys that made the harrowing trip came to study Torah in NIRC.

All this good work was done behind the scenes and with very little fanfare.

According to the never accurate Wikipedia, Rabbi Neuberger was instrumental in saving 60,000 Iranian Jews.

I contacted another friend of mine, Natan Davoodi. His family is Iranian (in LA they are called Persian).

He told me that as far as he knows the non-Jews only tolerate the Jews of they can exploited for the benefit of the non-Jew. That doesn't sound very good.

I would like to hear from you if you know of any injsutice to Jewish people in middle-eastern countries (outside of Israel). Just telling those stories will get the ball rolling.

We are all brothers and sisters and there is no excuse for ignoring their plight.

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