Rabbi Yehuda Grami, Iran's rabbi, spoke about his community, emphasizing that in his opinion, Iran's Jews are not in danger, and that the government respects the Jewish community.
What is the situation right now for the Jewish community in Iran?
"Thank G-d," Rabbi Grami replied. "Nothing has changed. We continue to develop our institutions. Now we have a yeshiva, and we have a yeshiva for married men."
"A few months ago, we opened a yeshiva for married men in Isfahan, which is a city that until now did not have a yeshiva for married men at all, and now we opened one there. We had a yeshiva for married men in Tehran and in Shiraz, but in Isfahan we did not have one.
"At the same time, we continue to supervise the kosher certification in restaurants, we have schools for young boys. We added Torah classes for the elderly, for youth, and for children. And we hold classes on Jewish law, Talmud, mishna, and so on."
How is your connection with the government?
"Thank G-d, it's great. The government respects the Jewish faith. There are no limitations."
And how do they treat you, the residents, in light of the very tense situation in Iran?
"They respect us very much. The situation does not bother us, we never get into politics. The Jewish community stays far away from issues which do not concern it."
Is the Jewish community flourishing or dwindling?
"Thank G-d, our growth rate is only increasing. Almost every week, we have weddings, circumcisions, and so on. Most of the Jews in Iran are actually young."
How do you explain this?
"Because in Iran, the Jews can keep Judaism and be careful about their traditions."
Do the Jews in Iran seek a connection to Judaism?
"Most of the Jews keep the traditions. They have great fear of Heaven. Many of them do not have so much knowledge on matters of Judaism, since we did not have the educational institutions we have today, but they believe in the Torah and in the Jewish tradition."
What are the challenges in your community? What are you forced to deal with?
"Like in other places, the greatest challenge is the young generation, because everything is open and they are exposed to problematic content on the internet and through various media. We need to protect the younger generation from all sorts of views which do not align with Judaism, and deal with all sorts of modesty issues, social media, and so on."
How do you see the future of Iranian Judaism? Is it in danger at all, G-d forbid?
"There is no danger to Judaism in Iran. The Jews reside and live there for 2,700 years already, since the Assyrian Exile. It is written in the Book of Kings, 'And the king of Assyria exiled Israel to Assyria, and he settled them in Halah and in Habor, the Gozan River, and the cities of Media.' (II Kings, 18:11) These are the cities of Media and Persia, western Iran. Since the Assyrian Exile of the Ten Tribes, the Jews have lived in Iran. There were good times and bad times, but there were always Jews."
Do the Jews in Iran feel a connection with the Jews in other parts of the world?
"Our Jews are part of Judaism around the world. At the same time, they do not like politics, and they stay far away from it. But certainly, every Jew in every place is a Jew - it doesn't matter where he is. In America, in Europe, and in Iran - he is a Jew. He believes in the same principles."
What message would you like to give your readers?
"We live in a generation in which we see the birthpangs of the light of Moshiach (the Messiah), and we hear the footsteps of Moshiach. We all need to repent, to become closer to G-d, and to bring those who are right now far away, closer."
Do you think that in Iran it is harder to live as a Jew?
"In every place there are trials, there are places where the trials are wealth and there are places where the trials are poverty...as the prophet describes, 'and those who were exiled in Egypt,' (Isaiah 27:13). The Land of Egypt refers to people who are suffering, in a place of constraint, and the land of Assyria is a place of wealth," Rabbi Grami explained.
"And so, it does not matter if a Jew is found in Egypt or Assyria - every place has its trials. For us, the trials are different, obviously.
"There are the trials I spoke about before - modesty, various means of communications, And there are also matters of heresy, which are unfortunately spreading in recent times.
"There are other trials in other contexts. The Jews in Iran are like a closed box. They are not in contact with the Jews of the world. It kind of makes it difficult regarding issues connected to Judaism. But thank G-d, and with His great kindness, we have no complaints."
How is life there in general?
"In general it is fine. At the same time, the economic situation is very poor, due to the sanctions imposed on the country in recent years. Unfortunately, it has become much harder to get by financially."