Chief rabbi of Iran: Israel does not represent Judaism

Al-Monitor | Mordechai Goldman: In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Rabbi Yehuda Garami, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran, explains about their daily lives and why he paid a condolence visit to the family of assassinated Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified over the last few years, especially because of Iran’s activities in Syria and counteractivities attributed to Israel against Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets in that country. Many are worried about the well-being of Iran’s small and isolated Jewish community. It is only natural to think that tensions between Israel and Iran could threaten it.

Al-Monitor spoke with Rabbi Yehuda Garami, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran, about the state of Jews in the country in general, their relationship with the regime, as well as with the general population, and their attitudes toward the State of Israel. The basic question centered around the size of the Jewish community in Iran. Official numbers have it at around 8,000 members, but Garami claims, based on information he has, that the number of Jews is actually much higher.

“I estimate that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 Jews in the country. Most of them live in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan and Karmanshah, though there are other, small communities too,” he told Al-Monitor. Then he went on to discuss the state of the community, saying, “We have total freedom of religion. All the synagogues are open, and Torah classes take place there. We have all sorts of educational institutions too, including elementary and middle schools.”

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