Iranian Jewish Archives

The Yale Archive for Iranian-Jewish Testimonies

Established in 2014, the Yale Archive for Iranian-Jewish testimonies is an unprecedented undertaking at the Yale Center for the Study of Antisemitism. It is a reservoir of interviews with members of Iran’s Jewish community in diaspora. As Iran transitioned from a monarchy to an Islamic republic in 1979, the size of the Iranian Jewish community began to plummet. Yet, years later, a significant community of several thousand still remains in Iran, despite the country’s tensions with Israel. This project intends to recover an essential chapter in the history of the oldest and only remaining Jewish community in the Middle East.

With Iran’s rise as a major concern for the global community, the experience of the Iranian Jewish community has been much debated by onlookers and experts, while the witnesses to that experience have been silent. The archive, therefore, is a source of numerous video testimonies by Iranian Jews speaking for the first time about life in Iran. In addition to providing an invaluable perspective onto domestic Iranian issues, the archive creates a record on a significant chapter of Judeo-Muslim coexistence by preserving the voices of Iranian Jews who have witnessed and lived through the transitions from Pahlavi rule to Islamic republic.

Collecting these testimonies is more urgent than ever given that far too few individuals remain who can recall the early Pahlavi years and so offer a longer vision of the evolving experience of Jewish life in modern Iran. The unmediated testimonies of the Iranian Jewish citizens will be a major contribution to the historical study of the region and its religious minorities. Yet this project does not only seek to preserve the veracity of the historical record and the multiplicity of the Jewish experience, but also to create a resource to facilitate informed debate about the questions that continue to dominate headlines and foreign policy memos.

This audiovisual archive will stand at the nexus of several ongoing political and historical discussions: the state of minorities and human rights in Iran today, American policy toward Iran, the life of a Jewish community whose experience stands vastly in contrast to those of the western Jewish communities, the changing face of antisemitism across the globe. Thus, it is the objective of this archive not only to curate and commemorate the past but to light the way of the future.

June 26, 2014

The U.S. Department of State and the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism sponsored a discussion “Reality Check: An Examination of Anti-Semitism in 2014”. The event covered the current trends in Anti-Semitism, and included a discussion of the history of and current state of affairs for Iranian Jews.
The panel was moderated by Rabbi James E. Ponet, Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale.
Panelists were: Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman (@SEASForman) and Roya Hakakian, a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Click here to watch the video