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Traditions Linger: Cultural Changes for Iranian Jews in the United States

Series: Judeo-Iranian & Jewish Studies Series 3
Availability: In stock
Published: 2009
Page #: x + 245
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: 1-56859-247-7, ISBN 13: 978-1-56859-3
bibliography, index, notes

 
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Quick Overview

In Iran religion and culture are bound up into a single formulation; all facets of life are qualified by and regulated by religious boundaries. The parameters for ethnic boundaries, or ethnicity, and accompanying behavioral patterns are determined by Shi‘i beliefs. Social and cultural behavioral patterns of a minority population reflect the values of the dominant society, and often evolve as a consequence of historical events. While this work is not a history of Iranian Jewry, a brief experiential recount is necessary to promote an understanding of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.

The goal is to illuminate some of the reasons for Iranian Jewish culture and its artifacts without penetrating very deeply into the complexity and diversity of the community. For more than a generation under Pahlavi rule, the Iranian Jewish population enjoyed economic and educational advantages along with some legal and political privileges. Jews had a different perception of their status as Iranians and as Jews, a reflection of the Pahlavi modernization policies and a new legality of their rights as citizens. But different concepts in the political and economic areas did not necessarily signal changes in traditional beliefs. Though the Iranian constitution provided some benefits as well as entitlements for minority populations, an undercurrent persisted of well-established behavioral patterns that defined Iranian Jewish identity both as Jews and as Iranians. The tenets of Islam guided Muslim-Jewish interaction.

Following immigration, Iranian Jews were confronted with the challenge of the separateness of culture from religious concepts. In the United States the distinctive political ideology does not include an official religion. For the Iranian Jews, this meant a new reality, a distinctive way of imagining the real, and had its effects on structuring their lives, as well as their Iranian and their Jewish self-perceptions. In addition, they encountered a Jewish community whose traditions were incongruent with their own. Cultural misunderstandings arose as Iranian Jews strove to maintain their ethnic heritage. With knowledge of the historical experiences that inform one another’s culture, we are able to avoid awkwardly stumbling into situations of misunderstanding and misconception.

author

Leah R. Baer

Leah R. Baer earned her MA and PhD degrees at The University of Chicago. While studying at Ferdowsi University in Mashhad, Iran in the summer of 1978, she attended worship services at the local knisa. Her brief encounter with the Iranian Jewish community prompted an interest in the reasons for the differences between their traditions and those of Jews of European heritage. Her work focuses on the influence of the dominant society on the behavioral patterns of a minority population. She is an independent scholar who has contributed chapters to several books on the cultural and social heritage of Iranian Jews. She lives in suburban Chicago.

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 1. WHO ARE THE IRANIAN JEWS
The Birth of Islam
Pre-Safavid Iran
Iranian Jews and Sephardim

Chapter 2. DIFFERENT POLICIES AND DIFFERENT OPPORTUNITIES
Under Safavid Rulers
Under Qajar Rulers
Schooling for Jewish Children
The Constitutional Revolution (1906-1911)
Under the Pahlavis
The Islamic Revolution of 1979
Emigration

Chapter 3. ETHNICITY AND CULTURE

Chapter 4.RELIGION AND SOCIETY
Iranian Jews and the United States

Chapter 5. TANGIBLE OBJECTS AND INTANGIBLE THINGS

Chapter 6. LIFE’S EVENTS
Birth
Ben Mitzvah
Betrothal and Marriage
Death and Mourning

Chapter 7. HOLIDAYS AND OBSERVANCES
Rosh Hashonah
Yom Kippur
Succoth
Chanukah
Tu B)Shevat
Purim
Passover
Lag Ba`Omer
Shavuot
Tishah B`Av
Shovavim
Norouz

Chapter 8. IRANIAN JEWISH FAMILIES IN AMERICA

EPILOGUE
BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEX

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