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Persian Jewish Genealogy Portal

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Profiles

  • David Soesan / Schuschan (1660 - 1724)
    Amsterdam wonen sinds de 18e eeuw twee families met als naam: SUSAN, SOESAN, SUESAN, SOUSAN en/of SOUSA. De afstammelingen van Salomon Davids SOUSAN, geboren circa 1690 en De afstammelingen van David M...
  • Yossi Banai (1932 - 2006)
    Yossi Banai (יוסי בנאי) (November 5, 1932 – May 11, 2006) was an Israeli performer, singer, actor, and dramatist. Biography Banai was born in Jerusalem, and grew up in the neighborhood of the Mahane Ye...
  • Moshe Katsav, 8th President of Israel
    Moshe Katsav (Hebrew: משה קצב ‎, born Mūsā Qasāb, Persian: موسى (قصاب, on 5 December 1945) is an Israeli former politician  who was the eighth President of Israel from 2000 to 2007. He was also a leadi...

Persian Jewish Projects on Geni Umbrella Project

Judaism is among the oldest religions practiced in Iran, with many Biblical references, like the books of Daniel, Book of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah containing references to the experiences of Jews in Persia. The earliest mention of Jews in Iran comes from the bible, following the forced relocation of the 10 tribes of Israel to the "Land of the Medes" (modern day Western Iran) by the Assyrians. Jews have had a continued presence in Iran since at least the time of Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire, after they were freed from Babylonian captivity.

Today, there are an estimated 300,000–350,000 Jews of full or partial Persian ancestry living predominantly in Israel, with significant communities in the United States and Iran.


Culture and Geography

Iranian Jews are categorized as "Mizrahi" Jews, with a distinct culture and history from Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. They are most culturally similar to Iraqi Jews, Mountain Jews (Azerbaijan), and Bukharan Jews (Central Asia) due to centuries of trade, migration, and the span of previous Persian empires.

Iranian Jews were historically located throughout the country in most major cities and many smaller towns and villages. Most Iranian Jews are are Persian, with Persian being their spoken language as well as the language of their literature and poetry. Until the 20th century, Persian Jews wrote their language using the Hebrew script (Judeo-Persian), and the oldest known example of New-Persian is a Judeo-Persian document found in Western China dating back to the 8th century CE. Of interest to linguists studying the Persian language are the Judeo-Median languages spoken in Jewish communities in Central Iran, who maintained the "Middle Persian" language that has since largely gone extinct.

In addition to Persian Jews, Iran was also home to a sizable Kurdish Jewish community (Kordestan, Kermanshah, and parts of West Azerbaijan Province), and Azerbaijani Jewish community (Azerbaijan Province). These two groups are culturally distinct from Persian Jews, with a significant difference being that the language of these two groups are dialects of Aramaic, known as Hulaula and Lishan Didan respectively.


Recent History

Many existing letters from Iran's Jewish community from the 19th century report that Jewish life in Iran reached a nadir during the Qajar Dynasty (1789-1925) due to widespread persecution, regular harassment, and organized violence. Community leaders report a sharp decrease in population numbers, with many Persian Jews migrating to Jerusalem, Baghdad, and the Russian Empire to escape persecution. While there had been a continuous conversion of Jews to Islam, both voluntary and coerced, since the Arab conquest, the end of the 19th century and early 20th century saw a wave of conversions to Christianity and the new Baha'i Faith in urban centers in Iran. It is not uncommon for Persian Jewish family trees to have descendants with at least one of these four Abrahamic religions represented.

The beginning of the 20th century saw many dramatic changes to Iranian society that improved the status of Iranian Jews. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 was an expression of Iranian nationalism that recognized Jews and other religious minorities as citizens of Iran, granting them a certain level of equality under the law and abolished taxation on religious minorities. Around the same time, the Alliance Israelite Universelle schools were established throughout the country, helping create an educated community that could take part in Iran's modernization lift many families out of poverty. Reza Shah Pahlavi's overthrow of the Qajar Dynasty and subsequent centralization and modernization of the state put an end to the de facto autonomy of the Shiite clergy, further reshaping Iran's traditional and feudal society and allowing greater social mobility of Iranians.

By the 1950s, a significant portion of Iran's Jewish population had moved to Israel, primarily from the rural provinces and the working class. Much of the remaining community migrated from the provinces to Tehran. Many Jews gained notoriety in the larger Iranian community from the 20th century. In the field of academics, this included Solayman Haim, the father of Iran's first bilingual dictionaries, and Moshfegh Hamadani, editor-in-chief of of the widely read newspaper Kayhan. In the world of business, Habib Elghanian made his fortune in developing Iran's plastics industry before eventually building Iran's first modern high-rise and some of the country's first shopping malls, while using his wealth to support philanthropic projects for Iranians of all religions. In the arts, composer and musician Morteza Neydavoud stands out, most famous for the ballad Morgh-e Sahar remains a popular song among Iranians today.

Notable Persian Jews

Biblical

  1. • Daniel
  1. • Esther
  2. • Habakkuk
  3. • Mordechai
  4. • Ezra
  5. • Nehemiah
  6. • Haggai

Pre-modern era

  1. Shoushandokht – Sassanian queen consort
  1. Masarjawaih - 7th century Persian Jewish Physician
  2. Benjamin Nahawandi – Medieval Karaite scholar of the early Middle Ages
  3. Mashallah ibn Athari - 8th century Persian astrologer and astronomer
  4. Sa'ad al-Dawla – Physician, Grad Vizier of Ilkhan Persia
  5. Rashid al-Din Hamadani – Doctor, statesman, writer, and historian
  6. Molana Shahin Shirazi – 14th century Persian poet

Religion

  1. • Eliyahu Bakhshi Doron - former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, descended from Iranian Jewish immigrants on his father's side
  1. • Shmuley Boteach – Famous American Rabbi
  2. • Uriel Davidi – Former chief rabbi of Iran
  3. • Mashallah Golestani-Nejad - Current chief rabbi of Iran
  4. • Yousef Hamadani Cohen – Former chief rabbi of Iran
  5. • Hakham Haim Moreh – Prominent Jewish cleric and scholar in Qajar-era Iran
  6. • Yedidia Shofet – Former chief rabbi of Iran

Politics and military

  1. • David Alliance, Baron Alliance – Iranian born British businessman and a Liberal Democrat politician
  1. • Michael Ben-Ari – Israeli politician and current member of the Knesset
  2. • Eitan Ben Eliyahu – Former Major General in the Israeli Defense Forces
  3. • Jimmy Delshad – Former two-term mayor of Beverly Hills
  4. • Dan Halutz – Former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces
  5. • Shemouel Haim – Former Jewish member of the Majlis of Iran
  6. • Lutfallah Hay – Former Jewish member of the Majlis of Iran
  7. Shamsi Hekmat – Women's rights activist, founder of Iranian Jewish Women's Organization and deputy secretary general of the Women's Organization of Iran
  8. • Anna Kaplan - Councilwoman, Town of North Hempstead
  9. • Shaul Mofaz – Former Israeli Minister of Defense, currently the chairman of the Kadima Party in the Knesset
  10. • Siamak Moreh Sedgh – Jewish member of the Majlis of Iran
  11. • Maurice Motamed – Former Jewish member of the Majlis of Iran
  12. • David Nahai – Former head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
  13. • Abie Nathan – Humanitarian and peace activist
  14. Manouchehr Elyassi – Former Jewish member of the Majlis
  15. Loghman Nehoray – longtime Jewish member of the Majlis of Iran
  16. Moshe Katsav – Former President of Israel
  17. • Haroun Yashayaei – Chairman of the board of the Tehran Jewish Committee and leader of the Tehran Jewish Committee
  18. • Mordechai Zar – Israeli politician and former member of the Knesset

Science and academia

  1. • Shaul Bakhash – Professor of Iranian studies at George Mason University
  1. • Aaron Cohen-Gadol – Neurosurgeon
  2. • Farshid Delshad – Historical-Comparative Linguistics in German
  3. • Avshalom Elitzur – Physicist and philosopher
  4. Soleiman Haim – Iranian lexicographer, translator, playwright and essayist, often called "Iran's Father of the bilingual dictionary".
  5. Habib Levy – Iranian Jewish Historian
  6. Rabi Moshfegh Hamadani – Political journalist and writer, editor in chief of Keyhan
  7. Hakim Nour Mahmoud Nehoray – Doctor at the Qajar court
  8. • Amnon Netzer – Professor of the history and culture of Iranian Jews
  9. • Samuel Rahbar – Discoverer of HbA1C
  10. • David B. Samadi – Expert in robotic oncology
  11. • Homa Sarshar – Journalist, author, activist
  12. Rouhollah Sapir – Physician, founder of Dr. Sapir Hospital in Tehran

Business and economics

  1. • J. Darius Bikoff – Founder and CEO of Energy Brands
  1. Habibollah Elghanayan – Prominent businessman and philanthropist executed by the Islamic Republic
  2. • Ghermezian family – Billionaire shopping mall developers
  3. • Neil Kadisha – Businessman
  4. • Nasser David Khalili – Billionaire property developer and art collector
  5. • Isaac Larian – Chief Executive Officer of MGA Entertainment
  6. Justin Mateen – co-founder and former chief marketing officer of Tinder dating app
  7. • David Merage – Co-founder of Hot Pockets snack food company
  8. • Paul Merage – Co-founder of Hot Pockets snack food company
  9. Nazarian Family - Prominent Iranian-American entrepreneur family
  10. Fred Ohebshalom – Founder of Empire Management Real Estate
  11. • Joseph Parnes – Investment Advisor
  12. • Sean Rad –
  13. • Nouriel Roubini – Economist
  14. Ben Shaoul – Co-founder of Magnum Real Estate Group
  15. • Joel Simkhai - Founder and CEO of Grindr
  16. • Robert Tchenguiz – Co-chairman of Rotch Property Group
  17. • Vincent Tchenguiz – Chairman of Consensus Business Group
  18. • Eli Zelikha –

Art and entertainment

  1. • Dan Ahdoot – Stand-up comedian
  1. • Jonathan Ahdout – Actor
  2. • Menashe Amir – Persian-language broadcaster in Israel
  3. Yossi Banai – Israeli performer, singer, and actor
  4. Aziz Banayan - Prolific Tehran builder
  5. Richard Danielpour – Composer
  6. • Roya Hakakian – Writer
  7. • Rita Jahanforuz – Israeli pop-star
  8. • Mor Karbasi – Singer
  9. • Gina Nahai – Writer
  10. • Morteza Neydavoud – Composer
  11. • Adi Nes – Photographer
  12. • Soleyman Rouhafza - Performance Poet
  13. • Shahram Shiva - Performance Poet
  14. • Dalia Sofer – Writer
  15. • Bahar Soomekh – Actress
  16. • Tami Stronach – Choreographer
  17. • Subliminal (rapper) – Israeli hip-hop singer
  18. • Elie Tahari – High-end fashion designer
  19. • Shaun Toub – Actor
  20. • Elham Yaghoubian- Writer
  21. • Bob Yari – Film producer

Athletics

  1. • Soleyman Binafard – Wrestler
  1. • Janet Kohan-Sedgh – Track and field athlete