We enjoying total religious freedom: Iran’s top rabbi

TEHRAN, Jun. 22 (MNA) – Regarding the situation of the Jewish community in the country, Rabbi Yehuda Garami, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran said that there is total religion freedom in Iran.

The chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran Rabbi Yehuda Garami explained about their daily lives and why he paid a condolence visit to the family of assassinated Lt. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an interview with Al-Monitor.

“I estimate that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 Jews in the country. Most of them live in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, and Kermanshah, 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.”

According to the rabbi, Jewish religious activities take place openly, without any restrictions. He is personally responsible for providing kosher food to those groups that want it.

"We even have some excellent kosher restaurants, which are under round-the-clock supervision by a kashrut [dietary law] supervisor," he said. 

Meanwhile, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus has severely affected the international community and created many economic problems, even for developed countries, Garami can take credit for the fact that the coronavirus crisis barely affected Iran’s Jewish community. It certainly didn’t have the same effect in Iran as it did in other Jewish communities around the world, which suffered severely because of the pandemic.

One of the most interesting issues is the relationship between this small community and the local Muslim population. “Our Muslim neighbors highly respect us as Jews living in Iran,” he said.

“Unlike in Europe, for example, we do not have guards outside our synagogues and schools, and our personal safety is excellent. Most of the population respects us and lives in peace with us. What is important is that in Iran there is no such concept as organized attacks on Jews.”

In January, Garami paid a highly publicized condolence call to the family of Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States. 

He said, “First of all, I wasn’t the only one going. Representatives of all the religions in Iran participated in the visit, including representatives of the Christian faith. They wanted to stress that this is not a war of religion, and  no one should think that this is a war between the different religions.”

He noted, “What the Western world does not fully understand is that Soleimani is an Iranian national hero. He is really admired in our country. He showed great bravery in the Iran-Iraq War. Then, in the war in Syria, it was Soleimani who defeated the ISIL, and this was very important to the people of Iran. Our visit, as representatives of all the religions, was to respect his memory after everything he did on behalf of Iran."

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