September 26, 2008 History and Culture of Iranian Jewry are Subject of Two-Day Conference

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Hirad Dinavari (202) 707-4518

The Jews of Iran comprise not only one of the oldest populations of Jews in the world, but also one of the most ancient threads in the diverse fabric of the ancient Iranian community. Beginning with the Achaemenid period (550–330 B.C.) and lasting beyond the emigration of a portion of Iran’s Jewish population to the State of Israel in the 1950s, Jews have had a complex interaction with the Persian state and culture. The rich history of intertwined Jewish and Persian cultures and of Muslim and Jewish Iranians has received little, if any, attention from scholars and other investigators. It remains an enigma in both Jewish and Iranian studies that the Jews of Iran are among the least-studied, least-known subcultures of world Jewry. To begin to address this void in scholarship, the history and culture of Iranian Jewry will be the focus of a two-day conference titled “Iranian Jewry: From Past to Present,” to be held 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2, at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md., and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, at the Library of Congress’s James Madison Building, located at 101 Independence Ave S.E., Washington, D.C. The conference, which is free and open to the public (tickets are not required) is sponsored jointly by the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, and the African and Middle Eastern Division’s Hebraic and Near East Sections at the Library of Congress. For more information, go to The University of Maryland will host sessions titled “Jews and Persians in Ancient Iran,” “Jewish-Persian Relations in the 19th Century” and “Iran and Israel in the World Today.” The Library of Congress will host sessions on “Jews in Medieval Persian Cultures,” “Resources for the Study of Iranian Jewry,” “Jewish Material Culture and Folk Art” and “Jewish Culture in 20th Century Iran.” Speakers include Hirad Dinavari, Library of Congress; Yakov Elman, Yeshiva University; Judith Goldstein, Vassar College; Daniel Levy, The Century Foundation; Miriam Macuch, Free University of Berlin; David Menashri, Tel Aviv University; Vera Moreen, contributing editor, “Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World;” Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council; Peggy Pearlstein, Library of Congress; Jaleh Pirnazar, University of California, Berkeley; Nahid Pirnazar, University of California, Los Angeles; Parvaneh Pourshariati, Ohio State University; Orly Rahimiyan, Ben Gurion University; Evan Rapport, New York University; Shalom Sabar, Hebrew University; Haideh Sahim, Hofstra University; Shaul Shaked, Hebrew University; Maria Subtelny, University of Toronto; and Daniel Tsadik, Hebrew University. In conjunction with the conference, Izra Malakov’s Bukharian Jewish Folklore Ensemble will perform at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2, in the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages and America’s private sector intellectual and cultural creativity in almost all formats. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s award-winning Web site at The Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division ( is the center for the study of some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia.


PR 08-164
ISSN 0731-3527