About the Exhibition
The Story of Iran and the Jews
-Exhibition closed -
This exhibition tells the story of the Jewish community in Iran – an ancient narrative that has been transmitted from one generation to the next.
The story of Iranian Jewry, like the history of any group of people, can be told in countless ways. We have sought to tell this story, for the first time, in the form of an exhibition: to display the history and unique cultural experience of this community, and to present a narrative that will appear clear and compelling both to its members, who are intimately familiar with its traditions, and to visitors who know little or nothing about the Jews of Iran.
At a time when, for most part, Iran is associated in the public sphere with warfare and with a sense of great apprehension, it is especially interesting to direct our gaze to the cultural connection between the Jewish (and even the Israeli) sphere and the Persian sphere. From this perspective, we can examine the heterogeneous character of Iran, which has always constituted a mosaic of different ethnic communities, religions, cultures and languages.
This heterogeneity was also characteristic of the country's Jewish communities, which formed distinct cultures within cultures. These communities had much in common with one another and with their non-Jewish neighbors, yet were each also defined by unique traits. For a period of over 3,000 years, since the first Jews exiled from Jerusalem to Babylonia settled in this region, the lives of Iranian Jews vacillated between social and cultural marginalization and between integration into the complex and fascinating Persian sphere. Their existence was marked by periods of persecution and by legal prohibitions, as well as by outstanding creative and intellectual contributions. This exhibition narrates a history of great cultural achievements, alongside moments of great difficulty, and even of forced conversion to Islam; moments of prosperity and periods of concealment, oppression and even accusations of impurity – a story of light and shadows.
The exhibition features authentic objects, documents and images that reflect the rich and fascinating world of Iranian Jews. Their joint display reveals the mechanisms of representation employed by Iranian Jews, and the desire inherent to all human beings to forge a community, and to create a cultural life as well as physical artifacts capable of silently telling their story.
We have chosen to present historical artifacts alongside contemporary artworks created by members of this community. The objects are grouped thematically rather than chronologically, and thus delineate a remarkable, and at times associative, connection between historical and contemporary forms of visual expression. These connections reveal a long-standing tradition of creative endeavors, and complete the portrait of a unique and remarkable community while revealing something of the personal experience of its members.
Sponsored by the Y & S Nazarian Family Foundation