A second synagogue reported vandalized in southern Iran

Vandals in Shiraz rip Torah scrolls, steal their silver ornaments, throw prayer books in the toilet, and soil prayer shawls and phylacteries

Illustrative: An Iranian Jew prays in a synagogue in Shiraz, Iran. (Public domain/Creative commons)
Illustrative: An Iranian Jew prays in a synagogue in Shiraz, Iran. (Public domain/Creative commons)

A second synagogue has been reported vandalized in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, with attackers damaging Torah scrolls, prayer books and ritual objects.

The city’s Kashi Synagogue was attacked Sunday night, while the Hadash synagogue was attacked Monday afternoon, according to Sam Kermanian, senior adviser to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation, who has been in touch with Jews from Shiraz. The local Jewish community believes the attacks were committed by more than one person, but does not know who perpetrated them.

An earlier report by a member of the Shiraz Jewish community on the vandalism at the Hadash synagogue was broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10 on Wednesday. The community member said the damage was documented by a pair of journalists and three local Jews.

Blurry footage aired by the television channel purported to show the damage in the synagogue.

“Obviously they are scared,” Kermanian told JTA. “They’re not comfortable speaking freely, but overall, life goes on.”

The vandals ripped Torah scrolls, which are written on parchment, as well as some 100 prayer books, some of which were thrown in the toilet. They damaged and “soiled” prayer shawls and tefillin, the leather phylacteries traditionally worn by men during prayers. The attackers also broke glass and stole silver ornaments that adorned the synagogues’ Torah scrolls.

“In light of these clearly anti-Semitic incidents we call upon the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure the protection of all places of worship as well as all members of our community, and to bring the perpetrators of these criminal acts to justice,” read a statement by leaders of the Iranian-American Jewish Federation.

An Iranian Jewish youth group prays at the Rabeezadeh Synagogue in Shiraz in southern Iran, April 12, 2000. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also condemned the attack.

“We are deeply concerned by the reports of the vandalism of the Hadash Synagogue in the Maaleh neighborhood of Shiraz in which several Torah scrolls were desecrated and many prayer books destroyed,” the Jewish group said in a statement.

“We call upon the authorities in Shiraz and the central government in Tehran to take all necessary steps to protect the community and bring the perpetrators to swift justice,” it added.

A member of the local Jewish community told Channel 10 the attack was related to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6.

Trump’s declaration has been condemned by the Islamic Republic, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.

Two years ago, an ancient Torah scroll stolen from an unnamed synagogue in the same city was returned to the local Jewish community after it was found by the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Basij paramilitary unit.

The Jewish community of Shiraz, which today numbers about 2,000, according to Kermanian, has faced adversity before. In 2000, 10 members of the community were sentenced to prison terms for spying for Israel. The US government and Jewish organizations protested the charges and verdict.

Iran had between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews before the 1979 Islamic Revolution but most have since fled, mainly to the United States, Israel and Europe. There are now only about 8,500 left, mostly in Tehran but also in Isfahan and Shiraz, major cities south of the capital.

With one designated member of parliament, Iran’s Jewish community is one of four officially recognized religious minorities. Armenian Christians have two designated MPs, and Assyrian-Chaldeans and Zoroastrians have one each.

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