Vandals said to attack synagogue in Iran, rip up Torah scrolls

Members of the Hadash Synagogue in Shiraz find ruined scriptures, prayer books thrown in toilets; police reportedly investigating

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

Two Torah scrolls were reportedly torn to pieces and prayer books were thrown into toilets in a vandalism attack Sunday night at a synagogue in the Iranian city of Shiraz.

The Yeshiva World News site reported Monday that Iranian police were investigating the incident at the Hadash (“new”) synagogue in the city’s Maaleh neighborhood.

A member of the Shiraz Jewish community told Israel’s Channel 10 the damage was documented by a pair of journalists and three local Jews.

“The rioters tore a prayer book and Torah scrolls, blew up lamps and broke the glass windows,” he said.

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

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations 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.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the vandalism.

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 Guards Corps Basij paramilitary unit.

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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