Saturday, February 9, 2019

Lior B. Sternfeld's "Between Iran and Zion"

Lior B. Sternfeld is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Penn State.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Between Iran and Zion: Jewish Histories of Twentieth-Century Iran, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Between Iran and Zion: Jewish Histories of Twentieth-Century Iran ironically takes me back to the beginning of my research. This page presents the bylaws of the Association of Jewish-Iranian Intellectuals (AJII). This association was crucial in building the alliances between the Jewish community and the revolutionary forces before 1979 in Iran. If a reader opened the book in page 99, he could find details about the operation that the Jewish leadership ran with one of Iran's top clerics, Ayatollah Sayyed Mahmud Taleqani. In this operation, the Jewish Dr. Sapir hospital in Tehran, together with Taleqani, had rescue teams that roamed in the city during demonstrations and picked up wounded protesters so they will not have to be taken to the other state hospitals in the city. The state hospitals had to turn in protesters to the hands of the notorious secret police, the SAVAK.

I think that this page gives a good idea of what the book is about. We do not tend to think about the Jews in Iran in the second half of the twentieth century as a minority with any political agency, let alone in revolutionary movements. The chapter on the revolution (in which page 99 is found) tells the story of the second and third generation of politicized Jewish communities. Communities that sought and embraced multiple identities and allegiances that did not interfere with each other, but instead complemented one another. Iranian Jews saw themselves as Iranians, and at the same time could be nationalists, communists, and even Zionists. All depends on the context of any given situation and various interpretations of each concept and a highly nuanced manner.
Learn more about Between Iran and Zion at the Stanford University Press website.

Writers Read: Lior Sternfeld.

--Marshal Zeringue