By now, Baltimore’s Persian Jews – with their exotic pink shul on Park Heights Avenue – are a familiar part of the community. Like previous groups – the Russians, the Yekkes, and the Holocaust survivors – who escaped difficult circumstances and made their homes in Baltimore, the Persians add a unique and colorful flavor to our diverse community.
Jews have lived in Persia (modern Iran) since before the time of the Second Temple. Their arrival in Baltimore was a “fluke” (also known as “hashgacha”). That is, it wasn’t exactly planned that way. During the tranquil days of the Shah, Rabbi Naftali Neuberger, zt”l, had initiated a program whereby contingents of college-age men would come to Ner Israel yeshiva on student visas to get rabbinic training. They would then return to Iran, where high-level Jewish education was lacking, to bolster Jewish life. Before the second half of the plan could be implemented, however, the Iranian revolution of 1979 changed everything. Those who were in Baltimore stayed, and many others fled their ancestral home following the violent regime change.