Mashhadi Jews in New-York
Abridged from Hadassah Magazine
The 4,000 Mashhadi who originated from the city of Mashhad
in Iran live now in a New- York suburb like one big family.
The older generation still speaks their mother tongue "Farsi".
People are more materialistic than they used to be. They
are judged by their appearance. The girls these days prefer
to marry someone with a profession better than boys who
work with their fathers. They maintained their closeness
in marrying into the family and they keep kosher.
Worldwide there are 15,000 Mashhadis. The majority, about
10,000 live in Israel.
Most families in Great Neck, get together on Friday evening
for Shabbat dinner to keep their tradition. On Shabat, like
other Iranian Jews, they still auction off blessings over
the Torah to raise funds for Israel.
Mashhhadis have resisted absorption because of their unique
history. They trace their ancestors to Iranian Jews who
were forced to convert to Islam early in the 19th century.
They became modern- day Crypto- Jews, practising Judaism
more than three generations.
Their double life started in 1839 when mobs attacked the
Jewish Community in Mashhad, burning down the synagogue,
looting homes abducting girls and killing between 30 and
Leaders from the Jewish Community agreed that mass conversion
was the only way to save the remaining Jews, numbering about
2,400. Nearly all converted to Islam and took on Muslim
names. That day became known as the Allahdad (God’s
The Jews saw it as punishment for their sins.
Some of the Jews escaped to other Iranian Jewish Communities
and to Afghanistan.
Those who remained in Mashhad became practising Muslims
but secretly they practiced Judaism and kept kosher home.
After nearly a century of living as secret Jews, they began
to practice their faith in the open under the rule of the
Pahlavi dynasty (1925- 1979).
After World War II, most of them settled in Teheran or in
Many of them, who settled in the States, worked as jewellers
or in carpet business and became very successful.
The commercial district in Great Neck has been reshaped
to serve the needs of Mashhadies and other Iranian Jews.
They have kosher butchers, grocery stores, restaurants and
others to cater to Iranian customs and taste.
Many of the young generation studied in ultra- Orthodox
Yeshivas. The more observant group has formed its own congregation,
Moshhadis left an impression on those out of their ‘circle’
that they are a very united community.
Another challenge is genetic rather than cultural. The Mashhadis,
like other Iranian Jews, are susceptible to genetic disorders
because of the high rate of in- marriage in such a small,
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