Iranian Jews Chief Rabbi Youssef Hamadani Cohen has died at 98

Tehran , 1 April-2014( AsiaNews): Youssef Hamadani Cohen, the spiritual leader of the small Jewish community in Iran died three days ago after many years of illness. The news was only reported by state media yesterday. He was the head of the Iranian Jewish community from 1994 to 2006 . He suffered from Alzeihmers. Discreet freedom for the Jewish community, which has schools, a library, a hospital, but whose members cannot aspire to high public office . New hopes with Hassan Rouhani .

Iranian Jews Chief Rabbi Youssef Hamadani Cohen has died at 98

Iranian Jews Chief Rabbi Youssef Hamadani Cohen has died at 98
Image credit: AFP file photo

Cohen became Chief Rabbi in 1994, but stepped down from the direct management of the affairs of the community in 2006, having been struck by Alzeihmers. He was approximately 100 years old when he died and was buried two days ago. His successor is Mashallah Golestani Nejad .

The Jewish community has been present in Iran for centuries. According to a 2011 census, currently there are between 8750 and 20 thousand members, spread throughout Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. Before the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini there were 80 to 100 thousand.

The Jewish community is a recognized minority in Iran, along with Christians and Zoroastrians. The Jews also have a representative in parliament (currently Siamak Moreh Sedgh ) and are well integrated into the Shiite majority society, although they cannot aim to fill high profile positions in public office .

The community runs schools, a library, and a hospital in Tehran, partly funded by public money.

President Hassan Rouhani’s election last June has eased some recent tensions (see photo) . Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continuously launched accusations against Israel – threatening to wipe it off the map – and has always claimed that the Holocaust was a “myth” fabricated by the West and the “Jewish lobby”.

A few months after his election last September, Rouhani sent his best wishes to the Jewish community for the Jewish New Year, as did the Foreign Minister Javad Zarif . Both have also condemned the Holocaust.