Between Iran and Zion: Jewish Histories of Twentieth-Century Iran (Stanford University Press, 2019) by Lior Sternfeld presents the first systematic study of the rich and variegated history of Jews in twentieth-century Iran. Lior begins his intervention by identifying a “lachrymose historical narrative” that has predominated modern Jewish history and framed it as a “homogenously tragic” history across the board, resulting in the privileging of Zionist historiography in Jewish historical writing and erased the complexity of Jewish histories that don’t neatly fit that narrative.
Throughout his book, Lior complicates the narrative by showing how various Iranian Jewish communities exerted the agency to assert their space in Iran's social, cultural, and political milieu, whether it was through intellectual production or political activism. Lior explores Iran’s Jews in relation to local politics, urbanity, immigration, nationalism, leftism, Zionism, and more, demonstrating the multivocality and multivalence of these communities, and ultimately illuminating how deeply entwined Iranian Jews have been to the country of Iran itself.
Asad Dandia is a graduate student of Islamic Studies at Columbia University.
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