Made possible through the
generous support of


Houman Sarshar

Houman Sarshar, PhD, is an independent scholar, Consulting Editor of Judeo-Persian studies for the Encyclopedia Iranica, a member of the University Seminar Series at Columbia University, and the Director of Publications at the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History. He is the co-editor of three volumes of "The Contemporary History of Iranian Jews"; a contributing author to the "Encyclopedia Iranica"; and editor of "Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews" (Los Angeles, 2002). He is presently collaborating as Guest Associate Curator with The Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatefutsot) in Tel Aviv on an extensive exhibit on the Jews of Iran, which is expected to open in December 2010.

My Big Fat Jewish Iranian Wedding

Global History and Culture, Ritual and Prayer, Teen Approved

This presentation will discuss the details and rituals of the traditional seven-day long Jewish-Iranian wedding festivities. Other life cycle rituals will also be discussed. The discussions will also explore the impact of the dominant Shiite culture on aspects of Jewish-Iranian life cycle rituals and eventually examine how the move to the United States has introduced new accents to these traditional festivities.

A Millennium of Oppression: Life as an "Impure" Jew Among Iran's Shiite Majority

Global History and Culture

With the arrival of Islam in Iran ca. 650 CE, various restrictions were placed on the dhimmi (People of the Book) communities. By 1500 CE and the official declaration of Shiite Islam as the dominant creed of Islam in Iran, these restrictions took on absurd and generally abusive dimensions with respect to the Jewish communities living throughout the land. Many communities vanished through forced conversion, and those who survived endured the harshest of living conditions. Many among them, however, would go on to make invaluable contributions to the development of Iranian culture. This presentation will discuss the concept of religious impurity in Shiite Islam as it pertained to Iranian Jews, and explore its consequences.

From Babylon to Beverly Hills

Global History and Culture, Teen Approved

This exciting presentation will show you all the highlights of the history of Jews in Iran from the time of the Diaspora until today. You will learn how this largest and oldest community of Jews in the Middle East has impacted the history of Judaism as well as the development of many facets of Iranian arts and culture. The presentation is aimed at giving participants a well rounded sense of this unique branch of the extensive Jewish family throughout the world and help you better understand many of the key features of the Jewish Iranian community now living in Southern California.

Jewish in Iran; Iranian in LA

Global History and Culture

Jewish? Iranian? Persian? American? Jewish-Iranian? Persian Jew? Iranian-American? American-Iranian? Sephardic Iranian-American? Mizrahi American-Iranian? Oy! Participants will be encouraged to add more questions. Maybe together we’ll find an answer before the hour is up! If not, we’ll at least walk away with a better sense of the why the questions linger.