Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News December 2006

December 26, 2006

Dear Board Member,

All of you are aware of the nefarious conference on the Holocaust organized by the Iranian government in Teheran aimed at the denial of the Holocaust. Two Iranian Jews living in Teheran, Arash Abaie and his sister, Elham Abai, were interviewed on America's National Public Radio on December 17th about the conference and the condition of Jews in Iran today.

Below are excerpts from their interview:

Announcer: "The talk in the Abaie household is of this week's gathering of Holocaust deniers organized by Iran's government and its controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Elham Abaie says the conference was unacceptable."

Ms. Elham Abaie: "I know that Holocaust is a reality, that everybody in the world accepted that, and there are so many documents about it, and there are so many survivors. So holding this conference is, I think, is not a good idea."

Announcer: "This is not a new issue for the Abaie family. Several years ago, Arash Abaie wrote about the Holocaust in a Jewish publication. At that time, government officials challenged his article and told him to stop writing about the Holocaust. Arash has been to Germany and has met Holocaust survivors who carry their identity numbers from the death camps tattooed on their arms. This issue for Iran did not originate with President Ahmadinejad, Arash says."

Mr. Abaie: "We are familiar with these opinions for many years ago, maybe five or six years ago. But Mr. Ahmadinejad has announced these sentences loudly and internationally. Wiping out Israel from the map of the world and denying the Holocaust is new for the world, not for Iranian Jews."

Announcer: "Arash points out that Ahmadinejad's remark about wiping Israel off the map was actually a quote taken from remarks by the Islamic Republic's first leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, some 25 years ago. But Ahmadinejad's use of the Holocaust issue and his constant tirades against Israel have a political purpose, Arash believes."

Mr. Abaie: "They want to divert the world opinion about Iranian problems, especially nuclear program, to somewhere else. They want to have an alter-enemy who helps them to forget their internal problems, like economical, social and political. They feel that, okay, we have so many enemies, and we should be united and forget our internal problems and think about Zionism and U.S.A. and so and so..."

Announcer: "Among his various activities, Arash teaches the Hebrew language to other Jews. A few months ago, he was called by some government officials who told him to stop teaching Hebrew, so for the time being, he has put his Hebrew classes on hold."

For your information, Arash was the first fellow from Iran to participate in the Foundation's twelfth Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Sweden in 2003. His sister participated in the fourteenth Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Uruguay in 2004. Five other young Iranian Jews attended Nahum Goldmann Fellowship programs in the past.

Arash, the cultural affairs director of the Teheran Jewish community, is multi-talented Jewishly, teaching religious subjects, including Hebrew, in the Jewish high-school and serving as chazzan at his synagogue. Arash is deeply committed to the training of Jewish educators and leaders for the dwindling Jewish population in Iran. His sister, Elham, is the editor of Teheranís Jewish Community's magazine.

Both initiated and were the main organizers of the mini-Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Teheran, in the fall of 2005 in which all Iranian alumni of the program participated together with eighteen other Iranian Jews.

We take great pride in the profound courage and deep commitment of Arash and Elham Abaie. They are the twenty-first century counterparts of the Maccabean spirit, which Jews joyously celebrated this week around the world, and noble examples for young Jewish leaders globally.

Click here to hear the entire recorded interview.

Warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President