Judaism is among the oldest religions practiced in Iran and the Biblical Book of Esther contains references to the experiences of the Jews in Persia. Jews have had a continued presence in Iran since the time of Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus invaded Babylon and freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity. They were inmortalized as the Jews of Persia
In the 1839, the Jews of Mashhad, Iran, now known as the Mashhadi
Jews, were coerced into converting to Islam under threat of death.
Mashhad’s muslim ruler had ordered his men to enter the Jewish
homes and the mobs attacked the Jewish Community, burning down
the synagogue, looting homes abducting girls and killing between 30
and 40 people. With knives held to their throats, the Jewish patriarchs
were forced to vocally proclaim their “allegiance” to Islam as it was
agreed upon by the leaders of the community that in order to save the
remaining 2,400 Jews, everyone must convert. Most converted and
stayed in Mashhad, taking in Muslim names, while some left for other
Iranian Jewish communities and to Afghanistan. That day
became known as the Allahdad (“God’s Justice”), the Jews perceived it
as a punishment for their sins. Jews who remained in Mashhad then
began living a double life as Hidden-Jews. On the outside, they acted as
Muslims; their clothes, names, and lifestyles resembled those of their
Iranian neighbors. At home, however, they secretly taught their children
to read Hebrew, lit candles, and welcomed Shabbat. Nearly a century
passed before the Jews started practicing their faith openly with the
coming of the more liberal Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979). After World
War II, most settled in Teheran or Israel, with 4000 moving to the United
States, where they ran successful jewellery and carpet businesses.
These Hidden-Jews are embraced as Halachic Jews.