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Khomeini Tries to Convince Iranian Jews to Remain in the Country

May 16, 1979
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In an apparent effort to assuage the fears of Iran’s Jewish community, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini met for an hour yesterday with six Jewish leaders. During the meeting, which was held at Khomeini’s headquarters in the Moslem holy city of Qom, the Ayatollah urged Iran’s 50,000 Jews to remain in the country, Radio Teheran reported.

Radio Teheran said that Khomeini told the delegation, which included Teheran Chief Rabbi Yededioh Shofet. that the new Islamic regime in Iran will follow the principle that “Islam has always protected the rights of all minorities.” Khomeini urged Jews to remain in Teheran and “continue working for the country’s prosperity.”

The radio report also said that the Jewish delegation denounced “Zionist plots against Iran” and pledged their loyalty to the new regime which in effect is headed by Khomeini. Radio Teheran said the delegation informed the Iranian religious leaders that Iranian Jews are “loyal and faithful citizens.”

Observers here said the meeting was arranged to calm the Jewish community following the execution last week of one of its leaders, Habib Elkanian. It was also seen here as a means of attempting to reassure public opinion in the United States and West Europe where Elkanian’s execution had been protested.

(In Jerusalem, a memorial service was held yesterday for Elkanion. President Yitzhak Navon, addressing the large congregation which thronged the Hechal Shlomo religious center here, said it was still “up to us” to make efforts to rescue Iranian Jewry — and up to them to decide to leave the country and come to Israel. “There can be no forcible aliya,” Navon said. “The lesson of recent events should be clear, however. Their safety lies in aliya.” The service was attended by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovodia Yosef.)

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