Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews

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© Courtesy of Fowler Museum at UCLA
Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews

North Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095
October 21st, 2012 - March 10th, 2013
Opening: October 21st, 2012 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM

culver city/west la
Wed, Fri-Sun 12-5pm; Thurs 12-8pm


Since ancient times, Iran has been a mosaic of ethnicities, religions, cultures, and languages. This heterogeneity extended to its Jewish communities, which formed distinct cultures within cultures. Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews tells the rich and complex history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities, which dates back nearly 3,000 years since the first Jews exiled from Jerusalem to Babylonia settled in the Persian sphere. The lives of Iranian Jews became difficult under Islamic rule, especially after the 16th-century institution of Shi’ite law. Their history was marked by periods of persecution and legal prohibition as well as by outstanding creative and intellectual achievements. Through archaeological artifacts, impressive illuminated manuscripts, beautiful Judaica and amulets, ceremonial garments, musical instruments, photographs, documentary ephemera and more, the exhibition showcases the dramatic history of Iranian Jews. Light and Shadows also examines contemporary Jewish populations still in Iran as well as in Diaspora communities in Israel and the United States, with an emphasis on Los Angeles’ own large and dynamic Persian Jewish community.

This exhibition was organized by Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Lead sponsor: Y & S Nazarian Family Foundation

Opening Day Community Celebration: Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews: October 21 Free program

An afternoon of art, music, history, and culture!

1–4 pm 
Hello! Shalom! Salam! Art Activities

Welcome the opening of the exhibition Light and Shadows and explore the works on view. As you learn about Jewish values of righteousness, design your very own tzedakah box to collect spare change for causes you believe in. Make a wish for your family as you create your own embossed silver hamsa charm, a sign for protection and good luck that is displayed in homes throughout the world, including Iran and Israel.

2 pm
Fowler OutSpoken Lecture: Nahid Pirnazar on Light and Shadows
: The Tapestry of Iranian Jewish Heritage: Reflections on Historical, Sociocultural and Political Relations

In this opening day program, Nahid Pirnazar (pictured), a lecturer in Iranian Studies at UCLA who teaches the history of Iranian Jews and Judeo-Persian literature, reflects on how Iranian Jews have influenced and been influenced by Iranian culture and identity. Additionally, Pirnazar discusses how, in more recent years, Iranian Jews have continued to balance their attachment to both their religious homeland, Israel, and cultural homeland, Iran, while adjusting to their new environments in the United States and elsewhere.