The New York Times recently explored the crucial efforts of a Jewish hospital sitting in the center of Tehran.
The piece, which ran Sunday, profiled the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center, a medical site named for a Jewish doctor who died in 1921 while trying to aid typhus patients in Iran. The hospital has operated for more than five decades and is considered “the most prominent” Jewish charity in the city.
As such, the site has become a regular gathering place for Iranian Jews, though it sits across from a Shiite seminary school. And while the Jewish presence is obvious, hospital staff estimate 96 percent of patients are Muslim.
“I speak English, I pray in Hebrew, but I think in Persian. I am Iranian. Iranian-Jewish,” Dr. Ciamak Morsadegh, director of the hospital, told the Times.
The hospital made headlines recently when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani approved $400,000 in government funds to go to the center. Rouhani’s relationship with the Jewish community is a complicated one—he has been heralded as a moderate when compared to past president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but was still a selected favorite by the anti-Zionist Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“We Jews are a part of Iran’s history. What is important is that Mr. Rouhani makes big news out of supporting us. He is showing that we, as a religious minority, are part of this country, too,” Dr. Morsadegh said.
Iran’s Jewish population dwindled considerably following the 1979 revolution—current census statistics put the figure at 9,000, though Iran boasts the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel.