Iranian Jewish Culure
Dr. Loghman Nehorai
Jewish Representatives to the Parliament

Dr. Loghman Nehorai


Loghman Nehorai was born in 1882 C.E. to a religious Jewish family of Tehran. His father, Hakim Ayoub “Job” was a renowned doctor of the city, while his ancestor Chacham Hakim Nehorai, a.k.a. Nour Mahmoud or Nourol-Hokama, i.e. “The Light of the Doctors”, was a doctor of the Court of Nasseraddin Shah Qajar and a founder of acupuncture in Iran. Loghman Nehorai received his elementary and high school education at the Alliance Israélite “Ettehad” of Tehran, while he studied the Jewish religious law or halachah with the elder Chacham Hakim Nehorai, from whom he also learned the acupuncture. He graduated from high school having mastered the Hebrew and French languages, and he went on to the famed Darol-Fonoon School to study medicine. He graduated from Darol-Fonoon a year into the Constitutional Period.

Dr. Loghman Nehorai officially began his social and philanthropic activities with the Hebra, i.e. the original Jewish Committee of Tehran. Later on, in the year 1939, as the members of the Hebra changed its name from Bet Sefer to Tehran Jewish Association, they also formed at once the first Board of Directors for the organization. At that point, Dr. Loghman Nehorai was appointed the President of the Board of Directors of Tehran Jewish Association, whereas the treasury of the Association was assigned to Dr. Enayatollah Montakhab.

Before then, however, the talk of elections for the second National Parliamentary began to travel in government circles. Upon the request and support of the Jewish Committee or Bet Sefer, the forebear of Tehran Jewish Association, Dr. Mirza Loghman Nehorai registered as a candidate for the Iranian Jewish seat in the Second National Parliament. In 1909 C.E., the 24th of Aban 1288 of the Persian Calendar, he won the majority vote of his constituency and went on to the Parliament as the Jewish Community Representative, a position that he would hold at first for the following two years.

Throughout his tenure, Dr. Loghman Nehorai remained an Independent member of the Parliament. Altogether, for three decades, whether as the acting President of Tehran Jewish Association or as a high ranking member of the Parliament, through his intelligence, foresight and wise policies, he took many effective steps to advance the cultural and social interests of the society. Also shortly afterwards, given his profession, he managed to establish friendly relations with the state, religious and military figures, and to earn himself particular respect among the Iranian statesmen as one of the outstanding figures of the Parliament.

He was largely a conservative, which may explain why progress in solving the evident problems of the community was at times interrupted. Yet, at the end, by his demonstrated political skills and high intelligence, he succeeded to present most of his concerns and the legitimate demands of the Jewish community before the Parliament, and have them acted upon under the umbrella of the Constitution. These demands included some of the basic human rights and privileges that for centuries the Jewish people had been deprived of.

With the rise of the Pahlavi dynasty, the Iranian religious minorities gradually began to gain more of their freedoms. Thenceforth, like the majority of their Iranian compatriots, they could hold government jobs, serve in the military, have representatives in the Parliament, and altogether be legally entitled to all social and civil rights and privileges.

The bulk of Dr. Loghman Nehorai’s parliamentary efforts took place during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, particularly from the Fourth Parliament onward. Among his most important achievements in the Parliament, we may recall the following:

(*) Toward the beginning of the reign of Reza Shah, a group of self-proclaimed mullahs caused trouble for the Jewish community of Shiraz, ordering Jews to wear “Jalli Hats”, an invention of Abol-Hassan Lari, to distinguish them from Muslims in the public. The Shirazi Jews telegraphed their complaint immediately to Dr. Loghman Nehorai, who brought their grievance to the Speaker of the Parliament, asking the government to address this urgent matter. The Speaker of the Parliament responded without hesitation, sending the Representative of Shiraz to his city on a mission to end the affair at once.

(*) Before long, a group of the merchants of the Bazaar demanded that Jews be forbidden to own stores in the Bazaar, or to occupy the space above those of the gentiles, for they argued that Muslims shouldn’t be standing lower than a Jew. Upon learning of the matter, Dr. Loghman Nehorai pointed out that certain laws applied equally to all Iranian citizens, that all people were equal before the law, and that no person could be forbidden to practice their legitimate business, or be fired from their job. As such, he asked for immediate action by the government to end and prevent any such acts of harassment.

(*) In another case, Dr. Loghman Nehorai addressed the taxation issues that troubled the Jews of Iran. Too often, during the annual season of tax collection, the Iranian Jews were asked to pay an extra amount as “Jazieh”, apparently under the law and supposedly for the purposes of the “census”. And quite often, as the result of this discriminatory act, many Jews were harassed, and even some of the impoverished members of the community were arrested. Dr. Loghman Nehorai, assisted by a few of the other members of the Parliament, succeeded to pass a bill in the Parliament that ended all such disturbing side-products of the law.

(*) The laws passed by the Parliament required that all incidents of marriage, divorce, the registration of will, and their likes, were supposed to be handled by the registered offices designated by the Judiciary and helmed by a Muslim person. As such, matters involving religious issues and handled by Muslim directors often undermined the religious laws of the Iranian minorities. This also caused much trouble for the minorities, since the Muslim directors of these notaries didn’t know the details of minority religious codes. A series of meetings were arranged between Dr. Loghman Nehorai and Arbab Kay-khosrow, the Zoroastrian Representative, and Mirza Yaness, the Armenian Representative, with the Minister of Justice as the Referee. Following these talks, a decision was solicited from Reza Shah, and a new law was passed in the Parliament, according to which the Jewish, Zoroastrian and Armenian minorities were excluded from the aforementioned general civil laws.

(*) Conversions among the religious minorities led in part to problems of inheritance. Traditionally, thereto when a convert to Islam died, his wealth and real-estate properties would all go to his survivors, provided the recipient converted to Islam, too. Otherwise, in the presence of the local “akhond” or “Muslim cleric”, they walked into the dead person’s home, and based on an order (and if necessary) by force, they confiscated his or her entire property. Dr. Loghman Nehorai, with the collaboration of the Zoroastrian and Armenian Representatives and a number of other enlightened and liberal members of the Parliament, with the cooperation of the Minister of Justice, and with the support of the ruling government, brought a bill to the Parliament that thenceforth made it against the law to generate such hardships for the people.

(*) During the Fourth Parliament, among his many efforts, Dr. Loghman Nehorai had a bill ratified to allow the Jewish draft soldiers and higher ranking officers to take a leave of absence for the Jewish Holidays. It should be noted that as his initial correspondence and several meetings with the heads of the military had produced no results, he brought his request directly to the attention of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Thus, although according to the recent laws, most official holidays of the country had been voided, Reza Shah decreed that Jews serving the flag could take leaves of absence on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the first two days of Sukkoth, and the eight days of Passover.

In 1911 C.E., Dr. Nehorai won the elections for the Third Parliament, and he held his seat until 1915, when due to major transformative political events, the Parliament entered a long period of Interruption. In 1921, as the Parliament reopened, Dr. Nehorai won the elections for the Fourth Parliament, and thus, he served for two more years as the Representative of the Jewish Community in the National Parliament of Iran.

Despite his best efforts, Dr. Loghman Nehorai did not seem to fulfill some of the expectations of the Iranian Jews, leaving a group of his constituency unhappy with his services during his three terms so far as their representative in the Parliament. In the meantime, Mr. Haim was gaining considerable fame as a young and energetic contestant. Thus, in 1923, with the growing public hope tied to Mr. Haim, Dr. Loghman Nehorai lost the elections for the Fifth Parliament, leaving his seat for the next two years to Shemouel “Samuel” Haim as the Representative of the Jewish community.

In 1926, on the advice of Dr. Eghbal and with the support of Reza Shah, Dr. Loghman Nehorai offered his candidacy for the Sixth Parliament; and he was elected by the Iranian Jewish community to represent them once more in the Parliament. Altogether, from the 2nd to the 13th Parliament, except for the 5th Parliament, Dr. Loghman Nehorai would serve a total of 11 terms in the Parliament as the Representative of the Jewish community.

After his reelection to the Sixth Parliament until the end of the Thirteenth Parliament when he would relinquish his seat, no fundamental change took place in his policies, an issue that led to certain disagreements between him and a number of prominent leaders of the Iranian Jewish community. His opponents claimed that Dr. Loghman Nehorai, due to his profession as a medical doctor and a high-ranking surgeon, could not spend much of his time on representing his constituency and to address the demands of the Jews as fully as he should.

It should be admitted that as the first official representative of the Iranian Jews in the ruling government, not only as a member of the country’s first parliament, but as someone with any direct official role in any regime especially since the emergence of Islam in Iran, Dr. Loghman Nehorai carried a crucial and dangerous burden on his shoulders. He stepped forward as a philanthropist and social activist at a time when the world in the first decades of the 20th century was witness to some colossal changes and transformations in various cultural, social and political dimensions. The birth and the rapid progress of modern science and technology symbolized by the proliferation of inventions; major changes in the political system and the geography of several countries; the culmination of many political, social and economic crises; the development of two World Wars and their associated processes in the Asian countries, especially in Iran; the consequent fall of the Qajar Dynasty and the fundamental changes in the reign of Pahlavis; the continued development of the Constitutional Movement; besides concerns over public health and general hygiene; not to mention the perpetual task of confronting prejudice and anti-Semitism among the dogmatic sectors of the society; and a host of other social problems at the time — these were each, one way or another, a threat to the survival of the Jewish community.

Dr. Loghman Nehorai,as the Representative of a minority sector in the Parliament, and thus deprived of sufficient power and authority, succeeded still to warm the hearts of his constituency and encourage them onward by the virtue of being a statesman at the helm of the Jewish community. Moreover, his actions proved themselves to be some turning points in providing cultural and religious protection for the Jews of Iran.

In 1941 C.E., Reza Shah Pahlavi abdicated power, transferred the helm of the monarchy to his son Prince Mohammad-Reza, and went into exile. About that time, Dr. Loghman won the parliamentary elections again with the support of the government, thus holding his seat for another two years in the Thirteenth Parliament. However, by then the increasing grievances of his opponents and dissatisfaction with his years-long actions as the Jewish Representative “who had failed to fulfill the demands of his fellow Jews”, took more serious dimensions. No doubt, the personal problems of a large number of Jews of Tehran and other cities in dealing with government offices, as well as conflicts and disputes with the Muslim people, these were too many to be handled by a single man, constrained by time and short of the adequate power to resolve all such issues and to satisfy everybody’s demands. And a large number of people were just tired of his yield and asked for a freshly new and energetic face to represent them in the Parliament. As such, in 1943, Dr. Nehorai lost his seat in the elections for the Fourteenth Parliament to his opponent Morad Arieh, yielding his seat to the contestant after having served a total of 11 terms at the institution.

Following his most recent loss in the elections, Dr. Loghman Nehorai retired himself officially and avoided all state and social matters of the Jewish community, dedicating most of his time instead to medicine.

Dr. Loghman Nehorai died in the year 1952 C.E., the 10th of Tebet 5712 of the Jewish calendar, at the age of 70.