Iranian Jewish Culure
Morad Arieh
Jewish Representatives to the Parliament

Morad Arieh

Morad Arieh was born in 1898 C.E., 1277 of the Persian calendar, to a religious Jewish family of Kashan, Iran. His father, Chacham Rafael Arieh was among the clerical figures of the city. The young Morad received his elementary education at the Alliance Israélite “Ettehad” of Kashan, all the while receiving his Jewish studies, including the Torah and other Judaical principles and traditions at his father’s seminary and those of the other spiritual figures. Thus, still a teenager, he was licensed to perform the shechita or “the kosher slaughter” of the animals.

Before long and decided by his parents, Morad Arieh left for the northern Iranian city of Rasht to live with his elder brother, Yahyah Arieh, where he could benefit from more opportunities than his hometown could offer. Besides, he could work there at his brother’s fabric store, even as he might further his education.

His enthusiasm for work made him spend most of his time on the business. Having achieved remarkable success at work, he soon opened his own fabric and garments shop.

Morad Arieh had an unusual gift for foreign languages, so far as while in Rasht, he learned and spoke Russian quite well, a skill that brought him more customers from those who visited Iran from its northern neighbor. Shortly afterwards, having earned the required experience in the field, and intent on expanding his business initiatives, he left from the harbor city of Pahlavi for Russia and onward to the major commercial centers of Europe. Despite his young years, he learned much about the textile trade with the European countries, especially with England and Italy. And soon enough, he had managed to secure himself a significant niche in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran as an importer of textile merchandise.

During his business trips to and from Tehran, Morad Arieh met Aghdas, the daughter of the Yaz-hari family, and the two got married in 1919 C.E., 1298 of the Persian calendar. The couple would bring three sons and four daughters to the world.

In 1927 C.E., Morad Arieh began his official involvement in the affairs of the society, when he became a member of the Tehran City Council. During a meeting organized by the Council’s board of directors and attended by no less than Reza Shah, Morad Arieh answered the Pahlavi King’s questions regarding the living conditions of the Jewish people, particularly those in the Oudlajan Neighborhood, a.k.a. “the Tehran ghetto”. He let Reza Shah know that most Jews lived in the Mahalleh, i.e. the Cyrus Avenue, where they lacked proper living conditions and facilities, they could not freely move about to resettle in the other parts of Tehran, and they could not do real-estate business.

Immediately, by the order of Reza Shah, certain facilities were provided so that Jews could purchase homes as they wished and do real-estate anywhere in Tehran. Consequently, Jews bought homes in the Hassan-Abad, Agha Sheikh Hadi and other areas of the northern Tehran, and they grew active in the field of real-estate.

Morad Arieh spent most of his time doing business with the European countries and the United States, through which he earned himself much fame and popularity, but also special credibility, both inside and outside the borders. During his American trips, he spoke extensively with Isaac Shalom, the head of the Otzar Ha-Torah, New York, who agreed to open an Iranian branch of the organization in Tehran to be led by Rabbi Levy. Arieh further succeeded to invite a high-ranking figure of the British aviation and the head of the British Petroleum, both Jewish, to visit Tehran for a series of economic talks, a move which opened a new chapter in the economic relations of the two countries.

Besides his extensive commercial engagements as a successful merchant, Morad Arieh was also quite involved in social pursuits. He was very well familiar with the English, French, Italian and Hebrew languages, and as a politically astute, skilled and farsighted figure, he shortly befriended numerous political and military figures of the state. Over the course of four decades, given his earned credibility and influence across the government circles, including the Royal Court, he would peacefully resolve countless problems that faced the Jewish community. He was further instrumental in bringing about a colossal social transformation to how the Muslim Iranians perceived and judged the minority Jewish community, thence helping them begin to see their compatriots through more respecting eyes.

The year 1944 C.E., 1322 of the Persian calendar, witnessed some major historical transformations in Iran. Having reached their peak, the flames of WWII had begun to gradually subside. Iran was still occupied by the Allied forces. Reza Shah had been exiled, and his Crown Prince Mohammad Reza had been at the helm of the country for the past two years. On February the 26th, 1944, Morad Arieh defeated his opponent, Dr. Loghman Nehorai in the Parliamentary elections, and thus, by receiving the majority vote of the Iranian Jewish community, he won a seat at the Fourteenth Parliament, undertaking a critical responsibility in those special circumstances as the representative of the Jewish community in the National Parliament.

No doubt, Morad Arieh’s positive attributes were as effective in his commercial achievements as they were in his social and political success. He had a good memory and an inviting social personality. He was polite, generous, poised, and astute in behavior at all times, especially when he was to establish connections with the high-ranking figures of the country, such as the statesmen, Parliamentary personalities, and especially members of the Royal Family, the First Person of the country in particular. Altogether, these qualities had led him to some wonderful achievements. Meanwhile, the Jewish community was in disarray and dissatisfied with the work product of Dr. Loghman Nehorai’s efforts at the Parliament, and the situation gave them a strong reason to choose Arieh to the Fourteenth Parliament. Consequently, Morad Arieh won his first term in the Parliament, a position that he would hold from 1944 to 1946. At the same time, he was also appointed as the President of the Tehran Jewish Association, and he took over its responsibilities.

Awhile earlier, during the ministry of Esmaeil Mar’at, the Office of Endowments had confiscated an old Jewish cemetery on Sepah Avenue, besides an abandoned piece of land opposite the cemetery. For a long while, no body had been interred in that cemetery, and it was deemed a public property of the Tehran Jewish Association. Among his significant achievements in the National Parliament, Morad Arieh managed to receive retribution from the Office of Endowments in return for the confiscation.

With persistent efforts, Morad Arieh finally succeeded to repossess the old cemetery, which by then had been put aside as the site of a future Military School, and to receive a sum of money from the government in return for the cemetery and the piece of land its opposite on Sepah Avenue. The said money was deposited into the account of Tehran Jewish Association, and it became the first budget of the Association.

Shortly thereafter, through the efforts of the Jewish community philanthropists particularly Rouhollah Monasebian, and by the engineer Jahangir Banayan’s design and supervision, a commercial building with several stores was built opposite the Military School, formerly the old Jewish cemetery, on Sepah Avenue. The completed project was named the Kourosh “Cyrus” Shopping Center, and its units were rented out. As such, Arieh managed to generate for the first time a considerable monthly revenue for the Tehran Jewish Association, besides that a portion of the units of the Kourosh Shopping Center were rented by no less than the Ministry of Culture.

As the Fourteenth Parliament came to its end on February the 12th, 1946 C.E., for certain reasons, Morad Arieh did not re-qualify; thus, the seat of the Representative of the Jewish community remained empty for the Fifteenth Parliament. The seat was later won by Dr. Mousa “Moses” Bral for the Sixteenth Parliament, whereas no elections were held for the Seventeenth Parliament.

In 1954 C.E., however, Morad Arieh once more received the majority vote of his community to join the Eighteenth Parliament. Winning the two subsequent elections, as well, he thus continued to serve his community in that capacity for three additional terms, until the Twentieth Parliament came to its end on May the 9th, 1966, C.E.

Altogether, during his four terms in the National Parliament, namely the Fifteenth and the Eighteenth through Twentieth Parliaments, Morad Arieh succeeded to fulfill many invaluable services in the interests of the Jewish community. Among his many accomplishments, and besides what was already mentioned, he put an end to the violations against the Jewish Cemetery “Beheshtieh” properties on Mazandaran Street, committed by some neighbors who had illegally taken a portion of the land; and he further built a wall on the western aspect of the property. He resolved the many problems of the Tehran Jewish Association as well as those of the other Iranian cities. He formed the Beit Din of the Jewish Association, purchased the Mo’tamed Infirmary’s garden for the Jewish Association, organized the Tehran Conference on Women’s Rights, saved a number of innocent people who had been wrongly sentenced to death, and transferred and registered a number of properties left by their Tehrani Jewish owners to the Tehran Jewish Association.

Toward the end of his fourth term at the Twentieth Parliament, and as campaigns for the Twenty-First Parliamentary elections were launched, certain conflicts grew inside the Jewish community. Consequently, Jamshid Kashfi, supported by certain groups including the religious camp, was introduced to the Ministry of Interior Affairs as the Jewish candidate who would run opposite Morad Arieh in the upcoming elections.

Morad Arieh, intent on preventing faults and divisions within the Jewish community, occupied by his countless business affairs, having de facto lost the Royal Court’s support to his opponent Jamshid Kashfi, and hurt by a terrible incident that had taken one of his children, Manouchehr, in a European city, he officially withdrew his candidacy from the election.

However, even though he stepped away from the political scene in 1963 C.E., and despite the saddening impact of the car accident which had taken his son’s life, Morad Arieh continued to remain active more or less in his philanthropic pursuits. He did what he could for those who came to him for help. And for years, he went on to serve the Jewish Association indirectly as an advisor. It should be noted that Haroon “Aaron” Soroudi, an informed and experienced managing director, for years worked as Morad Arieh’s top assistant.

Toward the end of the 1960’s, with his business engagements mostly focused on importing fabrics, garments and other textile and clothing merchandise from Europe, Morad Arieh created and ran for the first time one of the largest industrial complexes of Iran. The complex housed such manufacturers as the Irana Ceramic and Mosaic Factories, Tehran Plastic and Melamine Manufacturing, Parnian Blanket Factory, Aldore Ice Cream Factory, as well as several other large and small production units. Certainly, the products of this industrial complex ended the country’s dependence on a certain number of imports.

In 1977 C.E., 1355 of the Persian calendar, Morad Arieh’s enemies planned and carried out an explosion at his office to murder him. However, an hour prior to this incident, Arieh had left his office for some business. Thus, the attempt against his life failed, and Arieh survived the assassination. Shortly thereafter, he left the country to live abroad for awhile. Following a stay in Europe, he immigrated to the United States to be with his children, save his occasional business trips to Iran.

As the 1979 Islamic Revolution stormed the country, Morad Arieh chose to spend his retirement years in the New York City. Thereafter, he entrusted most of their business engagements to his sons, although to the end of his life, he continued to oversee all such affairs personally.

Morad Arieh died in 1980 C.E., 1359 of the Persian calendar, at the age of 82.