Iranian Jewish Culure
Jamshid Kashfi
Jewish Representatives to the Parliament

Jamshid Kashfi

Jamshid (Amir) Kashfi was born in 1912 C.E. to a religious Jewish family of Tehran. His father Mirza-Agha was a businessman and a philanthropist member of the Jewish community.

Jamshid Kashfi graduated from the American College “Alborz High School”, where he mastered the English language. Following graduation, he bought himself a Persian type-writer and began writing grievance letters for the visitors before a court building. Awhile afterward, his mastery of English garnered him a position at a company that imported American cars. Before long, he was entrusted with the management of a section of the company.

In the 1950’s, the Jews of Iraq were sent into exile, a group of whom found themselves in Iran. Jamshid Kashfi undertook some important responsibilities in handling their legal and business affairs. As he fulfilled the assignments, and given his evident benevolence and sincere efforts, he earned himself a particular credibility among the Iraqi Jews. Thus, some Iraqi businessmen made him partner in some of their business dealings.

At first, Jamshid Kashfi’s social activities largely included acting as a translator and guide for the foreign guests of the Jewish community. During WWII, with the American and European forces in Iran, he was mostly responsible to assist or host the Jewish officers and religious figures on special occasions and the mo’adim or Holidays. Later, he became an outstanding member of the Tehran Jewish Association, then known as “Beith Sefer”, which for years, was responsible to collect donations for the Alliance Israélite schools of Tehran and other cities.

In 1935 C.E., Jamshid Kashfi married Maliheh Sapir, Dr. Rouhollah Sapir’s sister, himself the founder of the Kanoon Kheyr-khah, “The Philanthropy Center”, known today as the Dr. Sapir Hospital, Tehran. Given the fame of Maliheh Kashfi’s family, the marriage brought Jamshid Kashfi further credibility inside the Jewish community, and it became a turning point in raising his social and cultural activities. The couple’s shared efforts to improve the living conditions of the society and to resolve its issues earned them a special status within the Jewish community.

In 1961 C.E., by the initiative of Jamshid and Maliheh Kashfi, all Jewish Associations of Tehran and other cities, the Cultural Associations of the Alliance schools, and the Council of the Social Affairs of the Jews of Iran, joined hands to provide a precise census of the impoverished Jews living outside the capital. This was meant to help house more than 700 families and provide their health and hygienic needs, as well as providing for the Ettehad “Alliance” schools of Tehran and other cities, which required necessary coordination with the non-profit organizations and philanthropist figures of the community, particularly the late Habibollah “Habib” Elghanian. (It should be noted that Jamshid Kashfi had also agreed to a second marriage with a young lady named Aftab. The marriage brought three sons and three daughters to the world.)

For years, ever since the Constitutional period and the establishment of the National Parliament, the parliamentary Representative of the Jewish community would hold the Tehran Jewish Association under his control, too, a situation that had led to disagreements among the public servants of the Jewish community. In 1958 C.E., the opposition gathered at the Plaza Cinema theater, where they discussed this issue as a fundamental problem which had hindered the advance and organization of the community. At the end, the votes taken insisted on annulling this trend. And once Jamshid Kashfi had spoken, those present considered him to run against Morad Arieh in the upcoming elections.

In 1963 C.E., as the election approached, Jamshid Kashfi nominated himself to run for the office in the 21st Parliament, and thus, he set out on his campaign. Contrary to the predictions, Morad Arieh, who was supported by the Royal Court and the Mardom “People’s” Party headed by Assadollah A’lam, lost the election to Jamshid Kashfi, who was assisted by a number of the prominent figures of the community, particularly Habib Elghanian, Lotfollah Hay and Samad Kashfi, with the support of the Democratic Party headed by Dr. Manouchehr Eghbal. Thus, in October of that year, having won the election by the majority of the votes, Jamshid Kashfi began work as the Representative of the Jewish community in the 21st National Parliament, a crucial position which he maintained until the end of the term in October 1967.

Among Jamshid Kashfi’s first steps in the Parliament was enacting the principle of separating the Tehran Jewish Association from the control of the Parliamentary Representative of the time, an initiative which led to establishing a “people’s elections association” based on democratic measures. Then, by his initiative, he invited the heads of the Jewish Associations of Tehran and all other cities to participate for talks in a seminar organized by him in Tehran. Thus, the Jewish Associations of Iran could find a united central voice and benefit from the cooperative aids.

During his four years of service in the Parliament as the Representative of the Jewish community, Jamshid Kashfi’s pleasant personality and eloquence endeared him among the statesmen and members of the Royal Court. Furthermore, his benevolent character and his love to serve people, especially the poor families, made him redirect his efforts increasingly toward the social, health and hygienic issues of the society. He played an active and important role in the building, improving and flourishing of the Kanoon Kheyr-khah “Philanthropy Center”, a.k.a. the Dr. Sapir Hospital. He was also active in many other non-profit associations, even as he headed the Ettehad “Alliance” Cultural Association and the Council of the Jewish Community’s Social Affairs, the latter of which he had founded. For years, Jamshid Kashfi, side by side his social activities and especially during his years in the Parliament, with the cooperation of the American Joint, offered some precious assistance to the poor. He further helped provide food and clothing for the students (of the Alliance “Ettehad”) in the form of free meals, as he extended his cooperation to the other responsible figures of the society.

In 1964, Jamshid Kashfi began his meritorious services on an international scale when he participated in the World Jewish Congress and conferences. Offering his well-documented and effective speeches before the Swedish Parliament, he invited all countries of the world to visit Iran and invest in the country. With the help of Mousa “Moses” Kermanian, he succeeded to clarify the goals of the Jews of Iran, one of the oldest Jewish communities of the world, with a long history that dates back to more than 2500 years.

In the 1950’s, as noted before, Jamshid Kashfi helped resettle the Jews of Iraq in Iran. Later, joined by some other philanthropists, especially Mousa-Khan Toub, and closely working with the ranking members of the government, he managed to send the Iraqi refugees to their ancestral Homeland. He further played an important role in resettling more than five thousand Jewish families from other Arab countries, who without identity documents, had taken refuge to Lebanon after the Six Day War between the Arabs and Israel, and who endured very poor conditions. Thus, the World Jewish Congress recognized Jamshid Kashfi for his precious international services by choosing him as one of the ten outstanding Jewish figures of the world.

In 1970 C.E., during a trip to the United States, Jamshid Kashfi met privately with President Lyndon Johnson. He carried with him a message and a gift from Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, a valuable Persian rug bearing the image of Lyndon Johnson. This was indeed a harbinger of peace and friendship between the Iranian and American peoples, which played an important role in strengthening the cultural, social and political relations between the two countries. Besides, he met with the heads of several philanthropist organizations, the American Joint in particular, and thus, he managed to draw the attention of this organization and have them offer more aid to the cultural and health and hygienic centers of the impoverished Jews in Iran.

Following the 1979 Revolution, and given his political record and relation to the Pahlavi Royal Court, Jamshid Kashfi was forced to leave his homeland. He immigrated to the United States, where he settled in Los Angeles to spend retirement besides his family. Before long, however, he resumed his social activities side by side his fellow Jews. First, he helped Chacham Yedidiah Shofet to establish the first Nessah Synagogue in the City of Santa Monica. As one of the founders of this Cultural Center, he was further chosen to serve for a period as the President of the Board of the temple.

Jamshid Kashfi was known through his productive life as one of the outstanding figures of the community and a public servant in various social areas. He was further regarded as one of the great Iranian Jewish literary and intellectual figures. He was in love with the bountiful Persian literature, including the works of such famous masters of the word as Ferdowsi, Saadi, Hafez and Rumi, whose mystical poems he had been studying from time to time ever since his days of youth. Later on, he began doing some research on the style and manners of the great Jewish poets of the Middle Ages, such as Shahin, Omrani and a few others. Given his religious studies in Hebrew, Jamshid Kashfi realized that most of the tephilot, prayers and supplications toward God had been composed as poems, with poetic rhythms in the Hebrew language.

Thus, during his stay in Los Angeles, he decided to translate most of the prayers, with fidelity, into Persian poetry. His mastery and deep understanding of both Persian and Hebrew literature, and his soft feelings combined with mystical thoughts, on the one hand, and his spilling passion and inherent gift, as well as his love of Judaism and Persian history and culture, on the other, made him bring together his poetry, the fruit of years-long efforts, in a collection of Hebrew prayers and supplications translated to Persian. The book, entitled Rahnamay-e Sa’adat, “The Guide to Happiness”, was published in 1986 C.E. in Los Angeles. By publishing such an admirable mystical work, he recorded his name among the literary figures of the Jewish community.

In spring 1987 C.E., at the age of 76, Jamshid Kashfi lost his two year battle with lung cancer.


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