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Dr. Mousa Azadegan
Presidents of the Tehran Jewish Association

Dr. Mousa Azadegan


 

Mousa “Moses” Azadegan was born in 1932 C.E., 1311 of the Persian calendar, to a religious Jewish family of Yazd, in central Iran. He was the third child of Mullah Yousef “Joseph” Yazdi Or-Sharga — of the fifth generation descending from Rabbi Or‑Sharga — one of the highest ranking Jewish clerics of Iran. Mullah Yousef also ran the Marriage & Divorce Notary No. 38, besides being a religiously certified shohet at the Tehran Jewish meat facility.

Mousa Azadegan began his education at the Ettehad “Alliance” elementary of Yazd. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to Tehran, where he completed the fifth year of the secondary school in the old system at the Ettehad “Alliance” and Ganj-e Danesh “The Treasure of Knowledge”, a.k.a. “Otzar Ha-Torah”, high Schools. He then went on to study in the famed Darol-Fonoon “Technical” High School, whence he received his Diploma. Meanwhile, from 1953 to 1965 C.E., for more than ten years, still a student himself, he taught Mathematics, French and Social Sciences at the Ettehad “Alliance” School.

Mousa Azadegan went on to study at the School of Jurisprudence, Tehran University, wherefrom he graduated in 1957 C.E., 1336 of the Persian calendar, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Judicial Law. In 1965 C.E., he earned his Master’s Degree in Administrative Sciences and Business Management. In 1971 C.E., he was employed by the Central Bank of Iran, and he went on to serve that institution for 23 years in good faith. His expertise and outstanding merits earned him an appointment as the Chair of the Foreign Currency Services of the Central Bank. From 1972 to 1974 C.E., he was sent to France on behalf of the Central Bank of Iran, where he earned his Doctorate in Governmental Economy from Sorbonne University, Paris. Upon graduation, he returned immediately to his homeland to resume his commitments and duties at the Central Bank of Iran.

In the winter of 1977 C.E., 1356 of the Persian calendar, Mullah Yousef Yazdi “Or-Sharga”, Dr. Mousa Azadegan’s father, passed away. Thence, besides his other obligations, Dr. Azadegan undertook the management of the Marriage & Divorce Notary No. 38, an office which he held for years, up until he had emigrated from the country. Also for long, as a French translator and a political commentator, he published articles in the Rasta-khiz “Resurrection” Daily under the nom de plume “Soroush”.

In 1956 C.E., 1335 of the Persian calendar, Dr. Mousa “Moses” Azadegan married his future wife, Sarah Abouhi. The couple brought three daughters and one son to the world.

Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, several major Jewish investors were arrested. And shortly thereafter, in 1979 C.E., 1358 of the Persian calendar, Hadj Habib Elghanian, the Chair of the Tehran Jewish Association, was executed. An unsafe and frightening atmosphere engulfed the Jewish community of Iran. Before long, several other members of the Board of Directors of the Tehran Jewish Association, even those of the other Jewish social and cultural organizations, resigned their positions, in effect suspending many such institutions. In the meantime, many of the Jewish community leaders and its public servants were about to leave the country.

A dark wave of despair had pervaded the community. The Tehran Jewish Association had been all but dissolved. Amid that bleak scene, members of the synagogues and their councils made a concerted effort to hold elections and choose a new team of qualified members as the Board of Directors of the Jewish Association. Their first attempt involved a 13-person list of candidates for the Board of Directors and a 5-person list for the Board of the Supervisors of the Association. To that end, such other institutions as the Iranian Jewish Graduate Society, the Jewish Academic Students Organization, as well as the Jewish Intellectuals Society — some of whose members had a degree of leftist tendencies — provided their own share of candidates.

Thus, in 1979 C.E., 1358 of the Persian calendar, the elections were held; and subsequently, the new Board of Directors, in their first meeting, chose Dr. Yaghoub “Jacob” Aynehchi as the Chair of the Board, with Manouchehr Cohen, an engineer, as the Vice Chair of the Board, and Dr. Mousa Azadegan as the Treasurer of the Association. However, Dr. Yaghoub Aynehchi refused to commit to such a major responsibility. Neither did the appointed Vice Chair, Mr. Manouchehr Cohen, accept the promotion, for certain reasons. That compelled another election for the Board of Directors, as a result of which Dr. Mousa Azadegan was chosen to the Chairmanship of the Association.

Even as the new Board of Directors were taking their seats, it was clear that Dr. Mousa Azadegan and his fellow Board members had undertaken their duties under some exceptionally difficult circumstances. And from the outset, he was faced with numerous challenges.

The Tehran Jewish Association was under financial pressure. Jews were forbidden to leave the country, pertaining to the issue of passports. The Jewish schools faced a management crisis, as the government was forcing its own choice of principals on these schools, most of whom had no experience or other qualifications in management. Subsequently, the Jewish schools were ordered to remain open on Saturdays, voiding their time-honored tradition of observing the Shabbath. The High School of the Arts and the ORT Technical School were confiscated, and a host of other problems concerning the real-estate assets of the Jewish Association emerged. Not to mention that the community was faced with a shortage of matzah during the Passover. Altogether, these and a range of other unexpected issues pertaining to the Jews of Iran, had decided a bitter experience and an arduously turbulent road before Dr. Mousa Azadegan and his fellow colleagues at the Association.

The Chairmanship of the Board of Directors of the Association entailed numerous responsibilities, which altogether compelled Dr. Mousa Azadegan to refuse new commitments or promotions at the Central Bank. And for the remainder of his term, he preferred to dedicate more time to the Association in order to resolve the many problems that faced the Jewish community.

Among his most significant services as the Chair of the Tehran Jewish Association, Dr. Mousa Azadegan had one unit of a modern, high-yielding, automatic matzah-bakery machine installed and launched at the location of the Elderly Care Center of the Jewish community of Tehran. The distribution of the high quality matzah produced by this unit resolved the shortage of the unleavened bread, a crucial element of the Passover tradition, an issue which had been troubling the Jewish community for the past while.

By the persistent efforts of Dr. Azadegan and his fellow members of the Board, the large Sulaiman Haim Hebrew to Persian Dictionary was reprinted. Shortly thereafter, the road was paved as well to resume the preparation and edit of the large Haim Persian to Hebrew Dictionary. This monumental project had been left unfinished due to the emigration of the team of scholars responsible for it. Thus, another elite team of scholars from the community came together to edit this final heirloom of the great lexicographer, the late Sulaiman Haim. Also, in the spring of 1980 C.E., 1359 of the Persian calendar, on behalf of the Jewish Association, a letter was submitted to the office of his Honor the Leader of Iran, asking to provide for the security of the Jews of Iran.

 

During Dr. Mousa Azadegan’s tenure as the Chair of the Board (1979-1983 C.E.), the Tehran Jewish Association was faced with the complicated issue of a number of Iranian Jewish citizens who had been sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolutionary Courts. However, the best efforts of the Tehran Jewish Association led to no avail, and they could not save these individuals from the firing squads. Still, despite this painful frustration, and even though Dr. Mousa Azadegan did not succeed in certain matters, given the cooperation of the fellow Board members, the Association has managed, always and under the most trying circumstances, to fulfill most all of its social and cultural obligations.

 

Following four years of intensive efforts, Dr. Mousa Azadegan brought his services at the Tehran Jewish Association to completion. He then went back to focus on his career at the Central Bank of Iran, maintaining his position as the Chair of the Currency Affairs Services.

Dr. Azadegan began serving the Association during a most critical period, at a time when the Islamic Revolution had just taken place. He and his fellow colleagues at the Jewish Association began work even as the war between Iraq and Iran had been imposed on the country. An increasing host of problems, crisis after crisis, instability, insecurity, and the concerns of a Jewish minority over an ambiguous future, these were added to a vast array of complex issues that had led to tension and agitation across the society. And consequently, these were among the pressing matters which weighed on the shoulders of Dr. Azadegan and his fellow members of the Board of Directors at the Tehran Jewish Association.

In 1988 C.E., Dr. Mousa Azadegan resigned his post at the Central Bank; and soon thereafter, he left his birthplace to live abroad. He resettled in the city of Cholon, and once things had been put in order, he began work as an ordinary clerk at Bank Leumi. Six years later, however, he resigned his post due to illness and physical fatigue.

Currently, Dr. Mousa Azadegan is enjoying his years of retirement.

 

From Left to Right: Sulaiman Bral; Dr. Mousa Bral, the Jewish MP in the Sixteenth National Parliament of Iran; and Dr. Mousa Azadegan, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Tehran Jewish Association. The Pol-e Choubi “Wooden Bridge” Synagogue, 1967 C.E., Tehran, Iran.

 

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