Iranian Jewish Culure
Abdollah Zargarian
Philanthropists and Community Leaders

Abdollah Zargarian

Abdollah “Eliahu” Zargarian, one of the most popular faces and trusted figures of the Iranian Jewish community, was born in 1911 C.E., 1291 of the Persian Calendar, henceforth P.C., to a religious Jewish family of the city of Hamedan, Iran. He was barely five when his father Sulaiman “Shlomo”, a goldsmith, passed away. Thence, their mother Sultan Khanom undertook to raise her five children, Abdollah “Eliahu” and his four sisters, by herself.

Abdollah Zargarian began studying at the Ettehad “Alliance” School of Hamedan. Ever since a young boy, he worked at various jobs besides school to bring home an extra income. One odd job that he would remember fondly through the years was reading aloud the “subtitles” or “intertitles” at the local theater. Most films shown then were silent, and his warm and eloquent voice had already made him famous in his hometown.

Having graduated from the Alliance, Abdollah Zargarian left for Tehran in the pursuit of enhanced opportunities and to provide more comfort for his mother and siblings. He began work in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran, where before long, he had started his own wholesale business. His insight and piety earned him special credit among the businesses, and soon enough, he had become a trusted member of the Bazaar. He was elected as a Representative of the wholesale businesses of Tehran, and given his earned reputation and trust within the business class, he was chosen as one of three arbiters to serve on the Conflict Resolution Committee of the Wholesale Bazaar of Tehran. He went on to serve for years as a fair mediator, resolving with honesty the conflicts and disputes which rose among the businesses.

Later, as a member of the Tehran Jewish Association, he was appointed to the Conflict Resolution Committee of the Association, where he put his particular experience to good use for his community. With resolve and conviction, he relentlessly helped resolve conflicts between the young couples, as well as the professional disputes that emerged between business partners.

Abdollah Zargarian was faithful to the principles of family preservation, so far as quite often, he wouldn’t hesitate to help out the situation financially or spiritually in order to stop the marriages from falling apart. He was committed to serving the people unreservedly, regardless of their faith or religion; and he did his utmost until they had arrived at a satisfying solution. Resolving the issues and restoring the peace and love in the families, these maintained the highest priority throughout his social and philanthropic activities.

For two terms, Abdollah Zargarian was chosen to the Election Supervision Board of the Tehran Jewish Association. And for many years, despite a very busy schedule, not only as a professional businessman, but also as a board member of a school and synagogue, he remained an active member of the Conflict Resolution Committee of the Association, where he offered much meritorious and remarkable service.

Among his greatest public services, Abdollah Zargarian initiated and brought home the creation of a new cultural and religious center for the Tehran Jewish community.

Having moved to live in the Amir-Abad district of Tehran, he learned that there were no praying facilities for the Jews of that neighborhood. Therefore, aiming to establish a synagogue, he rented and dedicated a place to this purpose. He provided such necessities as chairs and prayer books a.k.a. siddurim, the Torah scrolls, and more, the synagogue took shape, and he undertook its cantorship. But as it turned out, the high density of the Jewish population in that district demanded a far larger and more modern synagogue, as well as a school. These deficiencies prompted him to enlist the aid of few philanthropist friends toward a fundamental solution. A suitable piece of land was purchased, and the construction plans were laid out. This was a crucial and ambitious project, so far as before the construction had begun, the Alliance Israélite Universelle informed Abdollah Zargarian that the organization was prepared to offer financial assistance in return for naming the cultural center as an “Alliance” institution. Abdollah Zargarian welcomed the idea, the plans were approved by the Alliance, and by the end of winter 1972 C.E., 1350 P.C., the construction phase was launched. The design of the blue prints and the work contract were undertaken voluntarily by the engineer Manouchehr Cohen, who oversaw the construction in detail. Finally, by the autumn of 1973 C.E., the month of Mehr, 1352 P.C., the four-story cultural center, consisting of an elementary and a high school with 18 classrooms, a cafeteria, and a modern synagogue, was completed and ready to use.

Throughout the construction phase, Abdollah Zargarian had personally supervised every aspect of the project. The Alliance organization entrusted the leadership of the school to one of the most erudite figures of the community, the late Abdollah Daghighian. Later on, Abdollah Zargarian endowed the land of the Zargarian Cultural Center entirely to the Tehran Jewish Association. By then, his benevolence, besides his financial assistance in the form of a 100,000-touman gift towards the project, had already been recognized by the board of the synagogue, who had named both the temple and the school after him.

The Zargarian Synagogue would go on to host many memorable events, among them the bar-mitzvah ceremony of the son of Joseph “Joe” Samuel, the publisher of The Jewish Herald-Voice of Texas, the news outlet of the American state’s Jewish community. Later, in a column for his newspaper, Joe Samuel wrote of Mr. Zargarian to have been “a second father” to the community.

In the aftermath of the 1979 C.E. Islamic Revolution in Iran, several heads of the Jewish community were executed. An intense fear and debilitating concern had spread over the community, with the people living unsure of their future and that of their children. As such, on behalf of the Jewish community of Iran, a number of the trusted figures of the community, including Abdollah Zargarian, Dr. Kamran Broukhim, and a few others, alongside Chacham Yedidia Shofet, the Religious Leader of the Jews of Iran, went to meet with the Leader of the Revolution and to reaffirm the Jewish community’s loyalty to the ideals of the Revolution.

Having heard their arguments, and considering the long and ancient history of the Jewish presence in the land, Imam Khomeini pointed out a truth, that the Jewish people had a holy book, and their religion followed the worship of God. And thus, he once more emphasized undertaking the security of the Jewish people under the shelter of Islam. Nevertheless, the flood of emigration did not subside, but it rather accelerated. Subsequently, Abdollah Zargarian devoted much of his time to aiding and organizing the hundreds of families who had been arriving in Tehran from the other Iranian towns and cities, and who wished to emigrate from the country.


In 1937 C.E., 1316 P.C., Abdollah Zargarian married his future wife, Molouk Asheghian. The couple brought three daughters and one son to the world. All of their children, Sorayya, Ramin, Shahla and Mahnaz, have been active in social affairs. In particular, Shahla Zargarian Javdan, an active figure of the women’s society, served for two terms as the Chairwoman of the Iranian American Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. Also since 2014 C.E., she’s served as the Chairwoman of the Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization, Los Angeles. Sorayya and her husband Dr. Melamed have also been active in the social affairs of the community; while David Javdan has served, among others, as a chief consultant in the business legal affairs in the United States.

Looking back at his life, Abdollah Zargarian was most proud that his children and grandchildren had inherited his love for serving people in their blood.

The erudite Mrs. Molouk Asheghian Zargarian was a socio-culturally active member of the community in her own right. A founding member of the Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization of Tehran, she went on to serve for more than 20 years on the Directors Board of the organization, since its birth until when she left the country for the United States. The author of a well-known book in Persian, entitled Niayesh-e Zan-e Yahoudi or The Jewish Woman’s Prayer, she later became an active member of the Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization of Los Angeles. In 1996 C.E., the I.J.W.O. recognized her lifetime of unreserved services, and it chose her as a Role Mother. A year later, the Alliance Israélite Universelle celebrated her life in a glorious ceremony, during which both she and her husband, Abdollah Zargarian, were recognized by the Distinguished Service Award.

In 1980 C.E., Abdollah Zargarian and his wife relented to an unwanted emigration, and subsequently, they arrived and settled in Los Angeles to be with their children. Soon afterwards, despite having reached the age of retirement, Mr. Zargarian nevertheless resumed his social activities in philanthropic and cultural organizations. Abdollah Zargarian proved himself to be a much needed and highly effective presence for his much suffered fellow Jews in exile, especially when it came to mediation and dispute resolution assistance. Consequently, the Iranian American Jewish Federation of Los Angeles officially invited him to carry on his philanthropic activities under the umbrella of the I.A.J.F. Once a member of the Federation, he was chosen to its Board of Directors, at which capacity he served for years.

Abdollah “Eliahu” Zargarian passed away to eternity in the month of July 2001 C.E., at the age of 89. Following his death, messages of condolence were sent to his family from numerous individuals and institutions, such as the cultural organizations of Los Angeles and New York, erudite figures, and the American men of rank, including the Governor of New York. Besides messages from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, the White House expressed its share of sympathy via a special message.


Related Links:

The Zargarian Synagogue