Iranian Jewish Culure
Isaac Hakim
Philanthropists and Community Leaders

Isaac Hakim


Ess-hagh “Isaac” Hakim was born in 1896 C.E., 1275 of the Persian Calendar, henceforth P.C., to a religious Jewish family of the Oudlajan Jewish neighborhood of Tehran, Iran. His father Mokhtar Hakim, a graduate of the famed Darol-Fonoun Technical School, practiced medicine. His mother Tavous “Peacock” Khanom was a pious woman.

According to the Hakim family tree, his paternal ancestors Hakim Yehazkel “Ezekiel” and Hakim Moshe “Moses” were among the outstanding traditional doctors of their time, who served the person of King Abbas as the physicians of the Safavid royal court. Also, four generations later, beginning in the 1820’s C.E., 1200’s P.C., their descendant Hakim Moshe “Moses” went on to serve as the physician of the court of Qajar, over the years attending to the medical needs of such figures as Nasseraddin Shah, the King of Qajar, as well as those of the other members of the royal court.

Isaac Hakim studied at the Ettehad “Alliance” Elementary and the “American College” of Tehran, later known as the Alborz High School. Given his knowledge of the English and French languages, he was readily employed by a European textile company, which assigned him to their office in the Iranian city of Isfahan. Five years later, having earned much necessary experience, he resigned his post, returned to Tehran, and opened his own company in the Hadj Hassan Chamber of the Grand Bazaar of Tehran. He then went on to import textile by himself from the Great Britain. His business flourished rapidly, and his remarkable success made him known as one of the prominent businessmen of the Bazaar of Tehran.

In 1921 C.E., 1300 P.C., Isaac Hakim married his future wife Touba, the daughter of Hadj Shemuel “Samuel” Isaac Hai. The couple brought five sons and four daughters to the world.

Isaac Hakim was well known to the Jewish community as a successful and benevolent figure. Ever since a young man, and to the end of his life, he pursued philanthropic activities alongside his business endeavors, always stepping forward generously to serve the people and to help resolve the social issues. His kind and friendly manners had helped him establish close relations within all classes, especially with the prominent figures of the society. He was close to Shemuel “Samuel” Haim, better known as Mr. Haim, the Representative of the Jewish Community at the Fifth National Parliament of Iran. Despite a life cut far too short, Mr. Haim did much to support the deprived and the oppressed, pursuing a vast range of corrective plans and construction projects to help thrive the Oudlajan neighborhood, a.k.a. the Jewish Ghetto of Tehran. Following Mr. Haim’s execution, these goals were more or less carried on by Isaac Hakim.

In 1931 C.E., 1310 P.C, and upon a request by his brother Farajollah Hakim, Isaac Hakim appeared during the Shabbat prayers before the congregation of the Haim Synagogue, whose Council he chaired, and he asked for their support to found a Jewish school in the Hassan-Abad district of Tehran. The late Hadj Shemuel “Samuel” Hai immediately donated a considerable amount of 50 toumans of the time to the project. Isaac Hakim followed by donating a sum of his own. For awhile afterwards, thanks to his efforts, he managed to provide for the original budget of the project from the public gifts and traditional donations which were collected at the Haim congregation. Next, with relentless resolve, he secured financial commitments by each member of the congregation to support the project. Thus, Isaac Hakim was recorded in the annals of the Kourosh School, alongside Hadj Shemuel Hai, Dr. Habib Levy, Dr. Morteza Mo’alem and Dr. Enayatollah Montakhab, as one of the founding fathers of the Kourosh “Cyrus” Cultural Center, and as an original member of the Regents of the School.

Among his major philanthropic services, Isaac Hakim also helped in the housing of the Polish Jews who had sought refuge in Iran toward the end of World War II. He first housed a group of the refugee families in the lower floor of the Haim Synagogue, and he provided them with enough amenities for a relatively comfortable living. He then enlisted the collaboration of the Council of the Haim Synagogue to set aside some space on the western side of the temple to build a smaller synagogue for the Ashkenazi community, the Daniel Polish Temple, which would become the first synagogue in Iran to belong to that Jewish tradition.

Among his other creative initiatives, Isaac Hakim endowed grants, or non-refundable aid, to the low‑income families and youngsters, and he did so from his own budget, a portion of which was allocated to this purpose. He set one condition before these grants, that to qualify, the youngsters of these families had to be studying at school. This was a great idea, which made many more young people choose to pursue education.

Beginning in 1936 C.E., 1315 P.C., as relatively more freedoms were established for the Jews of Iran, some Jewish families decided to leave the Oudlajan Jewish neighborhood for the northern districts of the capital. Isaac Hakim and family were among those who moved to the Za’faranieh area, while gradually, some other families moved and settled in the Shemiranat. For the first few years, to partake in the Shabbat prayers and the High Holiday, these families had to travel far to one of the synagogues of the central Tehran. And those who found the task too inconvenient, often gathered at a Jewish home in the neighborhood to perform the prayers.

Before long, Isaac Hakim paid with his own money to buy a piece of the land next to his personal property, and he had a 100-square meter building constructed on its southern side, which was dedicated to the Jewish public religious ceremonies. Thus, in 1953 C.E., 1332 P.C., the Hakim Synagogue welcomed the first congregation into its 80-seat space. Isaac Hakim was convinced that soon enough, a growing population would be migrating to their neighborhood, at which time he would dedicate the larger share of the land, thereto unused, to building a larger synagogue.

Sadly, however, he did not live long enough to fulfill his dream. Merely a few years later, Isaac Hakim fell ill in bed. Treatments did not work, and in 1956 C.E., 1335 P.C., this great philanthropist passed away of cancer.

Nevertheless, the Hakim Synagogue went on to receive the congregation as before, under the Hakim family supervision. Over the next few years, as Isaac Hakim had envisioned, a larger crowd did migrate to the Shemiranat area, so far as by the mid 1960’s C.E., 1340’s P.C., and especially on the High Holidays and Yom Kippur, tents had to be set up in the area outside the synagogue to house the congregation. As such, during one Rosh HaShanah ceremony, Morad Arieh, the Representative of the Jewish Community at the Sixth and Seventh National Parliaments, asked the Hakim family, on behalf of the Council of the Synagogue, to fulfill the late Isaac Hakim’s Will as it pertained to building a larger temple on the northern side of the land.

The burden of the task fell upon Saeed Hakim, Isaac’s eldest son. The blue prints were proposed by the engineers Mansour Makkabi and Amir Shoushani, and in 1964 C.E., 1343 P.C., the construction phase of the project started with Saeed Hakim’s oversight. By 1970 C.E., 1349 P.C., the new synagogue was inaugurated. (It’s been explained that the project was held back for awhile since some of the collected budget had to be redirected to other urgent public services, including an emergency financial assistance to save the Kourosh “Cyrus” School.)

The new Hakim Synagogue, also known as the Pessian Synagogue, featured a 500-square meter of floor area, including an office, a dining hall, and the 400-seat synagogue, with its accessories and attachments. The Hakim Synagogue is rare among Iranian Jewish temples in that it blends an authentic Persian architecture with the modern architectural art, even as it draws for its basic plan upon the ancestral holy tabernacles of the Israelites, known in the Biblical Hebrew as the mishkan, the specifications of which were enumerated in the holy Torah.

In the springtime 1981 C.E., in the early days of 1360 P.C., the ownership of the Hakim Synagogue, which then belonged to Touba Khanom Hakim, Isaac Hakim’s wife, was transferred to the Tehran Jewish Association as an endowment to the Jewish community.


Related Links:  

The Hakim “Pessian” Synagogue


The Founding Board of the Kourosh “Cyrus” School Winter 1963 C.E., the Month of Bahman 1341 P.C.  Sitting, From the Right:  Hadj Shemuel “Samuel” Hai, Dr. Morteza Mo’alem, Dr. Enayatollah Montakhab (The Chair of the Kourosh Association), Isaac Hakim, and Hadj Me’ir Halimi.  Standing: Ess-hagh “Isaac” Matloub (The Principal of Kourosh School), Davoud “David” Moradpour, Ess-hagh “Isaac” Broukhim, Afar and Nasser Akhtar-zad (Secretary of the Association)