RELIGION

Iran's Jews Are Determined To Stay, Even With A Secondary Status

Iranian Jewish Rabbi Younes Hamami Lalehzar reads prayers after lighting candles to mark Hanukkah, the festival of lights, at
Iranian Jewish Rabbi Younes Hamami Lalehzar reads prayers after lighting candles to mark Hanukkah, the festival of lights, at Abrishami synagogue in downtown Tehran on November 28, 2013. Present for more than 2,500 years in Persia, Iranian Jews have lost more than 70 percent of their 80,000 to 100,00 population who lived in Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, today Iran is home to some 8,750 Jews, according to a 2011 census. They are scattered across the country, but are mostly in the capital Tehran, Isfahan in the center, and Shiraz in the south. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran is a country where people at rallies routinely chant "Death to Israel." It's also home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey.

Iran's Jewish population topped 100,000 in the years before the Shah of Iran was toppled in 1979 by the country's Shiite Muslim clerics. Today, the number of Jews has dipped to below 9,000.

The Jews' very presence in Iran demonstrates the complexity of a country that is hard for outsiders to understand. Our search to understand what keeps the Jews here begins in the kitchen of a kosher restaurant in Tehran.

Read more on NPR