KERMAN


KERMAN, city located in the province with the same name in the southeast of *Iran. A popular Kermani saying considers Kerman "the heart of the world," a great exaggeration. The origin of Kerman itself goes back to the Sasanian period, but, as far as we know, the Jewish community there is relatively new. Oral tradition indicates that because of severe famine in Yazd/Yezd about 150 years ago, several Jews of that city immigrated southward and eventually settled in Kerman. Historically this may be true, because the Jews of Kerman are not mentioned in the two Jewish chronicles, that of *Bābāi ben Lutf (17th century) – except for a mention of "ignorant Yezdi-Kermani people" who extracted money from the Jews of Yezd – and that of *Bābāi ben Farhād (about 1730), nor are they referred to in other Jewish and non-Jewish travelogues from the first half of the 19th century. The Yezdi origin of the Jews of Kerman is attested by a linguistic investigation of their Jewish dialects. Neumark, who did not visit Kerman, said in 1884: "Not far from there (Yezd) there is the city of Kerman where a number of 30 Jews live".

One does not know of any important Jewish event, significant literary productions, or personalities concerning the Jewish community of Kerman. Like Yezd, Kerman too is a dwelling place of a substantial numbers of Zoroastrians. Several disastrous events befell the city of Kerman, culminating in 1794, when for the support given to the Zand monarch by the Kermanis, his foe, Muhammad Khan of Qajar, wreaked a terrible revenge on the Kermanis by allowing his men to pillage the town for three months, selling 20,000 of the inhabitants into slavery and blinding the same number of its men. With its population decimated and most of its buildings in ruins, it is hard to believe that Kerman attracted any Jews to settle there. Kerman did not regain its prosperity until after 1860 and most probably this is the time when Jews of Yezd found it appropriate to immigrate to Kerman and settle there. Neumark in the above-mentioned report confirms this assumption. At the beginning of the 20th century it was reported that 2,000 Jews were living in Kerman In course of time many immigrated to *Teheran and to Israel. Just before the Islamic Revolution 500 Jews were in Kerman. They had one elementary school and one synagogue. By the end of the 20th century fewer than 10 Jewish families remained in Kerman.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

BAIU (Bulletin de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle), Paris; G. Lazard, "Le dialecte des Juifs de Kerman," in: Les Hommages et opera minora, 7 (1981), 333–46; H. Levy, History of the Jews of Iran, 3 (1960); L. Lockhart, Famous Cities of Iran (1939); E. Neumark, "Massa' be-Ereẓ ha-Kedem," ed. A. Ya'ari (1947); E. Yarshater, "The Jewish Communities of Persia and Their Dialects," in: Ph. Ginoux and A. Tafazzoli (eds.), Mémorial Jean de Menasce (1974), 453–66.

[Amnon Netzer (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.