Iranian Jewish Women Discover the Power of Words
Publication Date: November 1999
Author(s): Farideh Dayanim Goldin
Series: Working Paper Series no. 6, November 1999. pp. 145-160
Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive
Keywords: Women; Literature; History
Iran, a country famous for its literary heritage, is known both for beautiful poetry and for a rich oral tradition. Yet, until very recently, Iranian Jewish women had no place in this history. Before we discuss, criticize, or praise the literary works of Jewish women of Iranian heritage, we need to understand the womenÂ’s long silence, the conditions that constrained them in the past, and those that constrain them now. For many centuries, life for Jewish women in Iran meant poverty, early marriages, and illiteracy. Jewish women were classed the lowest, suffering the double jeopardy of sexism and anti-Semitism. The train of hardship was often lessened through the cherished dard-e del, talking of the Â“aching heart.Â” Dard-e del had many functions. It was a healing tool, a source of empowerment, and a Middle Eastern version of a Â“support group.Â” The custom created a reservoir of stories that circulated among women as yet unaware of the power of written words. Generations later, Iranian Jewish women reach back to this collection of oral histories to record their mothersÂ’ stories, and to cross over from talking themselves free to writing themselves free.