Of all the Jewish communities in New York, the Persian community is one of the most recent. The first Persian Jews who came to Manhattan during the 1960’s started to pray in the Fifth Avenue Synagogue. After the fall of the Shah in 1979 a wave of immigration from Persia changed the face of the Persian Jewish community in the USA.
Most Persian Jews settled in California. But there was also a big Persian community on the East Coast in Brooklyn and Queens. Then as their fortunes improved many moved out to Great Neck.
A smaller number settled in Manhattan and in 1986 they decided to establish their own minyan. They negotiated an arrangement with Park East Synagogue to rent their small sanctuary for Shabbat and Festival services. In 1988 they invited Rabbi Ezrahian to become their spiritual leader.
The community named itself the Sephardic Society of Manhattan in the hope that other Mizrahi communities would join it in creating one major Sephardi congregation and during its early years there was an atmosphere of creative unity. But then slowly fragmentation set in.
The Syrian and Moroccan communities established themselves. Within the Persian community there were differences of opinion between the traditionalists and the progressives and as the children of the community grew and went their own ways the original pioneering atmosphere began to falter.
In 1999 members of the community bought a plot of land on East 58th Street in 1999. The intention was to build a synagogue and center. But disagreements dogged the project which only recently has been resurrected and is now being actively pursued. To this end the community changed its name to the Persian Jewish Center of Manhattan and registered as a Tax Exempt Charity both as a synagogue and a social and educational center.
Rabbi Ezrahian retired in 2007 and was succeeded by Rabbi Dvir. He left in 2008 and Rabbi Jeremy Rosen became the part time Rabbi in 2009. In 2011 Uriel Suliman became the Chazan of the community.
The congregation still meets in Park East every Shabbat and Festival morning. Approximately 60 people attend and the congregation has a Persian Kiddush and afterwards those who wish to join in the general Park East Kiddush as well. On the High Holy days when the numbers swell to 200 our services are held upstairs in the Gymnasium of the Park East School. Mid-week services are held at the synagogue in the offices of the Roshan Zamir family on 5th Avenue.
Although the community follows the rites and customs of the Persian community we are delighted to welcome worshippers from all Sephardi communities who will feel at home with us. And indeed some Ashkenazi worshippers too enjoy coming to our warmer and more intimate prayers to which the rabbi adds explanations and commentaries in English.