A Community that is a Virtual Family: Family and Gender Roles in the Mashhadi Community in the Age of Immigration

By:
Dr Hilda Nissimi
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The purpose of this paper is to chart the patterns of gender roles forged in the Jewish Mashhadi community, from its inception with the forced conversion to Islam in 1839 (Iran) to it's immigration after the Khomeini Revolution in 1979 to the United States. The paper will focus on the post immigration period. What were past patterns, how did they mould the immigration experience, and how were they moulded by it? During the underground period in Mashhad, strong familistic values and empowerment of women were among the main characteristics of the new community. The traditional values of the community withstood emigration to the United States, and strongly influenced the women as they strove for equality in their community's leadership, chose enhanced education, and opted for higher participation in the workforce. These values also hinder the regendering of household roles and give rise to fears about the dissolution of communal cohesion.


Keywords: Community, Identity, Gender, Family, Immigration, United States, Iran, Mashhad
Stream: Identity, Belonging, Immigration, Refugees, Nations, Nationalism, Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Hilda Nissimi

Lecturer, General History, Bar-Ilan University
Israel

Dr Nissimi received her academic education in Bar-Ilan University, where she fills a teaching position since 1983. Her academic interests are divided between two main areas. One lies in British counter-insurgency practices, the other interest is in the development of a social and ethnic identity in crypto faith communities and in particular in the Jewish Mashadi community of Iran. Her publications include: "Memory, Community and the Mashhadi Jews During the Underground Period", Jewish Social Studies, vol 9 pt 3 2003, pp. 76-106; "'Doing Gender', Creating a Community - Female Leadership among Mashadi Crypto-Jews", Bar Ilan Studies in History, M. Orfali (ed.), vol. 5, (Ramat Gan, 2004, in print); "Religious Conversion, Covert Defiance and Social Identity: a Comparative View", Numen, vol. 51, pp. 367-406; 'Us' and 'The Others' — The Making of the Jewish Crypto-faith Community of Mashhad', Revue de l'histire des religions, (forthcoming); Mashadi Women During the Underground Period: Image and Reality, Pe'amim (in Hebrew, forthcoming); Tradition Serving Rebellion — Ezel, Religion, and Religious Communities, Cathedra, (in Hebrew, forthcoming). "Illusions of World Power in Kenya: Strategy, Decolonization, and the British Base, 1946-1961", The International History Review, 2001, pp. 824-846.

Ref: D05P0359