Sad news for fans of self-hatred: An expert on Jewish Iranians is casting doubt on this weekend’s speculation that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Jew whose family changed its name to avoid discrimination. Professor David Yeroshalmi, commenting on the assertion that the Ahmadinejad clan’s original moniker of Sabourjian means “weaver of Jew prayer shawls,” disputes the conjecture.
“There is no such meaning for the word ‘sabour’ in any of the Persian Jewish dialects, nor does it mean Jewish prayer shawl in Persian. Also, the name Sabourjian is not a well-known Jewish name,” he stated in a recent interview. In fact, Iranian Jews use the Hebrew word “tzitzit” to describe the Jewish prayer shawl. Yeroshalmi, a scholar at Tel Aviv University’s Center for Iranian Studies, also went on to dispute the article’s findings that the “-jian” ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews. “This ending is in no way sufficient to judge whether someone has a Jewish background. Many Muslim surnames have the same ending,” he stated.
The Guardian suggests that, in fact, the Sabourjian family changed their name to avoid being seen as provincial when the family moved to Tehran.
The news, while disappointing, should not be surprising. Remember when Ahmadinejad told that joke about how politicians who wanted atomic bombs were retarded? The delivery was terrible. No Jew in the world would have flubbed a laugh-line like that.