For the ﬁrst 10 years, we were afraid to say we’re Jewish. There were 4– 5 Ashkenazi families, and separately none of us had a minyan (ten men necessary for some religious services). That’s why we had one synagogue. In the early 1950’s, the synagogue, together with the Jewish Community Center, was actually just an old apartment. The synagogue cantor, an Ashkenazi holocaust survivor named Mr. Günter Singer, was the president of the Jewish community, but there was no rabbi for a few years, and no teacher either. Needless to say, there was no other form of Jewish school, and thus Jewish education was practically non-existent. The only Jewish education we could get, was at home: My parents were traditional, so we always celebrated Shabbat and holidays.
When Chabad came to Hamburg, we ﬁnally had a rabbi and a Jewish-education teacher, and I became very religious. The general school I went to had classes on Shabbat, which I couldn’t miss, and so I would to walk from the school to the synagogue every Shabbat, even when it was raining, and I arrived at the synagogue soaking wet.
Our teacher in the religious school was a lady from Chabad. She made it clear to me that if I want to go the religious way, I should go to London to a Jewish ulpana (girls’ yeshiva). I really wanted to go there and develop my Jewish identity, but my parents, being traditional and Iranian, wouldn’t let me go that far from home at ten or eleven years of age. To tell the truth, they didn’t like my affinity to religion. My mother used to yell at me for becoming too religious: I observed all the rules and criticized people who did not do things the correct Jewish way: turn on the lights on Shabbat, drive on the holy days etc. I was always complaining.
The Chabad episode lasted a very short time. Shortly after the rabbi and teacher arrived, they left for Munich.
We always ate kosher, even though getting kosher meat was quite difficult. We had one Iranian Jewish man in our community, named Karimzadeh, who was a shochet (slaughterer) and could slaughter chickens in a kosher way. He didn’t have a shop — it was too difficult to get the needed licenses, so he couldn’t sell the meat of larger animals. He used to come to people’s homes and slaughter the chickens there. It was a terrible sight.
Later on, a kosher butcher shop opened in Frankfurt, and once a month we bought meat from there by a telephone order.
In 1962, the municipality of Hamburg built a new synagogue — a real synagogue. But one has to say the synagogue before the war was in the best location, and the new synagogue is in an okay place. I was a bit disappointed they didn’t give us our synagogue back. The building had not been destroyed, but they gave us a less attractive location, and the old synagogue now belongs to the radio station.
The ﬁrst wedding in the new synagogue was mine.