Iran Jews  April 23, 2011
On Passover, Iranian Jews pray in a morning service for Shabbat, at the Pol-e-Choubi Synagogue, in Tehran, Iran, April 23, 2011 Photo by AP
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Iran's former chief rabbi Yosef Hamadani Cohen. Photo by Wikicommons

Iran’s Chief Rabbi Yosef Hamadani Cohen passed away this weekend, the Jewish Press reported.

According to Jewish sources in Iran, the chief rabbi died over Shabbat.

Rabbi Hamadani headed Iran's Jewish community since 1994. He prayed in the Yusef Abad Synagogue in Tehran, which is officially called the Sukat Shalom Synagogue, according to the Jewish Press.

Members of Iran's Jewish community mourned the rabbi's passing, with many writing "our crown has been removed" on social media, according to ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar Hashabat.

His nephew, who has lived in Israel since 2001, told the website that the rabbi had been unwell for the past few years. "He suffered, he didn't leave the house until, sadly, he died."

The nephew, who is also called Yosef Hamadani Cohen, said that the chief rabbi was a cornerstone of Iran's Jewish community, but added that he did not believe that the community would fall apart after his passing. "There are youths there who are learning the Torah, they get help, but there are problems."  

"He didn't have problems with the Iranian people, they respected him," he added.

In 2003, Rabbi Hamadani Cohen met with former President Mohammed Khatami at Yusef Abad Synagogue. This was reportedly the first time that an Iranian president visited a synagogue after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. 

Iran's Jewish community today numbers less than 30,000 Jews. Before the revolution, the community numbered nearer to 100,000. Still, it is the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel.

Iran's Jews constitute one of the world's oldest Jewish communities, with historical roots reaching back 2,700 years.