From Tehran

Born into a not terribly religious Muslim family in the Iranian capital, William was destined for what should have been a lovely life. His parents, both trained as lawyers, were supportive of his education and provided for him and his two younger brothers without trouble or question. His English name, William, was a gift from his paternal grandfather, who introduced him to Shakespeare and encouraged him in his foreign language studies. But as in most of the Bard's famous tales, William's life would be host to strange and fate-contorting tumult.

Young William displays a red flower and a winning smile on the first day of school.
Young William displays a red flower and a winning smile on the first day of school.

To the Torah

At the age of thirteen, William had a chance encounter that would turn his world inside out, and render it far more complicated, and a bit dangerous. While Muslims in Iran are forbidden from reading the texts of other religions, practitioners of other faiths are allowed to study their own holy books. A new friend, an Armenian Christian, showed William the Bible. William became obsessed with "the Old Testament," otherwise known to Jews simply as Torah.

While William initially tried to share his excitement about Judaism with friends and family, he quickly learned that deviations from the appearance of solid Muslim faith would not be tolerated. Apostasy, disowning Islam for any other faith, is illegal in Iran and considered a capital offense in most interpretations of sharia. The Iranian government has jailed hundreds of apostates; some have been executed.

Still, fortune seemed to favor William. He had an enjoyable education, studying French language and volunteering with an organization that helped him to travel the world and expand his mind and heart. Eventually, he married a woman who agreed to keep his faith secret, and he managed to engage with Judaism through limited and covert means.

But during a heated argument, William's secret was revealed, and he was forced to flee Iran with little more than his faith and the fatwa on his head.

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And now?

William lives in New York and is connected with several vibrant Jewish communities, each nourishing different parts of his identity. He is enrolled at Yeshiva University, where he is studying for a degree in Political Science. Between speaking engagements, William continues his professional translations, presently rendering Seth M. Siegel's Let There Be Water  for readers of Farsi. He is also hard at work on a memoir about his unique journey.

In the future, he hopes to go to law school, work in a scenario that sees him engaged with international human rights issues, and, b'ezrat HaShem, to one day have a Jewish family of his own and make Aliyah.

He also spends a lot of time teaching friends how to make wine from dates, but he doesn't mind one bit.

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