Unique Collection of Iranian History Opens to Students and Scholars at TAU

American friends Laura and David Merage and the Levy Family inaugurate the Dr. Habib Levy Collection for Jewish Iranian History and Heritage

Prof. Joseph Klafter, David Merage, and Laura Merage
TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter,
David Merage, and Laura Merage

Tel Aviv University is the new home of the personal collection of the late Dr. Habib Levy, an eminent dentist, historian and public figure. An invaluable resource on Iranian history and Persian culture, it includes dictionaries and encyclopaedias, journals, fiction and literature in Persian, Hebrew, English and French.

Generously donated by Laura and David Merage and the Levy family, the Dr. Habib Levy Collection for Jewish Iranian History and Heritage surrounds the new Dr. Habib Levy Persian Garden. Together, they create a welcoming environment where students and scholars can come to be inspired by the rare and extensive materials documenting the history of Iran from the pre-Islamic period to modern times. Both the collection and the garden were inaugurated on Monday, June 11, as part of the 2012 Board of Governors Meeting.

Zoleika and Dr. Habib Levy
Zoleika and Dr. Habib Levy

The collection — the first of Iranian history in Israel — honors Dr. Levy's distinguished career and passion for learning. Speaking at the ceremony, American Friend Laura Merage, the granddaughter of Dr. Levy, said that it was a "dream come true" to offer this valuable collection to the public: "My grandfather would have been proud to have his collection of rare books here at Tel Aviv University," contributing to his dream of "eradicating anti-Semitism through education and understanding."

A cherished moment

A long time in the making, Laura Merage said that she cherished the moment of inaugurating the collections, which will help to promote TAU as a leading research center for Iranian studies. University President Joseph Klafter applauded the Merage and Levy families for continuing the mission of Dr. Levy with their work. "You are perpetuating not only your own family history, but the history of the Jewish community in Iran," he said. "We are proud that you see TAU as the place where you can strengthen your commitment to the state of Israel."

Dedication plaque and Laura Merage
Laura Merage with the dedication plaque

The collection and Persian Garden are the newest initiatives by the Merage family, who have long been devoted friends of TAU. They also support the Dr. Habib Levy Program in Iranian Jewish History, which is dedicated to advancing the academic study and dissemination of knowledge concerning the history and cultural heritage of Iranian Jewry. The program is inspired and guided by the vision of Dr. Levy, and offers a broad range of academic programs dealing with the heritage and cultural history of Iranian Jews.

In addition to their work with TAU, Laura and David Merage are the founders of several philanthropic foundations, including RedLine, an art incubator to promote the creative expression of visual and performing artists, and the Merage Foundation, which encourages self-sufficiency through community development and education. Laura Merage serves on the Anti-Defamation League Board of Directors and is deeply involved in her community through organizations that promote Jewish life, the arts, and early care and education.

Understanding the Iranian Jewish experience

A view of the Levy Collection
A view of the Levy Collection

To celebrate the inauguration of the collection and the life of Dr. Levy, the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies and the Dr. Habib Levy Program for Iranian Jewish History hosted a colloquium on the history of Jews in Iran and Iranian Jews and Israel, topics of study to which Dr. Levy dedicated his life. Subjects included Jewish history and learning in Iran, Jewish identity, issues of Language in the Jewish community and the relationship of Iranian Jews to Jews around the world, among others.

Opening the conference, Prof. Meir Litvak expressed the hope that the new collection would serve as a an entry point for research into the experience of the Jews of Iran, an area of study that he feels has not received enough attention. "Even in this digital age, this collection is an important treasure and a blessing for research here at TAU," he said. He thanked the Merage family for their continued support, and noted that the new collections served to strengthen an already wonderful partnership.

Mr. Sasson Blum, who translated Dr. Levy's memoire from Persian to Hebrew, dedicated a moment to the memory of Dr. Levy by noting his accomplishments as a dentist and an officer in the Iranian army, as well as a scholar and activist who valued "justice and Jewish faith" and had a "deep love for Israel."

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