My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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TEL AVIV, Israel —On my last day in Shiraz, Iran, last week I visited the Jewish community. Housing there for the poor is somewhat below the worst standard we could find almost anywhere in the United States.

The average poor family may consist of a mother and father and many children—six or eight is not unusual—and they live in one room, with no sanitation. There are not even doors or windows in the room—holes are cut in the walls to be used for coming in and going out and for letting in a little light.

In the one room there is a little charcoal brazier in one corner, which is used for cooking and heating. Bedding, which is rolled up in the daytime, covers the floor at night for sleeping. Often a low wooden table, covered by a blanket, is placed over the brazier and the occupants of the room sleep with their feet toward the brazier.

This way of sleeping and keeping warm was familiar to me because I had seen it in the Khyber Pass in Pakistan. But the hazards are many because of the crowded conditions and the little children. And there is an added hazard in daytime because nearly always there is a kettle of boiling water sitting on the brazier, almost inviting little children to knock it off.

The Jewish community in Shiraz and the one in Teheran are not entirely Jewish, for Moslems populate some 20 to 30 percent of the area. There is one advantage to this, for whatever programs are started to improve conditions for the Jewish people naturally benefit the Moslems, and the whole community is improved.

For instance, when a courtyard is cleaned out some kind of a toilet is usually installed for the three or four families that may have rooms around that courtyard. Also, an arrangement is made for the removal of garbage. And a plant or two may be set somewhere in the courtyard and all the families watch over this little bit of cheer.

In Shiraz a well-to-do member of the Jewish community gave the land and building for the kindergarten, which takes care of 250 of the more than 1,000 children. These fortunate 250 are given every day either UNICEF or American surplus milk powder which is made into milk and some milkbread. This is the children's breakfast, which they get soon after their arrival at school at about 8:30 in the morning.

Twice a year these children also are issued clothes, one suit for the winter and one for summer, and shoes of some kind are also included. At noon they are served a meal, and the director told me that the breakfast and the noon meal provide two-thirds of the children's needed nutrition, so that only the remainder had to be provided in the children's homes.

The occupation of most of the Jewish men is that of peddler. Some women may do some small work at home, but the family income of the average Jew in Teheran, I was told, is about 25 cents a day. In Shiraz it is about the same, for the man who is making as much as a dollar a day is considered quite rich.

Rent for one room in Teheran comes to about $4 a month, which, as you can see, does not leave a great deal to be spent on food for a family of eight or ten people. And the situation is much the same in Shiraz.


(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Tel Aviv (Israel) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 26, 1959

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.