Nina Talbot

Painter - Writer
painting, Ben, by Nina Talbot
Ben, oil on canvas, 54 x 58 inches

Neighborhood Folks


His Story
Iranian refugee
From Shiraz, Iran to Midwood, Brooklyn, NYC
“You don’t know what I went through to get here.”

I met Ben at his jewelry shop on Newkirk Plaza in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, near where I live. While waiting for him to replace my watch battery, I noticed a mezuzah attached to his doorway. I asked him about it, & he told me he was a Persian Jew. “You have no idea what I went through to be here,” he told me. I asked him if I could come back to talk to him. Several months later, I managed to speak with him though the hole in the plexiglass wall that separates him from his customers. This is Ben’s story:

He came to New York in 1992 when he was a teen-ager to escape the purging of Jews during the Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule in Iran. Ben says, “There are hardly any Jews left-there is no place to live.”

There used to be 100,000 Jews in Iran, now only 8,000. They are accused of spying for Israel. During the Iran/Iraq war he was kidnapped by military police on a police truck. The police typically stopped all teenage boys on the street, asking for ID confirmation that they went to the army. Luckily, he managed to escape by jumping off the truck, and going through a small road. He hitchhiked a ride home from a truck driver, and made his plans to leave the country. During the eight year war, 16-18 year old teenage boys were conscripted into the army. One and a half million of them were killed. Ben’s brother went, but by then the war was over.