Who Was She?

A podcast where your host shares the stories of women throughout Baha'i history.

This season is about Lidia Zamenhof, an Esperantist, and Baha'i who traveled the world to teach languages in an effort to bring unity to humankind.Subscribe and learn about this amazing woman who traveled through three c

Who are the Bab and Hujjat?

Season 2, Ep. 1
Transcript: Welcome to Who was she? Podcast. I am your host, Tara Jabbari. After a decade working in documentaries, marketing and all things digital media, I found that podcasting is a strong medium to share stories. After years of producing for others, I decided to start my own biographical podcast. Who was she? Podcast will focus on the stories of women throughout history that were active in the Baha’i Faith. This season is about Zaynab, a 19th century village girl from Iran who fought for religious freedom. There is little information known about Zaynab but her bravery and sacrifice inspired many to follow in her footsteps. In order to understand what she did, we must first know about a man named, Mulla Muhammad-Ali also known as Hujjat and about the Prophet, The Bab. The Bahai Faith has two Founders beginning with The Bab, who was born Say-yed ʻAlí Muḥammad Shírází on October 20th, 1819 in Shiraz, Iran. He was a merchant but many who met Him, knew there was something special about Him. In 1844, He revealed Himself to be a Messenger of God, a Divine Educator. He became known as The Bab, meaning the Gate and established the Babi Faith. Later, many of the Bab’s followers would become members of the Baha’i Faith when, Baha’u’llah, the next Messenger of God or Divine Educator, revealed His Station in 1863. There is so much more to know about the Founders of the Baha’i Faith and  I encourage you to research more! A trusted site is as a good starting point. For the purposes of this podcast, we will move on to learn more about one of the early believers, Hujjat. Hujjat was born in Zanjan, Iran in 1812. His father was one of the leading mujtahids, or authority in Islamic law. Father and son were known for their great sense of character, knowledge and piety. In Dawnbreakers, a book about the beginning of the Baha’i Faith, it writes, “(Hujjat) was a man of independent mind, noted for extreme originality and freedom from all forms of traditional restraint.” This caused great admiration from the people but hatred from the Islamic governing clergy.When Huggat learned that a prophet, or manifestation was among them, he wanted to learn more for himself. Through an exchange of letters, Huggat acknowledged The Bab as a Prophet. “It is my firm and unalterable conviction that this Siyyid of Shiraz is the very One whose advent you yourself, with all the peoples of the world, are eagerly awaiting. He is our Lord, our promised Deliverer.”He became a devout Babi. Hujjat taught the Faith to his hometown. It is reported that two-thirds of the people of Zanjan accepted It. The clergy were furious and worried, “The time is fast approaching when not only Zanjan but the neighboring villages also will have declared themselves his supporters.” The clergy believed that the Babi Faith was a disruption of their authority and would eventually destroy their institution. They decided that the best thing to do was to kill Hujjat and his fellow believers. But the Babis were not going to stay passive. They organized their own protection. It was important for them to defend themselves but never to instigate violence. “Do not think we are destined to conquer the world by the sword; in every age the blood of the believers has fueled the flame of Faith; we will be martyrs,” affirmed Hujjat. In the next episode, we will learn about the siege of Zanjan, one of the most violent and devastating battles in the Faith’s history and the introduction of one of their most fearless warriors, Zaynab. You can also find more information on our Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest @whowasshe podcast. And please, rate and subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast.

Trailer for Season 2: Zaynab

Season 200
Full Transcript: Who was she? Podcast will focus on the stories of women throughout history that were active in the Baha’i Faith. This season is about Zaynab. She was a 19th-century village girl from Persia, now Iran in the early history of the Bahai Faith who fought for religious freedom. There is little information known about Zaynab but her bravery and sacrifice inspired many to follow in her footsteps.When a new faith began in 1844 in present-day Iran, there were many attempts to end it. We will learn about the siege of Zanjan, one of the most violent and devastating battles in this new Faith’s history and about one of their most fearless warriors, Zaynab.She disguised herself as a man to fight in the front lines. It was written that, “No man has shown himself capable of such vitality and courage.” In the book, God Passes By by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, He wrote, “The resourcefulness and incredible audacity of Zaynab, a village maiden, who, fired with an irrepressible yearning to throw in her lot with the defenders of the Fort, disguised herself in male attire, cut off her locks, girt a sword about her waist, rushed headlong in pursuit of the assailants, and who, disdainful of food and sleep, continued, during a period of five months, in the thick of the turmoil, to animate the zeal and to rush to the rescue of her men companions ...these stand out as the highlights of this bloody contest.”So please subscribe and learn more about this amazing woman who fought so bravely and inspired many.  You can also find more information on our Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest @whowasshe podcast. Music was composed and performed by Sam Redd. Script editor and graphics are by Angela Musacchio. I am your host, Tara Jabbari. Join us as we begin our journey about Zaynab. 

Out of the Abyss

Season 1, Ep. 7
In the season finale, we learn about the several attempts to save Lidia’s life during World War II and last words from her to those who helped her and her family.  TRANSCRIPT:Welcome to Who was she? Podcast where I, Tara Jabbari share the stories of women throughout Baha’i history. This is the final episode of this season about the life of Lidia Zamenhof, an Esperantist and Baha’i who traveled through three continents to teach languages in effort to bring unity to humankind. On December 9th, 1938, Lidia arrived back in Poland. It took her some getting used to. She wrote, “The highest skyscraper in Warsaw, of which the city is so proud, because it has seventeen stories, cannot impress me anymore.” She wrote about her travels and despite the many hardships she went through, she only spoke of all the friendships she made. Lidia missed teaching Esperanto but decided to focus on translating Baha’i Writings into Esperanto now that she had the time. She also found out about a friend who died in France and wrote to the family expressing her condolences and also her own feelings about death, “Personally, I believe that…the destruction of the human body does not mean the death of the person. This body, composed of atoms, must disintegrate because everything that is composed must decompose. But the higher part of man, his spirit, does not consist of atoms; it is not a combination of chemical elements and is not subject to the law of decomposition. I believe that our consciousness lives on in ways and conditions which we, still living in the body, cannot imagine, just as the little child in the womb of its mother is incapable of imagining the world it will be coming into and for which is being prepared. Those thoughts are a great consolation for me, whenever physical death places a barrier between myself and those I love…”  Her thoughts and beliefs could bring some comfort to others, certainly to her as the world entered a new war that would ultimately be the cause of her death.  By fall, 1939, the Third Reich invaded Poland which began the second world war. After three weeks of trying to fight them off, Warsaw was conquered. Now they were all under the Nazi rule and Jews had to be distinguished from the rest of the population at all times, which meant that Jews had to wear the Star of David on their sleeves and Jewish businesses and schools were closed with their quarter surrounded by fences and barbed wire to keep away from everyone else.  Learning of what was going on and news about Lidia, in particular, were scarce and hard to distinguish from rumor. In November, 1939 the same year that Martha Root died some Jewish newspapers in the US reported that the Zamenhof family were arrested because Lidia had gone to the United States to spread anti-Nazi propaganda.  Esperantists and Baha’is in America worked together to try and save Lidia’s life. They contacted the Polish Embassy and the US State Department officials in Berlin but officially, they all said they could not take any action as Lidia was not an American citizen.  Letters sent to Lidia’s family were being returned with no forwarding address. But in March, 1940, Stephen Zamenhof, Lidia’s cousin who was in New York when the war broke out was able to learn from family in Russia that the whole family had been arrested after the occupation in Warsaw. Adam, her brother was the first to be arrested at the Jewish Hospital where he had been the Director of the Hospital. Then his wife, Wanda and sister Zofia were arrested. His son, Ludwik was spared due to his illness, possibly of typhus and therefore, left at home. Lidia was also arrested. Ludwik eventually was able to share that Lidia and Zofia were released after several months in Pawiak Prison and found a place to stay in Ogrodowa Street since the Zamenhof home had been destroyed during the bombardment of Warsaw. Adam was sent to Danilwiczowska Prison. Eventually, it was learned that at the end of January, 1940 Dr Adam Zamenhof had been shot and killed with a hundred other intellectuals and professionals.  Meanwhile, an Esperantist, Jozef Arszenik who was taught the Baha’i Faith by Lidia visited her before the Ghetto was sealed off. He offered to hide Lidia in his home on the outskirts of Warsaw. After the war, Mr. Arszenike wrote: “That noble woman refused my offer to save her, saying that I with my family could lose our lives, because whoever hides a Jew perishes along with the Jew who is discovered.” He also wrote that Lidia’s last words to him were, “Do not think of putting yourself in danger; I know that I must die, but I feel it my duty to stay with my people. God grant that our of out sufferings a better world may emerge. I believe in God. I am a Baha’i and will die a Baha’i. Everything is in His hands.” After the war, Mr. Arszenik became a Baha’i and lived till the age of 80.  There are accounts of attempts to save Lidia’s life, one in particular which is what personally inspired me to learn more about Lidia. In the late 1930s, for Germany, it was clear all signs pointed to a war. A German Baha’i, Fritz Macco and his brother and friends were worried about what that meant for them. As Baha’is, they must obey their government but also as Baha’is, they did not want to fight and did not agree with Germany’s politics The men wrote a letter to the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, for guidance. The Guardian reportedly replied that if their desire not to take a life was sincere, God would assist them in attaining it. Fritz and his brother and friends were soon drafted into the army. all of them died in the first week of the war with the exception of twenty-four-year-old Fritz. He was sent to Warsaw as an ambulance driver for the German Army which allowed him to not be in a non-combatant duty. He was puzzled as to why he was spared but when he arrived in Warsaw and found Lidia, he believed he was spared to help save her life. Again, Lidia refused to leave “her people” and though he could not save her life, Fritz would go on to help the Resistance and save many other Jews and Baha’is in occupied land, including his own mother. Sadly In September 1944, Fritz was killed. By 1942, there was scarce information on Lidia but she was able to send a postcard to a friend in Holland sharing that Zofia and sister-in-law, Wanda are working as doctors in the Ghetto. Although she never wrote it down, it was probable that Lidia was teaching others English. This was against the law as English was considered the enemy's language under-occupied Poland but it gave people hope. But in July 1942, there was the order that all the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto were to be “deported to the east,” to a camp called, Treblinka.  While Wanda and her son Ludwik were able to escape and survive outside the Ghetto during the deposition, Lidia and Zofia were not able to. They were taken 120 kilometers from Warsaw to Treblinka. The death camp was about fifty acres and surrounded by antitank barriers and barbed wire with watchtowers in each corner. There were gas chambers and burial pits where the bodies were disposed of originally by lime then later by burning on large iron racks. Eventually, Nazis became worried that the mass graves might be discovered so they exhumed and burned them. It is calculated that one million, two hundred Jews died at Treblinka including Lidia and her sister. The author of Lidia’s biography Wendy Heller writes, “Among the ashes in the ground at Treblinka are those of Lidia Zamenhof.” She was thirty-eight years old.  After the war, it was discovered that miraculously, the Jewish cemetery had not been destroyed and Ludwik Zamenhof’s tomb still stood. There eventually would be a plaque set in place on Klara Zamenhof’s grave with the names of Lidia and Zofia, that reads “Murdered in the year 1942. Let the memory of them last forever.” There was a memorial service held in honor of Lidia by the Baha’is of the United States and Canada on the week of October 25th, 1946. Lidia refused to allow others to endanger themselves in order to save her, she felt a duty to be with her family and the Jewish community. Lidia never hid away from trying to find meaning in the world. She found love in faith and language that she believed would unite everyone. She believed what truly mattered was how someone faced a challenge. I leave you with Lidia’s own words, “behind the densest clouds the sun is shining, that the Most Great Peace will come.’ ‘Whoever can still find in his heart a single ray of faith, as delicate and any as a spider’s thread, will not perish in the abyss, but even if all the powers of this world rise to struggle against him to push him down, even in the fall itself he will stop, and by this ray, as why the biblical ladder, even out of the abyss will ascend to heaven.’ This has been Who was she? Podcast, follow us on our Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest @whowasshe podcast. And please, rate and subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast. Logo was designed by Angela Musacchio. Music was composed and performed by Sam Redd. I am your host, Tara Jabbari.