John Farahi, a popular Iranian-Jewish radio talk-show host and investment adviser, was sentenced in U.S. District Court on March 18 in downtown Los Angeles to 10 years in federal prison for operating a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme against local Iranian-Americans. Farahi, 56, also was ordered by the court to pay more than $24 million in restitution to close to 60 victims.
Fast-paced Persian dance music and the aroma of beef kebabs filled the Arena Nightclub in Hollywood on March 16 as nearly 1,000 local Iranian-Americans and their young children gathered to celebrate the upcoming Persian new year of Norooz.
Nearly 300 young Iranian Jews packed UCLA’s Fowler Museum auditorium on March 7 for a discussion featuring five prominent young Iranian-Jewish professionals openly discussing topics considered to be taboo within their community. The gathering was historic not only because young Iranian-Jews do not typically discuss their problems regarding career choices and personal relationships in a public forum — but also because this event marked the first time an openly gay member of the community has discussed issues of homosexuality facing Iranian-Jews in Los Angeles.
Nearly 500 local Iranian Jews packed two auditoriums at UCLA’s Fowler Museum on Jan. 28 for an event honoring three prominent Los Angeles-area Jewish nonprofits and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
Nearly 60 Jewish community activists and Iranian Jews gathered at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) West Los Angeles offices on Jan. 9 to learn about the increasing levels of anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Israel messages being put out internally and abroad by Iran’s state-run media apparatus.
Nearly 13 years ago, 13 Jews living in the Iranian city of Shiraz were arrested on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel and were facing execution by the clerics who ruled Iran.
Following more than three decades of Iranians flourishing in the United States, a documentary titled “The Iranian Americans” offers a nostalgic look at how tens of thousands of immigrants resettled in America following the 1979 revolution in Iran. It will air Dec. 18 at 9:30 p.m. on PBS.
In the wake of the gruesome murder of a 57-year-old Jewish woman living in the Iranian city of Isfahan nearly three weeks ago, a group of Iranian-Jewish activists in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., have banded together in an informal group hoping to raise public awareness of the murder and to help bring the murderers to justice.
It is not often nowadays that you find Jews and Muslims coming together to celebrate anything — especially when Israel is involved.
Why are you asking so many questions and wanting to write about our community in the newspaper? Why do people care about Iranian Jews in Los Angeles? Do you really think you’re accomplishing anything by writing about our triumphs and failures in the newspaper?
The classic Los Angeles Theater at Broadway and Sixth Street is not much to look at from the outside -- situated alongside a host of busy retail shops, its sidewalk is lined with street vendors selling toys and trinkets. But upon entering the theater's French Baroque-style lobby, with its 50-foot ceiling, grand staircase, plush red carpet, detailed fresco paintings, ornate marble fountain and crystal chandeliers, one is immediately transported to a bygone era of opulent, glamorous movie palaces.
Lavish weddings featuring guest lists upward of 500 people were seemingly de rigueur in Southern California's Iranian-Jewish community just five years ago. But the growth of six-figure simchas strained middle-class families, leading some couples to either call off a wedding or divorce a few months after getting married.
In Tehran last month, during a ceremony marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Iran’s current vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, launched an anti-Semitic tirade.
In the early hours of Jan. 2, Shervin Lalezary was on only his fourth solo patrol as a Los Angeles reserve sheriff's deputy. Driving on Sunset Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood, he spotted a minivan that fit the description of one believed to be used by an arsonist who had been on a nightly rampage for days, terrorizing huge swaths of Los Angeles.
On Nov. 4, 1979, Islamist students and militants loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the American Embassy compound in Tehran and captured 52 Americans — a diplomatic crisis that lasted 444 days. Simon Sion Ebrahimi, a local Iranian Jewish author, remembers that day well. It was the same day employees at his accounting firm, which faced the American Embassy, took him hostage.
Earlier this year, after nearly two decades of providing counseling and psychological help to local Iranians for free or at reduced rates, Shadee Toomari, a local Iranian-Jewish licensed clinical psychologist, formally established the community’s first nonprofit mental health treatment clinic.
John Farahi, a Los Angeles Iranian-Jewish radio talk show host and financial investment manager, last week was charged in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles for allegedly defrauding more than 100 local Iranian-American investors and various financial institutions of nearly $20 million over the course of nearly five years.
Fast-paced techno dance music blasts through Chikas, a retail clothing store off Santee Street in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District, which many call the Garment District. Robert Mahgerefteh, the store’s owner, helps the dozen or so young women looking for great deals on the latest fashions.
Ezat Delijani, a real estate developer and a leader in Los Angeles’ Iranian Jewish community, died on Saturday, Aug. 27 following a long battle with cancer. He was 83.
Once a pillar of the local Iranian Jewish community, businessman and philanthropist Ezri Namvar was a trusted friend to whom many in the community loaned money freely and without fear. Namvar’s reputation, which has been tarnished during the last several years, was dealt another blow on May 19, when Namvar, 59, was convicted on four counts of wire fraud in a downtown Los Angeles federal court.
In the wake of the Feb. 14 Iranian protests for greater freedom, which took place throughout that country, Iranian Americans of various religious backgrounds in Southern California have been closely monitoring the developments and voicing support for those seeking democracy.
Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community has long been divided over a host of social and religious issues, often discouraging hopes among the elders for community continuity. Eman Esmailzadeh, a 27-year-old engineer and community activist, is one of a small number of young people who are now focused on reuniting this immigrant community, in part by encouraging teenagers to identify with their Judaism.
For a little more than three decades, the Los Angeles-based International Judea Foundation (known as SIAMAK), among the oldest and most active of the local Iranian Jewish nonprofits, was known for looking out for the needs of the Iranian Jewish community here and abroad. Now, as the local Iranian Jewish community has matured and prospered in Southern California, SIAMAK has turned some of its focus to Israel, creating a program to nurture and develop innovative medical, high-tech and alternative energy research at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU). Dubbed “Project Jacob” after the biblical patriarch, the program is the brainchild of Dariush Fakheri, SIAMAK’s president, a businessman and entrepreneur who lives in Encino. With an initial investment of $200,000 last February, SIAMAK funded three projects at BGU.
Los Angeles Iranian Jewish banker and real estate investor Ezri Namvar, 59, was indicted on Sept. 21 by a federal grand jury on five counts of fraud. The charges allege he failed to return $23 million given for safekeeping to his company, Namco Financial Exchange Corp. (NFE), and instead invested the money in risky real estate deals.
On the evening of Aug. 26, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies found three men identified as Iranian Jews shot to death inside an apartment located in the 600 block of North Kings Road in West Hollywood.
On March 28, nearly 10,000 Los Angeles Iranian Americans of various religions, including local Iranian Jews, celebrated the Persian New Year of No Ruz on Westwood Boulevard in Westwood Village, with the official naming of a street corner as Persian Square. Los Angeles City Council man for District 5, Paul Koretz, was on hand for the ceremony; he introduced a motion in the council to name the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Wilkins Street as Persian Square earlier this year.
Facing mounting community criticism for his alleged involvement in what has been called a Ponzi scheme, Ezri Namvar, an Iranian-Jewish philanthropist and businessman, last month voluntarily resigned from the
Board of Trustees of the Beverly Hills-based Nessah Synagogue. Namvar sent an e-mail on March 16 to Nessah’s board members, notifying the organization of his immediate resignation. Namvar was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in December 2008 and accused by investors of creating a Ponzi scheme that lost as much as $500 million loaned to him — most of it by Los Angeles’ Iranian Jews.