After their immigration to Southern California more than 30 years ago, the majority of the area’s Iranian Jewish community poured their energies into re-establishing themselves financially. Following their success, some Iranian Jews have turned their attention to promoting philanthropy in the arts, education and Israel in recent years.
Despite being caught in the middle of a labor dispute involving the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel and its workers, the Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish political and civic action group 30 Years After (30YA) welcomed roughly 1,200 people, most of them local Iranian Jews, to its second biennial conference on Oct. 10. About a dozen picketers from UNITE HERE Local 11 lined up outside the Hyatt during the early morning hours, along with protesting members of the Jewish Labor Committee, but despite their presence, the conference moved forward uninterrupted.
The Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish political and civic action group 30 Years After will host its second biennial conference at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel on Sunday, Oct. 10, in the middle of a bitter labor dispute between the Hyatt and the hotel’s worker union “Unite Here - Local 11”.
After splashing onto the scene two years ago, 30 Years After, the L.A.-based Iranian Jewish political and civic action group, is slated to host its second biennial conference, Oct. 10 in Century City, drawing a bevy of elected federal and state officials as speakers.
“I will never forget when I first saw his body — they shot him with one bullet at point-blank range in his heart,” my father, George Melamed, shared with me a few weeks ago, reflecting on his friend — and brother-in-law’s brother — Ebrahim (Ebi) Berookhim, who was executed in an Iranian prison on July 31, 1980, at the age of 30. For the past 30 years, my father has rarely spoken of this young Jewish man’s killing and the circumstances that propelled our family’s abrupt flight from Iran. During these past three decades, he’s tried to forget how Ebi was unjustly accused of being an Israeli and American spy, then ruthlessly murdered by Iran’s radical Islamic regime.
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 for 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.
Just over a year ago, Ezri Namvar was forced into involuntary bankruptcy and accused by investors of creating a Ponzi scheme that lost as much as $500 million that had been loaned to him — most of it by Los Angeles’ Iranian Jews. Many of his former investors once knew Namvar as a friend and trusted adviser, but they now say their lives have been turned upside down by their losses. Adding to their pain is the fact that, although the accusations surrounding Namvar have earned him the community’s ire, he is not the only object of their anger. Two other investment fraud scandals involving two other local Iranian Americans have since piled onto the local community’s difficulties.
The ties that bind Los Angeles’ Iranian community to its roots a half-world away have been in full view this week, as protesters cried out in reaction to the June 12 Iranian presidential election, calling it fraudulent and a sham. Within the Iranian Jewish community in particular, the belief remains that none of the candidates can be expected to effect real change in Iran — not the rabidly anti-Israel, Holocaust-denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nor the so-called moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Thirty years have passed since the massive and violent demonstrations against the Shah of Iran that began in September 1978, and for many, the start of that country's bloody revolution might seem a faded memory. Yet I have carried those shattering events with me all of my life: I was born on in Tehran on Sept. 11, 1978, as chaos unfolded on the streets outside
Over the past decades, nearly two dozen local Iranian Jewish groups have been involved with political awareness efforts, but no group until now has seriously pursued or organized communitywide political and civic activism.
His friends devised a plan. Two of them would wait outside the terminal in a car with the engine running, in case Melamed had to make a quick getaway. Two other friends and a Revolutionary Guard who had been bribed would wait inside the terminal to help the businessman escape if something went wrong.
"It was one of the longest nights in my life.They kept telling me to go to sleep, but I just could not, because I had young girls with me. Then one of the smugglers came into the room and fell asleep at the entrance."
More than 300 young professionals members of the local Iranian Jewish “30 Years After” organization gathered at a private residence in Beverly Hills late last month to encourage political activism in the community.
With Iran a hot topic in the U.S. presidential race this year, the candidates' foreign policy statements are being examined closely by everyone, not least the Iranian Jewish community. Comments by Democratic frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in particular, have left many Iranian Jews reluctant to support his candidacy.
Iranian American Jews -- reaching out to poor and homeless in the city
Exclusive interviews with Israeli Knesset Member Ophir Pines-Paz and Iranian Jewish philanthropist Parviz Nazarian in changing Israel's form of government
Young Iranian American Jewish professionals discuss their involvement with a new mentoring program for teenagers in the community.
Iranian Jewish members of the "30 Years After" organization talk about becoming more active in Los Angeles, state and national politics; featuring Assemblyman Mike Feuer and L.A. DWP General Manager H. David Nahai.