January 5, 2012
Giving hope and help to L.A.’s Iranian Jews
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. Operating the nonprofit inside her Beverly Hills-based Radiance of Hope Counseling Center, Toomari, along with co-founder Diane Alvy, supervises interns who since August have been treating nearly a dozen local underprivileged Iranians of various faiths who are in need of psychological help.
“When I came to the U.S. with my family from Iran many years ago, I encountered a lot of difficulties and stresses,” Toomari said. “So, today, when I’m able to help Iranian families in crisis and give them hope that things will get better, it gives me tremendous pleasure.” The nonprofit center treats low-income clients for no charge, a reduced fee or, alternatively, allows clients to pay whatever amount they can afford.
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Starting this nonprofit is just the latest step in Toomari’s nearly two decades of giving back to the 40,000-strong Los Angeles-area Iranian-Jewish community. In 1998, Toomari established the Family Aid program in conjunction with the Pico-Robertson-based Torat Hayim Iranian synagogue, to provide financial and social assistance for Iranian-Jewish families facing crisis situations, including domestic violence, mental illness and housing emergencies. Although that program ended five years ago, Toomari still dedicates a considerable amount of her time to working as a liaison among a handful of L.A.-area Iranian-Jewish nonprofits to help identify impoverished individuals in the community and to help pool resources in order to offer financial help, affordable housing, and free or low-cost medical and legal services.
“Dr. Toomari is definitely a tremendous asset to our community as far as giving back to those who are in real need and also serving as a strong female role model for young Iranian-Jewish women today,” said Morgan Hakimi, a psychologist and former president of the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills.
Toomari said she decided to help others when she realized the significant financial challenges many local Iranian Jews are facing today. “I think it’s a big misconception that the majority of L.A.’s Iranian Jews are very wealthy,” Toomari said. “We have a growing group of people in the community who are unemployed, almost homeless and do not have enough money to feed their children from day to day — so those with the financial means to help must help those struggling individuals.” Toomari said she will continue her volunteer work on behalf of the community and is currently seeking donations for her nonprofit in order to add more rooms and more staff to the clinic, to be able to treat more clients.
For more information on Toomari’s efforts, contact Radiance of Hope Counseling Center at (310) 279-2878.