UCLA’s Israel Studies Center was renamed the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies last week in honor of the philanthropic couple who found success in Los Angeles after fleeing Iran in the run-up to the 1979 revolution.
Sharon Baradaran, the Nazarians’ youngest daughter and president of the Y & S Nazarian Family Foundation, led efforts to establish UCLA’s Israel Studies Program in 2005. The foundation, which created an endowment for the center, made donations totaling $5 million to the university to help establish the program.
“Our goal was to provide students with a more nuanced and rich understanding of Israel that went beyond newspaper headlines,” said Baradaran, who is also an adjunct professor in UCLA’s political science department.
In addition to courses, the Nazarian Center also presents Israel-related speakers and conferences.
Younes Nazarian, 79, first left Tehran for Israel at age 17 to be part of the Jewish state’s establishment, serving with the border police and then working as a tool and die maker in a small, family-run business in southern Tel Aviv — training that would aid his success in Iran and the United States. After emigrating from Iran to Tel Aviv in 1978, the Nazarians relocated one year later to Los Angeles, where Younes Nazarian built various manufacturing, technology and real estate enterprises and became an early investor in and board member of Qualcomm.
In addition to its U.S. foundation, the family also funds academic, public policy and community-based social and artistic programs in Israel through their Tel Aviv-based Ima Foundation.
“I owe a lot to Israel,” Nazarian said. “It helped make me who I am today, and I want to give back to my spiritual home.”