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Jewish Journal

Young Iranian Jews to show strength with second 30 Years After conference

by Karmel Melamed

October 6, 2010 | 9:54 am

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.

Formed in 2008, 30 Years After is intended to give voice to young professionals in the Iranian Jewish community who wanted to make a contribution but felt they were often ignored by its older leadership.

“When two dozen of us started 30 Years After, we dared to ask, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the 35,000 Iranian Jews in Los Angeles focused their talent, their passion and their resources to help Jews in need locally, to tackle civic challenges facing our city and state, and to become the loudest and most effective advocates for the U.S.-Israel alliance?’ ” said Sam Yebri, 28, the group’s president. “After nearly three years, we have taken small but important steps toward that goal.”

Seed money for the organization came from a $200,000 award by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, which helped the group launch its first conference in 2008. Since its inception, 30 Years After’s active members have sponsored brunches with elected officials, registered more than 1,000 voters and hosted evening events that allowed young Iranian Jewish professionals to meet with state and local officials.

The group has also lobbied elected officials on issues important to Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community, from Iran divestment in the State Assembly to tighter Iran sanctions, sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles), in Congress earlier this year, Yebri said.

He said 30 Years After’s numbers speak for themselves: 1,200 attendees at 30 Years After’s first civic action conference, 1,000 new registered voters, 4,000 attendees at over 45 events in three years and more than $400,000 raised.

“The founders, leaders and volunteers of 30 Years After are serious people who are committed to ensuring that we, as Iranian American Jews, fulfill our responsibilities as Americans and as Jewish Angelenos,” he said.

This year’s conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza will feature more than 50 speakers, including House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Berman, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, state Assemblyman Mike Feuer, former L.A. DWP General Manager H. David Nahai and Rabbi David Wolpe. Topics will include Iran’s threat to Middle East stability and issues facing the Iranian Jewish communities in the United States and Israel.

“We are excited for a bigger and better conference that is focused not only on learning about relevant issues, but also addressing how we can become effective activists and leaders,” said conference chair Diana Cohanzad, 28.

Inspired by the initial success of 30 Years After in Los Angeles, young Iranian Jewish professionals on New York’s Long Island formed an East Coast chapter in September 2008. This year, the New York chapter will host a simultaneous conference at New York University with a live video link to the Los Angeles conference. Famed Iranian Jewish stand-up comic Dan Ahdoot will host the New York event, which will feature an array of federal and New York state officials as speakers, including a keynote by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York).

Members of the organization’s West and East Coast chapters also have participated in several joint programs, including a 2009 Israel mission, a recent White House visit to witness the signing of new Iran-related sanctions legislation by President Obama and the 2010 AIPAC Conference.

Leaders of 30 Years After’s L.A. chapter say they have also forged alliances with a wide range of American Jewish organizations, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, B’nai B’rith and Jewish World Watch. The group’s members say their goals for the upcoming years are to continue encouraging local Iranian Jewish participation in Jewish community activism as well as to spur political involvement.

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