Posted by Karmel Melamed
There were live animals in a petty zoo, a pony for little kids to ride, face painting, costume contests, carnival games, older Iranian Jewish men playing backgammon, with the scent of chicken and beef kebab in the air, ...a true mix of the Iranian and American Jewish traditions of celebrating Purim at the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana on March 16th. More than 500 children and parents crowded the large parking lot of the center which was transformed into a Purim Carnival for Iranian, Russian, and Israeli Jews from the San Fernando Valley. “We’re very pleased with the large turn-out of people from the community and glad to see they are enjoying Purim with their kids and grandkids,” said Asher Aramnia, director of events for the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center. It really was a celebration of Purim with both cultural influences at the same time, something I’ve never seen before. A good part of funding for the carnival was also provided by the Neria Yomtoubian Foundation, that collaborates with the Center on many projects.
What impressed me about the Purim event at Eretz-SIAMAK was the substantial turn out of Jews of various backgrounds bringing their children to one place to celebrate Judaism. It’s really great to see members of the Iranian Jewish community here in Los Angeles opening up and welcoming other Jews to their events and gatherings. Some Iranian Jews in the city have been very tight knitt and deciding not to mix with other Jewish groups for whatever reason. Not so long ago the Eretz center did not have many young families or children attending any events and the synagogue primarly brought together older Iranian Jews. Yet things have really turn around since the Neria Yomtoubian Foundation helped fund a program to bring a new youth leader from Israel to promote and develop new programs for the younger generation and their parents.
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March 12, 2008 | 6:07 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Recently I had a chat with Bob Roofian, one of the many accomplished Iranian Jewish businessmen in the garment industry here in Southern California. Roofian and his brother when into business with their father straight out of high school in the early 1980’s. They both started their own company Urgent Gear Inc. carrying popular young men’s and boys clothing. The Roofians are a perfect example of the success story many Iranian Jews in Southern California have encountered and really been able to live the American Dream.
Like countless Iranian Jewish immigrants to Los Angeles, the Roofians have thrived in the garment business and are now looking to give back to the community. His company’s latest denim and casual wear clothing line for men and women is called Civil Society . Roofian has chosen to partner with the Los Angeles Mission and will donate five percent of their first yearâs gross sales from this new clothing line to help the homeless in Los Angeles. Likewise his company has donated a number of defective articles of clothing to the Mission for the homeless.
Roofian, now 40-year-old, shed light on his work in the garment business, his clothing line Civil Society, and the unique allure of this industry to local Iranian Jewish businessmen:
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the clothing business?
I started working in the clothing business since junior high. My first job was as at âRoss, Dress For Lessâ (clothing store) in stocking and distributing the clothes. Then I went into the menâs department in sales and worked there for about three years. So I had a little bit of clothing experience when my dad opened his wholesale clothing business in the early 1980âs in Downtown L.A. I started working with him as a buyer who used to go to New York and started buying closeouts and distributing them in L.A. Then we started designing our own clothes, I was sketching and designing them myself and then imported them through other Chinese people. We were distributing my own designs and I started going to the shows— and thatâs how it all started.
Why do you think so many Iranian Jews have gone into the garment industry and become so successful?
It takes a lot of hard work. Persian Jewish society as a group are hard working and donât mind working hard to achieve their goals. It does not have to do with experience, I think itâs just a lot of hard work.
Can you share what the experience has been for you as far as challenges youâve had to overcome in the clothing business?
My biggest challenge was working with my dad. We had different mentalities, when youâre working with your dad and he has the Persian mentality of doing business, itâs not really easy. I had to overcome that barrier and I had to work twice as hard in order to prove different routes that they didn’t believe in and take some larger risks. Since I was the youngest child, I had to be able to fight through the difference to prove myself in business.
So whatâs the difference between the Persian and American business mentalities?
The older Persian community is not open to taking larger risks. When they came here during the Khomeini times, they were a little afraid of doing things that were a bit risky because they didnât know the language and were in a foreign country. Itâs hard when you donât have a background in the line of business— my dad was in real estate and the furniture business in Iran, so he didnât know everything about the clothing business. When youâre in yours fifties, youâre pretty much set in the ways you do business. So I had to go to the shows and make the investments to prove that they work.
Education is very important for Iranian Jewish parents and they seem to push their kids to enter professional careers in medicine or the law. Youâre obviously not in any of those lines of work, how do you feel about this trend among the parents in the community?
I believe the parents should definitely let the child decide, give them the tools to make the right decision but donât push them into something theyâre not interested in. The main success in business comes when you like what you do and loving you do. Also success comes from sacrificing a lot of your social life and do what you want to do. I know a lot of people who were pushed by their parents to become a doctor or lawyer and right now theyâre not doing that. They’re doing other things that they really like. The best thing is getting up in the morning and having the excitement of achieving something that you really love doing.
What motivated you donate five percent of the gross sales from your new clothing line to the homeless in Los Angeles?
Iâve worked in downtown since 1982 and see that no one is doing anything about the homeless. I get up every morning and have to struggle getting into my business and see the poor homeless living on the streets. They live through the rain and heatâin very bad environments and have seen it get worse over the years. Downtown L.A. is really improving but no one is really doing anything about the homeless. I thought that our corporation can make a difference and others can join one by one to change things.
What advice do you have for young Iranian Jews or anyone who wants to get into the clothing business?
My advice is that if they enjoy fashion, they should start by going into the shows and seeing what category of the clothing business they really enjoy. Once they find it, itâs very easy. The market is so big, it always has an opening for new fashions. I hope people go in and try not to do what everyone is doing, but develop their own new styles.
March 8, 2008 | 12:32 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
The theme from the movie “Rocky” blasted through the main sanctuary at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills on Thursday March 6th with nearly 600 local Iranian Jews who came to witness a heated debate between author and television personality Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and syndicated Jewish radio talk show host Dennis Prager. Their debate focused on Boteachâs newest book “The Broken American Male”. Boteach’s argument was that American men nowadays don’t pay as much attention to the emotional needs of their wives and children. Instead he argued American men spend too much time watching sports on TV and porn on the Internet. He also said American men are often too caught up with making money and less focused on making the family work—a reason why some marriages fail and some children may not want to be at home. Prager argued that the problem may not lie with American men but perhaps with American society where the roles of men and women have been blurred since the feminist movement of the 1960s’ and 1970s’.
While I personally did not favor the arguments of either side, I was impressed with the large turnout of mostly younger Iranian Jewish professionals. You could even say Prager and Boteach were treated like celebrities by those in attendance as small groups huddled around them before and after the debate. Boteach had previously spoken at Nessah and has many fans in the community considering the fact that his father is an Iranian Jew. Prior to the debate, some in attendance enjoyed Sushi and Saki while mingling—after all, this was yet another opportunity for young Jewish singles to meet one another!
To listen to our podcast featuring Boteach and Prager’s views of young Iranian American Jews here
March 4, 2008 | 11:35 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Recently a non-Iranian Jewish reader of this blog e-mailed me regarding this story put out by the Iranian state-run news agency about Maurice Motamed, the Jewish member of the Iranian Parliament along with Iran’s Jewish leadership condemning Israel for it’s Gaza operations against Hamas. In his email he asked me; “what the hell is going on with these Jews of Iran that are so anti-Israel?”. Here’s a particularly nasty portion of the brief story coming from Iran:
The Iran Jewish Committee’s statement said that the “latest crimes committed by Israel against the defenseless citizens of Gaza have distressed the faithful and godly people’s sentiments.”
My response to the reader of this blog regarding this story was simple…don’t always believe what you read that’s coming from the Iranian government! When you look at the history of Jews in Iran dating back to even biblical times during the Babylonian exile, they have always yearned for Zion. For the most part Iranian Jews in general worldwide have had a special love for the land of Israel and maintained a proud but often quiet sense of Zionism because of having endured centuries of pogroms, murders, rapes, and mass conversions from Iran’s Shiite Islamic rulers. So to think that Iran’s Jews would overnight or during the last 29 years suddenly condemn Israel is utterly absurd. I know I may sound like a broken record but this news release put out by the Iranian government run news outlet is pure propaganda the regime is putting out to attack Israel by using their Jewish population. So why have the leaders of the Jewish community in Iran made such a condemnation of Israel aside from the propaganda? PURE AND SIMPLE DURESS! Clearly if they don’t fall into line and say what the regime wants them to say, heads will roll and there will be “negative consequences” for the Jews of Iran. So again don’t believe the lies you read when it comes from the Iranian government… especially when the stories concern Jews or Israel.
Frankly the story also reeks of propaganda due to the fact that it lacks any solid attributable quote from an Iranian Jewish leader. To the contrary, this crazy story generally refers to the “The Iran Jewish Committee” giving a joint statement. To think that Iran’s Jews would have more sympathy for the supposed “suffering” of Palestinians rather than their own Jewish brethren in Sderot who were the first victims of rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza, is ridiculous and completely illogical. It is simply shameful how the Iranian government is exploiting their Jewish population for this type of B.S. media attacks against Israel.
Likewise what’s even more saddening is the fact that the Iranian government is more focused on the supposed Palestinian suffering, but has turned a blind eye to the pains of its own 70 million population that is suffering from food shortages, high inflation and high unemployment. Instead the regime’s mullahs can always turn to their trusted scapegoat and perfect “whipping boy” Israel to divert the attention of the Iranian masses. The Iranian government can also furnish Hamas with the rocket technology and arms smuggled through Egypt to Gaza…what a great way for the regime to spend that oil money! Forget about the millions of hungry Iranians, the regime’s clerics want to strengthen terrorism in Gaza. After all the leaders of Iran’s government claim to be benevolent, peace-loving, and godly people…YEAH RIGHT!
March 2, 2008 | 1:11 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
It’s simply amazing how truly hypocritical and idiotic the current Iranian government is when it comes to their messages put out in the media regarding Jews. Day in and day out the Iranian regime goes to great lengths to differentiate how they hate Israel and the “Zionist” enemy but supposedly “love the Jews and treat the Jews in their country with rights”. What a bunch of B.S.! The Iranian regime may project an image of “loving Jews” when it comes to the Western media but when one takes a closer look at their domestic television news or entertainment program, the opposite is true.
The Washington-based, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has recently exposed one of the latest anti-Semitic television series put out by Iranian state-run television called “40 Soldiers”. The series, created by Mohammad Nourizad supposedly examines Islamic historical perspectives where the Shiite Islamic prophet Ali is depicted as conquering the Jewish fortress called “Khaybar”. Basically the entire translated program which can be seen here on the MEMRI site portrays Jews as evil and seeking to harass “peace-loving Muslims”. Here’s a sample of the translation of what the narrator’s show says during the 28-part series:
“The Jews [who lived] in the suburbs of Al-Madina harassed the Muslims, especially the Prophet [Muhammad]. They repeatedly violated the agreements. This is Khaybar, an inhabited region far from Al-Madina. Some of the fortresses of the Jews have been liberated by the Muslims, but their most important fortress still stands, and all the Muslims efforts to take control of it have been unsuccessful. Hunger afflicts the Muslim army, making the campaign even more difficult. They are all hungry - even the commanders and the Prophet’s companions.”
One Jewish character on the series named “Marhab” is portrayed as trying to eliminate Muslims:
“In my view, the Muslims are the angel of death for the Israelites. They have come to separate us from Moses and Aaron. The eyes of Judaism are set upon you and me. Fight, as if you want to wipe them out. I will eradicate this community [of Muslims].”
The next time you see or hear about the government in Iran being “benevolent to the Jews, loving Jews, or offering Jews equal rights in Iran”, you can be rest assured that it’s all pretty much the regime’s propaganda put out to place themselves in a good light. The regime and it’s leaders have a deep rooted ideological hatred for Jews and other non-Muslims. They might be able to deny this hatred in the Western media every once in a while but they never fail to hide it from the public in Iran.