Posted by Karmel Melamed
As a journalist who covers Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community I often have the rare opportunity to regularly chat with both young and old within the community to get a real sense of what activities are brewing and people’s sentiments. Folks within the community confidentially share their own personal opinions “off the record” and I find it interesting that more and more young professional Iranian Jews have recently been voicing their frustrations about the community’s leaders to me. Of course I cannot name names but I have personally witnessed a number of community leaders and financially prominent “philanthropists” give these successful professionals in their 20’s and 30’s the cold shoulder or total disregard.
Right now the local Iranian Jewish community is in a transition period as we have a number of very successful young professionals who grew up in America and received American educations, now trying to give back to the community in their own ways. These young folks are lawyers, doctors, scientists, engineers, bankers, real estate developers…and dare I say even “journalists’ who are proud of being Iranian Jews and want to contribute to and improve the community. Yet from my personal experience and from what I’ve witnessed lately, these young professionals are not being taken seriously or welcomed by the majority of those in the older generation of Iranian Jews in their 50’s and 60’s. On the surface, these older Iranian Jews sometimes talk of being supportive to those emerging on the scene and wanting to be active in community life, but when it comes to showing real moral and financial support they have done very little. For example, one young Iranian Jewish professional recently told me; “Me and my group went in to see a wealthy Iranian Jewish businessman about contributing to our event for social activism and he not only refused to give us any money but also bad mouthed us for raising the issue because he felt it was an ‘embarrassment’ for the community”. Another young professional told me she was given a lot of friendly rhetoric and pats on the back when she approached older Iranian Jews within one prominent local community organization to support her Jewish related cause. Yet when it came time for these same individuals to lend her a hand not a single person even returned her phone calls.
For the record I must say that there are exceptions to this type of behavior in the local Iranian Jewish community. I know for a fact that the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills has set aside funds for young professionals’ activities and has even permitted young professionals to sit on their board. Likewise the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana has also been very active in giving a real voice to young Iranian Jewish professionals, supporting their activities and even employing a youth activities director to help young people in the community feel as if they too are participating. Yet these two organizations are in the minority. It is a very sad reality that many of those older Iranian Jews who have been quite active in the community have not been receptive to the younger generation. This type of behavior leads many younger Iranian Jews to become disenfranchised with the community and disinterested in any form of activism. One young doctor recently told me; “why the hell should I be a part of this group or contribute to them when they don’t give a damn about my point of view and have ignored me every time I try to raise an issue with their board members?” I know that I as a young journalist in the Iranian Jewish community, I too have been disrespected on a number of occasions when approaching certain older community members to comment for articles I was working on. The experience was both humiliating and frustrating…unfortunately many older Iranian Jews in the L.A. area do not respect the profession of journalism, younger people, nor any other person who may not be as financially well off as them.
The sad reality is that the Iranian Jewish community will eventually loose out in the long run when a number of their young professionals are ultimately driven away by the unfriendly and sometimes hostile behavior of those older than them in the community. It should also be noted that some of these older Iranian Jews in Los Angeles claim to be “activists and philanthropists” when in reality they are all show and talk…they do little if nothing to give of their time or money to helping the community in a positive way.
11.9.13 at 1:24 pm | L.A. Mayor Garcetti remains silent as UANI and. . .
10.20.13 at 10:40 pm | Since the new Iranian president's inauguration in. . .
10.10.13 at 11:25 pm | Rabbi Mark Diamond, the Regional Director of AJC. . .
10.2.13 at 6:48 pm | Iranian president's latest use of Twitter is only. . .
8.18.13 at 11:10 pm | Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei spews his. . .
6.30.13 at 11:22 am | Young Iranian Jews are breaking old community. . .
1.28.08 at 9:30 pm | (94)
10.13.07 at 3:19 pm | (36)
4.3.08 at 7:12 pm | (29)
July 17, 2008 | 1:53 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Israel is in mourning today after yesterday’s exchange of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev for notorious PLO terrorist Samir Kuntar, four other terrorists and the bodies of 199 Hezbollah fighters who had died during the 2006 war with Israel. The deal was brokered by a U.N. mediator between Israel and the Iranian-backed Shiite Islamic Terrorist group Hezbollah based in Southern Lebanon. Kuntar is one of four militants who in April of 1979 came to Israel’s northern shore and murdered an Israel man and his two-year old daughter—for this crime he was sentenced to prisoner for four life-terms and was the longest-serving Arab prisoner in Israel.
Kuntar’s unmerciful crimes and the decision to exchange him in this deal has no doubt been especially heart-wrenching for Israel because of the high price paid to for these soldiers bodies. Yet the larger crime in this exchange was perpetrated by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah and the demonic monsters running the current Iranian regime. Since the 2006 war, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has been playing a sick and twisted game of psychological torture with the Israeli public by threatening to kill the Goldwasser and Regev (who we now know were dead) if his murderous thugs were we not released from Israeli prisons. Nasrallah knows very well that we as Jews value life and will go to great lengths to secure a prisoners release as well as give our dead a proper burial—and he played that card very well in this instance. Only a cruel and truly evil individual with a depraved heart would toy with people’s human emotions to advance a political agenda.
Iran’s government and Hezbollah follow a radical fundamentalist form of Shiite Islam that does not value life, encourages martyrdom and uses civilians as mere pawns to advance their vile objectives of trying to get the rest of the free world to follow their backward beliefs as well as repressive ways of life. They do not care how many lives are destroyed or the amount of chaos they unleash upon the world…just as long as it advances their power and religious goals. This radical form of Shiite Islam is very simple—“follow our way of life or die” and this message is clearly set forth in the Iranian government’s constitution whose objective it is to spread their wick religious beliefs worldwide by means of jihad and war. And for those who don’t believe Hezbollah and Iran are linked, think again! Since Hezbollah was founded by Iran’s clerical leaders and is fully funded by the Iranian government, the terrorist group is part and parcel of the government.
Now my question to Senator Barack Obama and other liked minded politicians is, how on earth can you even sit down and negotiate with these wicked monsters who have no sense of humanity? How do you expect such animals to keep their word? If these dangerous individuals do not understand the basic logic of humanity but only care about bringing the arrival of their “messiah” through a nuclear holocaust, what do you plan on gaining through talks with them? And lastly, what do you plan on negotiating about with these immoral creatures who only want to destroy America, Israel and the free world? What would such U.S. officials say;…”excuse me Ayatollah XYZ, could you guys stop enriching Uranium for nuclear weapons if we give you some economic incentives?” Or would they say; “uhmmm, Mr. Ayatollah ABC, would you please stop funding Shiite militias and terrorists who are killing American troops in Iraq?” HOW UTTERLY RIDICULOUS! Negotiations, reason and logic just don’t register with the demonic Iranian government leaders. If you don’t believe me, just ask any Iranian Jew or other Iranian religious minority that escaped the hands of these Iranian clerics and now live in the U.S. These Iranian minority ex-pats will truly shed light on the deep rooted evil of Iran’s regime and the heinous crimes against humanity they have committed against on their own population which is a Muslim majority. Right now Iran is among the largest importers of construction cranes in the world… the cranes are not used by the regime for construction but to hang in public those individuals who do not obey their ridiculous law and accept their brutal rule!
If this is how they treat their own people, god knows what they would have in mind for outsiders! Perhaps the best solution to dealing with the Iranian regime is to clamp down hard on them economically. The life line that is keeping Iran’s leaders in power is their income from oil that is exported and foreign investment in their countries. The international community must unite and impose back breaking sanctions on Iran to the point where their already weakened economy collapses. Since Iran does not refine it’s own oil, perhaps the gulf states who do handle it’s oil refining can stop doing so…all of these actions would no doubt bring the country to a standstill and lead average Iranians who are already opposed to the regime to overthrow it.
By the way, for those who do not know the story of Kuntar’s heinous crimes….he and three other PLO militants made their way in a rubber dinghy from Lebanon to Israel’s northern shore around midnight on April 22, 1979. In a hail of gunfire and exploding grenades, they charged into an apartment building in the coastal city of Nahariya, 5 miles from the Lebanese border, where the Haran family lived. Smadar Haran sought refuge with her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, and a neighbor in a crawl space. Her 28-year-old husband, Danny, grabbed their 4-year-old daughter Einat, hoping to dash outside to an underground bomb shelter, when the attackers burst into their apartment. Father and daughter were herded down to the beach, where their assailants hoped to pack them into the rubber boat and take them as hostages to Lebanon, according to a recently declassified transcript of Kantar’s testimony at his trial, published this week by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper. But the dinghy had been punctured by gunfire, so the attackers went on a bloody rampage instead. The Israeli court found that Kantar shot Danny Haran in front of his child, then killed her, too. “Kantar went over to Einat Haran and hit her head twice with the butt of his rifle crushing her skull, with the intent of killing her,” read a report from Kantar’s trial.
And now Senator Obama wants to go negotiate with these same depraved monsters heading Iran’s regime that celebrate the release of the baby killer Kuntar! Thank you Senator, now I can sleep better tonight knowing that this is how you intend on protecting America from these same ruthless animals in Iran’s regime who are seeking to destroy us.
July 14, 2008 | 3:41 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
I recently attended a press conference for Southern California’s Persian language media at UCLA’s Covel Commons held by freshman California State Assembly member Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) regarding a new Iran divestment bill, also known as ACR 79. The bill symbolically calls on the University of California Regents to divest nearly $2 billion in employee pension funds invested in companies doing business in Iran.
Listen to our exclusive podcast interview with Anderson regarding his new bill ACR 79, here
Last October California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law, AB 221 legislation Anderson had drafted requiring state pension funds to divest roughly $200 million from companies working with Iran’s regime. Anderson said he has spearheaded Iran divestment legislation because of his concern for Israel and America’s security amidst Iran’s growing ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. From my interview with Anderson, I walked aways with the feeling that he is perhaps one of the few lawmakers in this country that really understands how the U.S. and the free world can bring down the radical Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran—and that is through economic pressure. As a result of poor economic policies and good old fashioned corruption by the ayatollahs running Iran, the regime is tittering on the verge of economic collapse with double digit unemployment and inflation as well as high food costs. The only two things keeping the regime afloat are the billions in petro-dollars from their sale of crude oil and foreign investments in the country from multi-national corporations. Wisely, Anderson has gone for the Achilles’ heal of the Iranian government by targeting companies that are invested in Iran and calling on public and private entities to divest from these businesses working with the regime. Already the state of California has divested $200 million of its pension funds that were indirectly supporting the regime and nearly 20 other states have done the same. No doubt these millions over time add up to billions and can really hinder the Iranian regime’s ability to stay alive.
My hope is that the University of California Regents will also get this very vital message of how to topple the regime in Iran by divesting their pension funds! Any person in their right mind that does not want to see the Middle East plunged into a war by Iran’s government obtaining nuclear weapons will support this ACR 79 and other similar Iran divestment bills. I think we as Californians need to contact the UC Regents and urge them to divest their employee pension funds from companies working with Iran. The Regents contact information can be found at here. In my opinion, Anderson is one of the many true friends Israel has in the California Assembly because he realizes the real threat that the Iranian government possess to Israel and the need to bring down the regime in Tehran through economic means. He also a true friend to those Iranian Americans who oppose the current regime in Iran and want greater human rights for their countrymen living there.
Right now there is plenty of talk of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites and I am not one to support or oppose this option…but I do sincerely believe that cutting off the regime’s lifeline of funds is key to effectively toppling the Iranian government. Once their economy collapses, the majority of Iranians who already oppose the brutality of their government, will also rise up against their leadership and hopefully destroy the regime. If enough states in America, the U.S. Federal government and countries in Europe turn off the spigot of funds going into Iran—there is no doubt that it will squeeze that regime which is already hurting. Divestment has worked in the past with countries such as Libya and South Africa, there’s no reason for it not to work with Iran today.
Those interested in supporting Anderson and his bill ACR 79, can visit his website here
July 8, 2008 | 10:24 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
More than 300 Southern California young professional Iranian Jews packed an old restaurant temporary transformed into a comedy club near Downtown L.A. on June 28th for the Magbit Young Leadership’s fundraiser for the Magbit organization’s Jewish scholarships and interest-free loans. The event, dubbed as “Jokefest”, headlined a number of emerging comedians including popular Iranian Muslim comedian Maz Jobrani.
Listen to our latest podcast featuring Magbit’s Young Leadership members here
Magbit was formed in 1990 by several affluent Iranian Jews in Southern California and has offered millions of dollars in interest-free loans and scholarships to nearly 9,000 financially struggling students in Israel and the U.S. It simply amazes me that after three decades Iranian Jewish immigrants to the U.S. who fled Iran with little or none of their past fortunes in Iran, are now successful enough to support Israel through this organization! In a time when Israel is in the forefront of technological advancements…what better gift than to promote education through interest-free loans to Jewish students in Israel. The young Iranian Jews of this group are obviously carrying on the torch of Zionism through their work with this group.
On a more interesting note…as journalist who covers the local Iranian Jewry, I’ve come to discover that the many Magbit events also serve as gathering points for Iranian Jews in their 20’s and 30’s to meet one another and often find their future spouses. For all of you American Jews who are looking to snag yourself a handsome Iranian Jewish groom or Iranian Jewish bride…I have no doubt Magbit’s members will be more than willing to welcome you to their shindigs as well! I’ve had a chance to attend a few of Magbit’s annual gala events at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills which have always been a big broo-ha-ha and attracted a number of young professionals trying to find potential matches. In the end, what better way to spend your time that to support Israel and also mingle with other young Jewish singles. Below are some sights I captured from Magbit’s Jokefest…
July 7, 2008 | 3:39 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
More than 300 young professionals members of the local Iranian Jewish “30 Years After” organization gathered at a private residence in Beverly Hills to encourage political activism in the community on June 25th. Our blog’s podcast caught up with a number of young professionals at the event who shed light on how Southern California’s Iranian Jews will most likely be voting in the 2008 presidential race.
Listen to our latest podcast about Iranian Jews and the 2008 election here
Iran is indeed an issue during the election this year and it is particularly important for local Iranian Jews because the majority of them have suffered at the hands of Iran’s regime during or after the 1979 revolution. Obama’s calls to negotiate with Iran’s current regime does not sit well with older Iranian American Jews because many had their assests confiscated by the regime or were terrorized by the regime. So they do not want to see the Iranian Ayatollahs rewarded by any American administration’s welcoming gestures that will legitimize their rule in Iran. Some of Obama’s foreign policy advisers are also former Carter administration advisers who older Iranian Jews and other Iranian Americans blame for helping to bring the current Islamic fundamentalist regime to power in Iran nearly 30 years ago. My article published in the Jewish Journal regarding Iranian Jews views of Obama and McCain can be found here.
Emotions were running high and excitement was in the air among Iranian American Jews in their 20’s and 30’s at the event who expressed a desire to outreach to elected officials in order to get issues important to them addressed. “The tremendous turnout at this event shows that something special is brewing in the Iranian American Jewish community,” said Jonathan Yagoubzadeh, a 30 Years After co-founder. “Whether it’s protecting Israel, improving the economy or solving the energy crisis, Iranian Jews now realize that the decisions our leaders make have a lasting impact on our community and our country”. From my own perspective as a journalist covering the local Iranian Jewish community, I felt the gathering was unique because you don’t typically see such a large turn out of Iranian Jews to a politically-related event…to the contrary, most young Iranian Jews in the L.A. area attend different fundraisers for Jewish or Israel causes in order to meet potential spouses or to network for business purposes. One could say “30 Years After” has created a lot of buzz in the Iranian Jewish community, hopefully they will receive the financial and moral backing of other Iranian Jewish groups who are often uncooperative with one another.
The event’s keynote speaker, L.A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca encouraged young Iranian Jews to volunteer as goodwill ambassadors for the Sheriff’s department. “I am really impressed and inspired by the young members of the Iranian Jewish community’s desire to becoming more involved in Los Angeles as a whole, ” said Baca. Other community leaders on hand included L.A. DWP General Manager H. David Nahai, California Assembly member Mike Feuer, former Assembly member Paul Koretz and Beverly Hills City Councilmember Jimmy Delshad. Below are some images I captured from the gathering…