Posted by Karmel Melamed
On April 2nd nearly 150 young L.A. area Iranian Jews gathered at the Tower hotel in the Pico-Robertson area for a Casino Night held by the local “Jewish Unity Network” (J.U.N.) organization. Party goers enjoyed playing various casino style games, danced the night away and honored Dalia Eliav and Soheil Zarabi, two Iranian Jews in their 20’s for encouraging community activism and Jewish values among their peers. “I wanted young Jews on the UCLA campus to be able to unite with their culture and religion in order to create a sense of community,” said 22-year-old Eliav, who has been organizing various youth events for the last five years. J.U.N.’s founder and executive director, Dara Abaei had nothing but praise for both Eliav and Zarabi who he said have both unselfishly dedicated their free time to bringing young Iranian Jews together in various Jewish settings. Kudos to J.U.N. for encouraging leadership among Southern California’s young Iranian Jews!
While I personally do not attend many of these local Iranian Jewish shindigs because there are simply too many of them, I did attend J.U.N.’s Casino Night because the group has been involved in some remarkable work in the community. Both Abaei and J.U.N. deserve praise because J.U.N. is among less than a handful of local Iranian Jewish groups that are actually putting together positive and effective programs for the youth in our community. The group has been in the forefront of addressing such pressing issues as drug abuse, drunk driving, violence, assimilation outside of Judaism and the need for community volunteerism among local Iranian Jews. More importantly, I’ve found that J.U.N. has given Iranian Jewish teens and young professionals the tools to become leaders in their own rite and has encouraged them to embrace their unique Jewish identities. Unfortunately too many of our community’s organizations often have meaningless parties to self promote without having a true message regarding the need for young people to improve themselves and their surroundings. J.U.N. has been the exception to the rule and in turn young Iranian Jews, couples, religious and non-religious alike have been flocking to their events. Lastly J.U.N. deserves high praise because it has also promoted Zionism among Iranian Jewish youth, an essential education considering the fact that many college aged students nowadays are constantly bombarded with anti-Israel rhetoric on their campuses.
Those interested in learning more about J.U.N. can visit their site: http://lajun.com/
The following are just a few sights captured from J.U.N.’s recent Casino Night:
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April 12, 2009 | 8:13 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Last Sunday April 5th roughly 3,000 Los Angeles area Iranian Americans of various religious backgrounds gathered at Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley to enjoy “No Ruz” or Persian New Year celebrations with their friends and family. Our podcast program caught up with a number of local elected and appointed city officials who were on hand to celebrate No Ruz with the Iranian community. We caught up with L.A. City Councilmembers Dennis Zine, Jack Weiss, Tony Cardenas as well as City Controller Wendy Gruel and Los Angeles D.W.P. head H. David Nahai on their impressions of the local Iranian American community.
Our podcast can heard here
While our podcast was unable to include Controller Gruel and Councilmember Zine comments due to time limitations, they did chat with me during the celebrations expressing their No Ruz wishes for the local Iranian American community and overall support for what the community has achieved in Los Angeles. For the past six years local city officials have celebrated the secular Persian New Year with a gathering at L.A. City Hall in the Council chambers and at a larger gathering in Balboa Park. The park falls within the council district of Cardenas, who has made the venue available to the local Iranian community for No Ruz events each year. He’s wisely won many supporters from the community with this gesture at a time when other councilmembers were slow to court local Iranian voters several years ago.
The park’s event this year as in years before featured Persian music, popular Iranian singers, unique Iranian foods as well as a whole host of vendors selling their books, clothing and other Persian related memorabilia. Iranian Jews like many other Iranian religious groups celebrate “No Ruz” because they feel it is a part of their long standing cultural identity. In my opinion perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the No Ruz celebrations in Southern California is the sense of harmony and camaraderie Iranians of various faith share with one another. No Ruz every year gives new hope to all Iranians worldwide that peace, tolerance and tranquility will conquer all evil on our planet—this in my opinion is the best message for the holiday.
The following are just a few images I captured from the No Ruz festivities this year at Balboa Park: