Posted by Karmel Melamed
When you think of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, you think of the glitz and glamour of high society and the street which is home to some of the fashion world’s most expensive high-end stores. Well more than 600 local young Iranian Jewish professionals brought that same glamour to Hanukkah on December 3rd when attending a Hanukkah mixer and toy drive for needy children held at the “Cow Jumped Over the Moon” restaurant inside the Rodeo Collection in Beverly Hills. Yes, young Iranian Jewish professionals not only made Hanukkah very “cool” and “stylish” this year, but have gone the extra mile to use their gathering to benefit worthy Jewish causes in town!
More than 800 toy gifts were donated by party attendees and a few thousand dollars in proceeds from this year’s event were given to two local Jewish non-profit groups, “Friendship Circle” and “Chai Lifeline”. Debbie Farnoush, one of the event’s organizers and a member of the 30 Years After (30YA) L.A.-based Iranian Jewish organization, said she was impressed by her community’s generosity during Hanukkah. “The event was needed more than ever especially in the tough economic times since many organizations have been shortchanged and not been able to provide full services,” said Farnoush. “Hopefully these toys and gifts will make a difference to the children and teens that are affected by cancer and genetic disorders and bring a smile to their faces this holiday season”. Other organizers for the Hanukkah mixer included 30YA member Sara Sarshar as well as Ronie Ravan and Alex Levian from the local Iranian Jewish “Lev Foundation”.
I personally believe the Lev Foundation and 30YA deserve kudos for putting together this function because it is yet another beautiful example of how the younger generation of Iranian Jewry have not forgotten their responsibility of giving Tzedakah (charity). Yes many Iranian Jews who fled their turbulent former homeland 30 years ago have today achieved the American dream, yet at the same time they have still held steadfast to their Jewish values which dictate the need to heal the large Jewish community as well as the world. It’s groups like these that are able to make Hanukkah as fun and exciting as the “other” holidays celebrated in North America, so thanks guys!
Two weeks after the event, I caught up with Farnoush and Sarshar who along with other 30YA members were personally wrapping the toys that had been donated. Each gift was hand delivered door to door to needy children during Hanukkah. Both ladies discussed their community’s motivation in organizing the Hanukkah mixer in this interview:
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December 21, 2009 | 11:18 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
As an 11-year-old Jewish girl living in Tehran, Angella M. Nazarian witnessed firsthand the turmoil and violence of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Massive anti-Shah protests in the streets coupled with rampant machine gunfire were just some of the painful memories Nazarian recalls in her new book “Life As A Visitor”. Now author and professor of psychology at UCLA, Nazarian’s personal account sheds light on how her once sheltered carefree life as a Jew living in a Muslim country was suddenly turned upside down as a result of the turbulent revolution that forced thousands of Jews and other Iranians opposed to the new radical Islamic regime to flee Iran. “Life As a Visitor” also features Nazarian’s powerful poetry and vivid photographs carefully woven throughout the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed her book and it resonated with me because it tells a very personal story of the turmoil Jews fleeing from Iran experienced and how they readjusted to life in America. Her story is also special in my opinion because she gives some new insights to the challenges younger Iranian American Jews have encountered in finding a new identity. I believe that Nazarian’s story, while not political, is especially important today because it offers non-Iranian readers a unique perspective on the true evil and brutal nature of the current regime in Iran.
Now living in Beverly Hills, Nazarian recently sat down with me to discuss her new book and her experience as an Iranian Jewish immigrant living in the United States. The following is my video interview with her:
December 7, 2009 | 7:18 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Last year I had the special opportunity to attend a gala event for the Advancement of Research for Myopathies (ARM), a non-profit based in Encino. The organization’s Iranian Jewish doctors, Daniel and Babak Darvish, have been at the forefront of seeking a cure for “Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy” (HIBM), a progressive and debilitating genetic muscle disease. HIBM typically plagues Jews of Middle Eastern ancestry, including some Iranian Jews. Fortunately testing to determine if a person is a carrier of the HIBM gene or disease is available. Our blog’s webcast recently sat down with both doctors to catch up with their organization’s efforts in the Iranian Jewish community to find a cure for HIBM:
The Darvishes, in my opinion are courageous because even though they have been plagued with this genetic disorder, they have taken on the enormous task of finding a cure for HIBM and also removing the stigma the Iranian Jewish community has long attached to people with this disorder. Sadly, some mothers in the community argued that even though one of their children may have HIBM, their other children who do not have the disorder will not be able to marry a person in the Iranian Jewish community because of the fear many Iranian Jews have of passing on the genetic disease.
December 6, 2009 | 9:13 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
As a young child I had the very unique opportunity of being raised by my wise Iranian Jewish great-grandmother who lived a full life of more than a century. Perhaps the most powerful lesson she taught me was “if you ever want to know what kind of person someone really is, see who they are friends with first”. This simple message has resonated with me to this very day and immediately came to mind when I recently discovered the very disturbing association between the new supposed “pro-Israel” group called “J-Street” and the supposed pro-Iranian regime non-profit group the “National Iranian American Council” (NIAC).
Writer Lenny Ben David in his recent Jerusalem Post piece has done a wonderful job in researching and exposing the financial and ideological links between J-Street and NIAC. Ben David states;
“Why should a National Iranian American Council board member give at least $10,000 to J Street PAC? Perhaps it is because of the very close relationship between the two organizations. In June the directors of both organizations coauthored an article in the Huffington Post, ‘How diplomacy with Iran can Work,’ arguing against imposing new tough sanctions on Iran. The two organizations have worked in lockstep over the last year to torpedo congressional action against Iran. Why would a supposedly pro-Israel, pro-peace organization work so hard to block legislation that would undermine the Iranian ayatollah regime? Ostensibly, any step to hinder Iran’s nuclear development and aid to Hamas and Hizbullah would be a step toward regional peace. Deterring Iran through sanctions would lessen the need for military action against Iran.”
For many of us Iranian American journalists who are quite familiar with NIAC and its leader Trita Parsi, both, for years has been openly advocating positions in the U.S. news media and in political circles that have generally been favorable to the Iranian government. For example, Parsi for last seven years has been openly calling for U.S. sanctions against Iran to lifted and for more diplomatic pressure to be placed on Israel visa vie the Iran situation. In 2006, when I covered the California state bill AB-221 (requiring for divestment of state employee pension funds from companies doing business in Iran) not surprising NIAC was the only Iranian group in the U.S. opposed to the legislation! Parsi never returned my calls for comment on why his group was so opposed to a bill that held companies accountable for working with Iran’s regime while the Iranian government was pursuing nuclear weapons and had a heinous human rights record. In fact, NIAC has been the only Iranian American group opposed to all of the Iranian divestment bills in states across the nation. I would say that a vast majority of Iranians Americans living in the U.S. oppose the current regime in Iran and have been at the forefront of pushing for tougher diplomatic, economic and some even military action against their former homeland. Parsi, who holds Iranian and Swedish passports and lives in the United States as a resident alien, is clearly in the minority of Iranians living in the U.S. who do not want pressure applied to the regime in Tehran.
Now I am not one to accuse NIAC of being the “unofficial lobby” of the Iranian government in Washington D.C. But the fact of the matter is that Arizona based Iranian American journalist Hassan Daioleslam first publicly asserted in his 2007 article that NIAC was lobbying on behalf of the Iranian government. Parsi subsequently sued Daioleslam for defamation and as a result of that lawsuit there has been disclosures of NIAC documents which will set the record straight as to NIAC’s true activities vis-à-vis the Iranian government. According to a recent Washington Times article, the defamation lawsuit which Parsi filed may ultimately lead to trouble for NIAC if documents uncovered from the discovery phase of the civil suit yields information that the organization was indeed using its influence to lobby for policies favorable to the Iranian regime in violation of federal law.
In light of NIAC’s obviously pro-Iranian government positions, what troubles me the most about J-Street is the fact that their alleged “pro-Israel” organization has had such close financial and ideological ties. Just as Ben David has so perfectly stated, I too am left asking why would any pro-Israel group would have close ties with individuals like Parsi and groups like NIAC who have been so vehemently opposed to sanctions against Iran? Wouldn’t imposing sanctions against Iran’s government that has been seeking to annihilation be a pro-Israel type of thing to do? Why would a supposed “pro-Israel” group like J-Street have alliances with NIAC that has been opposed to current bills in Congress calling for a tighter economic crack down on Iran and its terrorist proxies Hezbollah and Hamas? Indeed J-Street through the political positions it has taken regarding Israel and from its close associations with groups like NIAC, has proven to be
no friend of Israel
. For those who still support J-Street, they need to look more closely at this wolf in sheep’s clothing that associates itself with Israel’s foes such as NIAC.
Lastly, what disturbs me the most about Parsi is the fact that even though he publicly condemned the Iranian government’s violent crackdown on peaceful protestors in Iran following the June elections this year, since the late 1990s’ he had been singing the praises of the regime in Tehran and its alleged former “reformist” president Mohammad Khatami. But now that Western populations have witnessed the disgusting and inhuman behavior of the regime in Iran (which Khatami has always been a part of and always endorsed), Parsi has quickly changed his tune to fit the larger public sentiment. How fickle! By the way…for those who still think may Khatami and the reformists in Iran are supposedly “benevolent”, I recommend they read my piece on the Iranian reformist leaders that will shed light on their evil reign of terror in Iran.