Posted by Karmel Melamed
Professor Goel Cohan is perhaps one of the Iranian Jewish community’s few distinguished and respected writers and historians, having authored countless articles and to date three Persian language books about the lives of Iranian Jewry in the early part of the 20th century. I caught up with the London-based Cohan during his visit to Southern California on June 16th for the launching of his latest book “Upon the Wings of Wisdom” at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills. Cohan shed light on this book and why older folks in the Iranian Jewish community enjoy his historically accurate storytelling books.
In addition to the remarkable historical facts laid out in his books, Cohan’s writing style of “research based memoir-writing” is unique because he writes his books in the first-person speaking to the reader as if he were the individual the memoir is about. For example, his latest book “Upon the Wings of Wisdom” is indeed a memoir of the life of the late “Hacham Yedidia Shofet”, the spiritual and community leader of Iran’s Jews for nearly 60 years. Yet when one reads the book, it reads as if Shofet is recalling his life and what transpired for Jews living in the Iranian city of Kashan nearly 100 years ago. “This is a new methodology of historical analysis by research and a role playing personality from that time period,” said Cohan when I inquired about his writing style. “About 10 to 15 percent of the words Hacham Yedidia uses in the book are accurate words that cam from his mouth”.
What is even more remarkable of “Upon the Wings of Wisdom” is that Cohan spent four years of intensive work reviewing historical records in Switzerland, France, the U.K., the U.S. and even in Iran that were used in the book. His travels took him to the city of Kashan in Iran and even to the archives of the Iranian parliament to uncover hard facts about Shofet’s life, work and the conditions of Jews living in Kashan. Likewise Cohan conducted two dozen interviews for the book to assure accuracy. What I admire about Cohan is his dedication to remaining true only to the historically documented facts about the subject matters in his books and not being influenced by community members.
Interestingly, the main contingency of Iranian Jews in attendance for this book launching where older folks from the community. I did not see more than two or three younger individuals inside Nessah’s main sanctuary of Cohan’s presentation. For me, this was indeed heartbreaking because books like “Upon the Wings of Wisdom” need to be translated into English for individuals like myself who cannot read the Persian language but have a great interest in the subject matter. We as young Iranian Jewish professionals need to know what our ancestors endured in Iran to appreciate our Jewish roots and preserve our traditions. Cohan has assured me that he has undertaken efforts to eventually translate this book into English.
“Upon the Wings of Wisdom” is the third in a series of research based memoir-type books Cohan has written over the years. His first book was called “A Tale of Culture” which covered the life of the late Jewish teacher Mashalah Farivar and the lives of Jews during the early 20th century living in the Iranian city of Shiraz. His second book completed in 2008 was called “A Follower of Culture” and was a memoir regarding the life of the late Elias Eshaghian, the director of the Alliance Israelite Jewish schools based in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Yazd, Esfahan and Sanadaj.
The following are just some snapshots of the evening’s photos I captured…
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June 17, 2010 | 1:51 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Southern California’s Iranian American Jews and the community’s best known politician, Beverly Hills Mayor, Jimmy Delshad were present and voicing their strong support of Israel on June 6, 2010 along with three thousand of Israel supporters outside of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. I witnessed the rally firsthand which was filled with Jews and Christians, Whites, Latinos and Asians all showing up for several hours in the summer heat to stand with Israel. The rally for Israel was in response to the world’s denouncing of Israel after the Israeli government prohibited a flotilla of terrorists from landing at Gaza’s terrorist Hamas controlled shores.
Many L.A. based Iranian Jews know firsthand the threat posed by Iran’s current radical Islamic regime toward non-Shiite Muslims and the threat of Hamas— Iran’s proxy in Gaza toward the Jewish State. For this reason, they came in droves waving their American and Israeli flags. Delshad, who is one of the community’s leaders spoke very clearly about Iran’s terror activities toward Israel and the free world during the rally. I caught up with Delshad after the rally and the following is my brief interview with him….
Here is video I captured of Hollywood actor Jon Voight speaking out in support of Israel during the rally…
Here is video I captured of California Governor Arnold Schwarznegger voicing his support for Israel during the rally…
Israel’s Consul General Jacob Dayan’s powerful speech at the rally…
The crowd of Jewish and Christian supporters singing the Israeli national anthem of “Hatikvah” at the rally….
Other photos of the day that I captured….
June 17, 2010 | 2:13 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
During the last 100 years the Jews of Iran have always had a special sense of Zionism and have been strong supporters of Israel even while they once lived in a majority Muslim country like Iran. This sense of Zionism today has remained with the community after their migration to the U.S. Today Southern California’s Iranian American Jews account for a large contingency of Israel’s strongest supporters and philanthropists. One area of interest for local Iranian Jews has been in investing in State of Israel Bonds. These bonds, since the inception of Israel 62 years ago, have been used to build the country’s infrastructure, develop transportation and spur other economic activity.
Bette and Dr. Ron Saidara have been one of the many local Iranian Jews and families that have supported Israel bonds. I recently caught up with Ron, a local dentist, before he and his wife was honored by Israel Bond’s Western division for their support of the organization. My webcast interview with Ron can be found here…
Another growing tend I’ve noticed among L.A.’s Iranian Jewry is their gift giving of $100 Israel Bonds for weddings, bar mitzvahs, child births and other happy occasions. Giving of these bonds has been a recent trend that allows some in the community to show their support for Israel and at the same time give an excellent investment gift with a high rate of return to friends and family.
On an interesting side note…Ron and his wife Bette first met during my bar mitzvah in 1991! In the Iranian Jewish community, we’re all very close-knit and share common bonds…especially ISRAEL BONDS.
For more information on Israel Bonds visit: www.israelbonds.org/
June 14, 2010 | 2:14 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Last week L.A.’s Iranian Jewish young professionals with the 30 Years After Organization (30YA) came out in full force with an interesting mix of events. Their first even based at a private home in Bel Air featured local elected officials such as L.A. City Councilmember Eric Garcetti, California State Senator Curren Price, L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, L.A. City Controller Wendy Gruel and California State Assemblymember Mike Furer. These officials and others addressed young Iranian Jews who are amassed some political and financial strength and are voting in a strong block these days. 30YA’s events have not only attracted attention from Iranian American Jews wanting to get involved in local politicals but also those seeking spouses in the community!
I also had a chance to attend 30YA’s Health Fair last week which featured local Iranian Jews discussing physical and mental health issues. The organization’s health division is headed by community activist Daniel Niku, who spoke to us about his objectives with the health gathering in this interview…