Posted by Karmel Melamed
According to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s report, on the evening of August 26th three men, now identified as local Iranian Jews, were found murdered inside their apartment located on the 600 block of North Kings Road in West Hollywood.
The victims, who were found by Sheriff’s deputies shot to death, were identified as Pirooz Moussazadeh, 27; his brother, Shahriar Moussazadeh, 38; and Bernard Khalili, 27, said Craig Harvey, chief of investigations for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
According to a Sheriff’s department report, deputies arrived at the West Hollywood apartment a little after 9 pm following 9-1-1 calls from neighbors who had reported hearing a series of gunshots. Sheriff’s officials have told local media that there were no weapons, no drugs and no signs of forced entry inside the victims’ apartment.
L.A. County Sheriffs have not released additional information regarding the case as an investigation is underway.
Dara Abaei, an Iranian Jewish community activist and head of the Pico-Robertson based Jewish Unity Network, said local Iranian Jews he’s been talking to have expressed shock and fear after hearing the news of the murders.
“Both young people and parents in the community are very upset. I don’t think we as a community have had such a major incident of deaths like this in 25 years— the last one I can remember was in Iran when three Jewish men were killed in a car accident,” said Abaei. “My message to everyone has been to keep calm and not to rush to any kind of judgment”.
Since the murders, local Iranian Jewish leaders, including Nessah Synagogue’s Rabbi David Shofet have been cautioning community members to refrain from gossiping about the case or spreading rumors.
“This is the worst tragedy in our community in the last 30 years. We all feel the pain of these two families and pray for their peace. Before his sermon this Saturday, Rav David briefly said something that I agree with fully— that we do not know what has happened and therefore it’s not wise for anyone to make speculations or pass judgment,” said Mehdi Soroudi, president of the Iranian Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills. “We have to allow the proper authorities to proceed with their investigation”.
Abaei confirmed that the victim Bernard Khalili, in this case, was the brother of Iranian Jewish Beverly Hills High School senior, Bianca Khalili, who in 2008 fell from a Century City high-rise. Los Angeles Police authorities later ruled Bianca Khalili’s death a suicide amidst local community rumors of foul play.
“This is obviously a tragedy for the Khalili family and they have refused to talk to anyone—they’re very shocked and upset,” said Abaei.
This current case is not the first of its kind involving violence among local Iranian Jews. In February 2008 I reported on the Hakim brothers’ case, in which one Beverly Hills Iranian Jewish man allegedly shot and then paralyzed his own brother in a dispute. Eventually the man, 49-year-old Alfred Hakim, was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Hakim later jumped bail and a $1 million warrent was issued for his arrest in October 2009. Hakim has since not been located.
Dr. Kamran Beroukhim, chairman of the West Hollywood-based Iranian American Jewish Federation, declined to comment on the case stating that he is currently involved with helping the victim’s families.
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August 21, 2010 | 11:43 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Yesterday during my visit to Chicago I had a chance to hear Dr. Ofer Merin, Chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Field Hospitals speak about Israel’s rescue and relief mission to aid victims of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake. His story is not just remarkable because of the short time span in which the IDF was able to come to the aid of Haitians devastated by the massive earthquake that destroyed their country, but the ingenuity and use of hi-tech technology to treat the quake victims.
The IDF Field hospital set up in Haiti was set-up in a matter of 6 hours after the arrival of the team from Israel. The IDF field hospital treated 1,100 victims of the earthquake using the latest medical technology from imaging equipment to having surgical equipment to aid the victims. A total of 30 tons of aid was flown in from Israel to help the Haitian victims. What I found most remarkable was the fact that Israel, a small country which is typically vilified in the media for being supposedly “evil”, was one of the first and best equipped field hospitals to treat Haitian victims of the earthquake.
The following are just three of the video interviews I had with Dr. Merin about is incredible mission in Haiti that saved thousands of lives…
August 15, 2010 | 7:56 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
I am always surprised and sometimes impressed at how involved L.A.’s Iranian Jews have become in Jewish life in the city since their migration from Iran during the last 30 years. I recently learned that the director of the Chabad affiliated “Bais Chaya Mushka” girls school in L.A. is headed by an Iranian—specifically Rabbi Danny Yiftach. Our meeting was unique because his school is among the top 20 school in the U.S. competing on Facebook.com for a contest to win $500,000!
Yiftach talks about the competition started by Kohl’s department store in our interview here….
August 14, 2010 | 7:54 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) synagogue based in Encino is perhaps one of the more popular synagogues for Iranian Jews living in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. The synagogue, even though predominately Ashkenazi, for the last 25 years has attracted Iranian Jews who wanted to attend a temple near their homes in the Valley but had not yet established a synagogue of their own. Over the years VBS’s Iranian membership has steadily increased with families sending their children there for Jewish day school.
About five years ago, their Sephardic and Iranian members along with the synagogue’s Rabbi Ed Finestein, for the High Holy Days established separate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services at VBS for their Sephardic members. These High Holy Day services attracted many local Iranian Jews and other Sephardim to attend VBS. I recently caught up with Finestein to find out more about the Iranian Jewish community’s attraction to their Sephardic High Holy Day services…
Rabbi Finestein can you give us some background on how this separate Sephardic service during the High Holy Days came about at Valley Beth Shalom?
Well we first started with a program for Purim and megillah reading because the Persian community has such an affinity with Purim. That was so successful that we decided to take the next step. We thought it would be wonderful to also have traditional Mizrachi or Sephardic service for our Persian, Yemenite, Iraqi and Israeli members. So it’s been very successful and it’s been beautiful to have that as a part of our community.
What are some of the highlights of this Sephardic service that you think attracts non-Ashkenazi members to attend?
The reason we started this service was because we have a wonderful community of Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews who come regularly on Shabbat, but when the holidays started I noticed that none of them came to our synagogue. I asked one of them why they don’t come to Valley Beth Shalom and he said he wanted to hear the melodies that he grew up with as a child. When I asked if he wanted to do a Sephardic service here with the traditional Mizrachi melodies, he and others really liked the idea. So it took off from there and the real highlight has been the fact that we have the traditional Mizrachi melodies in the service along with the kind of teaching that is within the spirit of VBS.
High Holy Days are a time to reflect and for the community to come together. Have there been VBS Ashkenazi members who ask why you have two separate services during this time instead of one service for everyone?
It’s really been the opposite. Many of our Ashkenazi members sneak into the Sephardic services and they tell me that they love the melodies and the atmosphere. My father, who is Lithuanian, loves the Sephardic melody and the flow of the service. Instead of seeing resistance from the Ashkenazim, I’ve had people who ask why don’t we do it more often.
Where do see you see this whole concept of incorporating Sephardic programs into your synagogue going into the future?
Well, we’ll see what happens. I’d love to see something like this done more often on Shabbat. But the difficulty is that we have so many communities and it’s hard to accommodate everyone— but it’s a real joy. I invite the community to come and experience this wonderful Sephardic service at VBS. It’s a joyful experience to have. We’ve tried to show that we are a one Jewish community. We might come from different places and speak with different accents, but we care about the same things—our children, Jewish life and Israel— so it’s important for us to celebrate as one. And we’re very proud to do this.
August 8, 2010 | 12:56 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
The Los Angeles based Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) since 1930 been providing programs and services to various individuals who have been financially struggling. These services include efforts to help countless folks become self-sufficient and even offered scholarships to college students in need who show potential. Last month I attended the JVS’s Scholarship awards night and was surprised to find that a majority of the 100+ scholarship recipients this year were local young Iranian Jews.
JVS’s Scholarship Manager, Cathy Kersh Millstein, spoke with me after the awards night held at Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles about JVS’s need to have more Iranian American Jewish donors for their scholarship program. Even though some financially struggling Iranian Jews in the community benefits from these scholarships, it seems as if those who may be well off have not been exposed to the JVS’s work.
Kersh Millstein discusses the need for more Iranian Jewish donors in this video interview…
In this video interview some of the 2010 Iranian Jewish scholarship recipients discuss the benefits of being awarded a JVS scholarship…
For more information on L.A.’s JVS organization visit: www.jvsla.org/