Posted by Karmel Melamed
My piece this week in the Times of Israel places the spotlight on the "Shulamit Gallery" in the L.A. artists neighboorhood of Venice which is showcasing the art works of more than a dozen promising and successful Iranian Jewish artists. These artists are no doubt pioneers in the Iranian American Jewish community for breaking with their community's long taboo of not working in the field of art. They have instead followed their dreams and their creaitve passions to make art-- even if their income is not high at the begining. Iranian Jewish artists such as Jessica Shokrian, Krista Nassi, David Abir and others deserve kudos for trailblazing a new path that adds to the richness of their community's culture and not necessarily seeking financial gain. Likewise Shulamit Nazarian, who established the new gallery showcase these artists work deserves a tremendous amount of praise for pushing the envelope in the community and sharing a different side of this community's heritage.
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June 22, 2013 | 11:15 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
For past month it has been frustrating to see how American and European news media outlets have been naïve and stupid enough to give coverage to the latest presidential “election” in Iran that was nothing more than a charade. There was nothing democratic, fair or just about the latest “election” in Iran. If one looks more closely at this race, it is clear that the election was based on one-sided, dictatorial and repressive laws set by Iran’s radical fundamentalist Islamic regime. While the Islamic cleric, Hassan Rouhani was proclaimed the new president of Iran, the election was just a façade to make the West believe that Iran is allowing for people’s voices to be heard in a “democratic” manner. Yet in reality the country is still run by a brutal dictatorship under the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The entire regime set up by Iran’s fundamentalist Shiite Muslim clerics is based on all the real power of the government lying with the Supreme Leader. In 1979 when the regime was established by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the government was crafted under the doctrine of "the Guardianship of the Theologians" (also known in Farsi as ‘Velaayat-eh Fagheeh’). Basically this doctrine states that the average man or individual has not created laws and all laws were created by almighty God. Therefore according to the ruling clerics in Iran, the country’s average citizens are “not qualified enough” or basically too stupid to interpret the laws of God and hence the masses “need” one Ayatollah or a council of Shiite Muslim clerics to interpret God’s laws for the population. So one is left wondering what part of this ass backwards system of government in Iran is democratic where only one religious leader or a group of religious leaders make all of the country’s laws?
Moreover, the Iranian “elections” were entirely bogus and undemocratic because more than 700 individuals applied to run for the position, but only eight individuals that were “acceptable” to the Supreme Leader were permitted to run. This is ridiculous! Again this does not sound like a legitimate free, open and democratic election when only eight people hand-picked by the Supreme Leader are allowed to run and everyone else is totally shut out. All of the eight candidates were approved by the Supreme Leader, so no doubt they share some, if not all of his totalitarian and radical Islamic views. Besides, in a country where the Supreme Leader has so much power and authority, I doubt very much he would permit anyone who does not share his radical fundamentalist Islamic views to obtain any power or even figure-head status. So one is left wondering why the hell the news media in the U.S. and Europe continue to focus on the Iranian elections and give coverage to the race as if it were democratic and fair like elections in the West? Clearly the Iranian regime’s leadership is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the world with this sham election in order to give legitimacy to their evil reign in Iran. Likewise, experts familiar with the Iranian regime have repeatedly stated that the "presidents" under the Iranian regime today have less power than the prime ministers during the reign of the late Shah of Iran. All the legal loopholes for the power of the presidency were closed in the current Iranian constitution in order to prevent the “phony government” which is “run by the president” from having any real power. In reality, all of the real power of the regime lies with the Supreme Leader and a select group of Islamic clerics that have allegiances to the Supreme Leader and make major policy decisions dealing with foreign affairs, nuclear issues, major military affairs, major economic issues and major cultural issues such as free speech, free expression and women’s rights. While the “phony government” in Iran may have some leeway in operating the lower level day to day activities in the country, again they do not call any of the major shots in Iran. In fact, the Supreme Leader, has his own "advisers" paralleling every governmental ministry in Iran. These individual advisers, who only answer to the Supreme Leader, are the ones who help make all major policy decisions in Iran’s regime and dictate them down to the phony ministries whose leaders are merely puppets. This is clearly not a democracy, nor anything nearly close to a democracy!
As for Rouhani, it is a clear misnomer for the media in the U.S. and Europe to refer to him as a “moderate”. While he may not have been as radical and to the right of some of the other eight presidential candidates in Iran, the man is by no “moderate” by Western standards. First of all, Rouhani is a formally trained fundamentalist Shiite Islamic cleric who was following the Iranian regime’s founder, the late Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1965 when Khomeini was not in power and preaching anti-Western ideology all over Iran. Next, Rouhani was among the primary henchmen of Khomeini following the establishment of the regime in 1979 and helped organize the Iranian military and stabilize the regime’s radical Islamic government institutions that are currently in place in Iran. His effort clearly cemented the power and strength of Khomeini and the Islamic clerics who had toppled the government of the late Shah in Iran. In addition, for 16 years from 1989 to 2005, Rouhani served as the direct representative of the Supreme Leader Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council in Iran which is a small group of Islamic clerics making all of the major security decisions of the Iranian regime. Again, if Rouhani is a supposed “moderate”, then why the hell was he directly tied to the Supreme Leader for so many years? All of Rouhani’s past close ties to the Iranian Supreme Leader and the Ayatollah Khomeini are crystal clear evidence that this man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is just as radical and evil as the Supreme Leader as well as all of the other clerics who run the current Iranian regime.
The current U.S. administration should not allow itself to be fooled into believing that for some reason Rouhani can be trusted and tough sanctions can be removed from the Iranian regime. Rouhani, like his predecessors and the entire Iranian regime’s leadership will not back down on their pursuit of nuclear weapons no matter what. If anything, the current tight U.S. sanctions on Iran must be ratcheted up so the regime can collapse and a democratic government can be put in place in Iran.
May 28, 2013 | 10:54 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
In July 1994 agents of the Iranian regime under the direct orders of the Iranian government bombed the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina killing 85 innocent individuals and injuring more than 300 others. For the last 19 years the Jewish community in Argentina has been pressing its government and the international community to bring the masterminds behind this heinous crime to justice, but they have thus far failed. To the contrary, each government in Argentina since 1994 has been seeking to cozy up to the totalitarian radical Islamic mullahs ruling Iran for obvious economic benefits. Yet the Jewish center bombing has remained a thorn in the sides of presidents and leaders in Argentina who have been pushing hard to normalize relations with Iran. No president until the current Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has been able to remove this obstacle to closer relations with the Iranian regime.
Kirchner’s dream of final normalized relations with Iran took a “positive” step forward when in January of this year her foreign minister Héctor Timerman and the Iranian foreign minister signed a “memorandum of understanding” to establish a joint bi-national “truth commission” that would once and for all investigate the causes of the 1994 Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires. For the Jewish community in Argentina and to the rest of the normal world, this “truth commission” made up of Argentine and Iranian hand-picked officials is nothing more than a “sham” effort by both governments to clear the names of former and current Iranian government officials involved with the planning and execution of the 1994 Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires. This past week the joint Argentine-Iranian “truth commission” was finally approved by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and will likely move forward with findings that individuals such as former Iranian intelligence chief Ali Fallahian; Mohsen Rabbani, the former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; former Iran diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari; Mohsen Rezaei, the former leader of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards; Ahmad Vahidi, the current Iranian defense minister and former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were “not responsible” for the bombings.
Shame on Argentina’s Kirchner and her government cronies for turning a blind eye to the clear evidence of blood on the hands of Iran’s current and former officials! Shame on Kirchner for rubber stamping a false investigation into the Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing! Shame on Kirchner for placing Argentina’s “economic growth” and “trade relations” with Iran over the most important need to bring the Iranian murderers of innocent individuals to justice! Shame on Kirchner for sweeping this heinous 1994 crime under the rug in an effort to cozy up to the ruthless mullahs running Iran’s regime! Shame on Kirchner and her government cronies for ignoring the clear evidence that Iranian agents and leaders clearly planned and carried out the 1994 Jewish center bombing!
The evidence of Iran’s clear links to the 1994 Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires are known to all. In November 2006, Argentine federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral issued an arrest warrant for Rafsanjani and eight other former Iranian officials based on evidence collected by the police and prosecutors. Then in March 2007, the international police agency, Interpol issued so-called “Red notices” for the arrest of five former Iranian officials based on the Argentine courts’ findings in the case. Also in an interview in September 2007 with Fox cable news, Miguel Angel Toma, the former head of the Argentina’s intelligence service, revealed that the Iranian government directly ordered terrorist bombings of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center. The Iranian President at the time of the bombing, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and members of the Iranian Supreme Council of Security all met in Mashhad, Iran, on August 14, 1993 to plan the bombing, Toma said.
So there is obviously no need for a joint Argentine-Iranian “truth commission” surrounding the case of the Jewish center bombing and this sham commission is obviously set up by Kirchner and her cronies to “smooth things over” with the Iranian government. One might wonder why Kirchner seeks normal relations with Iran’s brutal totalitarian regime? Well the pieces of the puzzle fit quite well when you look at the situation through Kirchner’s eyes. First and foremost, the normalization of relations between Argentina and Iran will likely boost Argentina’s current lacking economy. This is because the Iranian regime, which is under significant international sanctions pressure, is unable to purchase raw materials and goods from most countries, but the regime will now have a willing seller of such materials and goods in Argentina. Likewise the Argentine government under Kirchner is seeking to purchase Iranian oil which is also quite cheap nowadays as again many countries worldwide are following tightened sanctions on the purchase of Iranian oil. In addition, the Argentine government under Kirchner would love to sell arms, aircraft and military supplies to the regime in Iran which is again more than eager acquire such weaponery and has the cash to purchase them. Throughout the 1980’s Argentina ignored international arms sanctions against Iran’s regime and sold weapons to the Iran’s ruling clerics during their bloody war with Iraq. No doubt Kirchner would like to renew those old lucrative arms deals with the Iranian regime. Moreover, many are not aware, but Argentina is home to one of the largest growing populations of Shiite Muslims of Lebanese origin-- many of whom are very sympathetic to Iran’s Shiite clerics. No doubt Kirchner wants to make nice with Iran’s regime in an effort to curry favor with Shiite Muslims living in Argentina. Lastly, Kirchner, who is an American-hating socialist leader, wants to forge alliances with other regimes such as Iran and Venezuela who “oppose American and Western imperialism”. With the death of Venezuela’s late dictator Hugo Chavez, Kirchner today picks up and carries the evil Latin American torch for kissing up to the Iran regime.
In the end, I am honestly not surprised that Kirchner or other Argentine government officials would seek friendships with anti-Jewish individuals and regimes like Iran. After all Argentina’s dictators such as Juan Peron and others were notorious for offering safe haven to countless Nazis and Nazi sympathizers for decades after World War II. It’s clearly no surprise that again heartless Argentina leaders like Kirchner are turning their backs on the Jewish community and on real justice for their own financial gain.
April 29, 2013 | 7:52 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Another member of the local Iranian community has been arrested for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme.
Shervin Neman, also known as Shervin Davatgarzadeh, a 31-year-old Iranian man, has been accused of defrauding nearly a dozen people — most of them local Iranian Jews — of more than $3 million. He was arrested by the FBI on April 26 in his Century City home after three criminal charges were brought against him for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme.
The three fraud charges in the indictment each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, according to an FBI press release.
According to the federal indictment, from June 2010 to June 2012, Neman claimed to be a hedge fund manager and lured primarily Iranian Jewish investors into giving him $7.5 million on promises of investing their money in foreclosed residential properties and stocks, including pre-initial public offering shares.
In April 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil complaint against Neman, his firm, Neman Financial Inc., and his wife, Cassandra Neman, in allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme whereby Neman took his investors’ money and used it to pay back his earlier victims or on a lavish lifestyle for himself and his wife.
The civil complaint against Neman alleges that he spent nearly $1.6 million of his victims’ money to pay for his wedding and honeymoon, his wife’s $60,000 engagement ring, luxury cars, VIP tickets to entertainment venues, jewelry, hotels and restaurants, as well as to lease and redecorate a new office in a high-end Century City office building.
The complaint alleges that in most instances Neman had his victims wire their funds to his personal bank account or to write checks to him personally, which he deposited into his personal account.
A federal court judge also issued a restraining order freezing Neman’s assets and shutting down his Ponzi scheme last year, according to an SEC press release. Yet in May 2012, Neman again allegedly solicited $2 million from another investor — with false promises that Neman could obtain pre-IPO shares in Facebook, according to the indictment — to pay for his attorneys and pay back other earlier victims of his Ponzi scheme in violation of his restraining order. In June 2012, Neman sent a later victim a check for more than $2 million that purported to be the return on the Facebook investment, but that check bounced, the criminal indictment states.
The criminal charges brought against Neman are not unique for Southern California’s tight-knit Iranian-Jewish community, which has been devastated in recent years by Ponzi schemes perpetrated by members of its community.
In March, John Farahi, a popular 56-year-old Iranian-Jewish radio talk-show host and investment adviser, was sentenced by a U.S. District Court to 10 years in federal prison for operating a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme against local Iranian-Americans. Farahi was ordered by the court to pay more than $24 million in restitution to close to 60 victims.
Prior to that, Ezri Namvar, 62, a longtime leading Iranian-Jewish businessman and philanthropist in Los Angeles, was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in federal prison for stealing $21 million from four clients. Namvar also was ordered by the court to pay back $21 million in restitution to his victims, yet he is believed to have allegedly bilked investors — who put money into his $2.5 billion real estate portfolio before the 2008 market crash — out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Iranian-Jewish community leaders and victims have kept quiet about Farahi and other Iranian-Jewish investors charged in recent years with running Ponzi schemes, in keeping with a long-standing community taboo against publicly discussing potentially embarrassing incidents. Iranian-Jewish community leaders at the Beverly Hills-based Nessah Synagogue and West Hollywood-based Iranian American Jewish Federation did not return calls seeking comment.
April 1, 2013 | 6:26 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Last year when the Bravo network debuted their new reality television program “Shahs of Sunset” which was depicted the lives of young Iranian Americans living in Los Angeles, I watched a few episodes of this show and was disgusted. I am not a fan of reality television in general but found this program, which was produced by television personality Ryan Seacrest, to be an utter waste of time because of its highly inaccurate portrayal of Iranian Americans living in Los Angeles. In her excellent piece last year in the L.A. Jewish Journal, Iranian Jewish author, Gina Nahai perhaps gave the best response from our community to this simply revolting television program that portrays Iranian Americans in the worst possible light; as selfish, self-absorbed, materialistic, shallow, money-hungry, sex-addicted, unattractive and uneducated buffoons living their supposed “lavish” lifestyles in L.A. At the time the program came out I made a decision as an Iranian American journalist not to give any additional exposure to this garbage excuse for television programming that would financially benefit Seacrest, Bravo or the others related to this show. Yet with the passage of time and the tremendous amount of recent positive events surrounding L.A.’s Iranian Americans, I believe the time has now come for me to break my silence about Seacrest’s stupidity and his vile television program.
As a journalist who reads about the daily repression of free expression and free speech in Iran today, I am perhaps one of the biggest supporters of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. I realize reality television is one person’s form of expression and supposed entertainment which is created to generate revenue. I also realized that most television programming today is not meant for any other purpose than a mind-numbing passage of time. Yet when television producers like Seacrest go out of their way to pick the most extreme and most backwards people within a community as examples of all Iranian Americans just for the purpose of making money, he is being reckless in destroying their image or reputation in this society. I also understand that there are foolish people everywhere willing to make complete asses of themselves on national television in order to make money or become “famous”. Yet at the same time shinning the spotlight on the fools shown on the Shahs of Sunset directly or indirectly sends a very negative message about Iranian Americans living in this country. Seacrest not only does a disservice to Iranian Americans with his idiotic programming, but he does a disservice to all individuals watching television, by showing what is wrong within our society instead of what is right about our society.
The irony of the Shahs of Sunset program is that it does not reflect the true reality of Southern California’s Iranian American community. Yes, there is a small segment of our community which lives in Beverly Hills and is affluent, but the majority of us are not ridiculously wealthy. We also live elsewhere in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties and have average incomes. For the most part, Iranian Americans are perhaps one of the most educated and entrepreneurial immigrant groups living in Los Angeles and one of the driving forces in the state’s economy through their vibrant businesses. Likewise, we as Iranian Americans are also among the most philanthropic communities living in this state and the country. We are not only donating our money and time to many non-profits, but we are also active in raising millions of dollars for countless worthy causes. For example, earlier this month I reported on a story about close to 120 young Iranian-American Angelenos who volunteered to feed nearly 1,200 homeless at the Midnight Mission, which is centered in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles. Where was Seacrest and local television news cameras when these very unselfish Iranian Americans were giving back to the most needy in our city? Who at the Bravo network or any other television network was on hand to shed light on this very good deed that our community undertook in honor of the Persian New year? The volunteer work done at Skid Row by Iranian Americans is just one of the numerous ways Iranian Americans show their generous and loving nature, something that you would never believe if all you knew about the community was from Seacrest’s vile television program. Another example of Iranian Americans generous nature came in January 2012 when Iranian American Jewish volunteer sheriff’s deputy, Shervin Lalezary, caught the infamous serial arsonist that was terrorizing the city of Los Angeles. Lalezary, who is an educated attorney, volunteers his free time to help local enforcement for the benefit of all of us. Why are Iranian Americans like this outstanding young man not shown on reality television as prime examples of what is good about our community? Why hasn’t Seacrest taken his cameras to downtown L.A. to show all of the business districts that were once blighted, but are now revitalized and thriving because of Iranian American businessmen? Why aren’t Seacrest and his cameras not going into UCLA Medical Center or Cedar-Sinai Medical Center and other major hospitals in the area to see the hundreds of highly educated Iranian American physicians or researchers saving thousands of lives daily? The list of Iranian Americans that have benefited our lives in Southern California and the U.S. is endless. Another remarkable example is Dr. Firouz Naderi, an Iranian American engineer who headed NASA’s successful “Mars Rover” missions. Or better yet, Goli Ameri, the successful Iranian American who was the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and also once headed the International Red Cross. Why hasn’t Seacrest shown any of these successful Iranian Americans on his television program? If anyone should be portrayed as selfish and brainless it should be Seacrest who decided to make money by showing a group of fools and claiming that they represented the Iranian American community in L.A.
Countless Americans and members of Iranian American community will continue to ignore and disregard the garbage shown of Seacrest’s program. They, like I know it is purely stupid entertainment. Yet at the same time we as journalists and responsible members of the media need to make a concerted effort to shine the limelight on all the positive things Iranian Americans continue to do in this city and the country. It is bad enough many Americans often see immigrants of Iranian origin in a bad light because of morons who run Iran’s current regime and who threaten other countries with annihilation. Therefore we do not need Seacrest to continue trashing the image of what I believe is a remarkable immigrant group contributing greatly to life in America. If Seacrest or the equally brainless executives at the Bravo network do not want the labels of “idiots”, then they should make an effort to show all that is right about Iranian Americans living in Southern California. I’m certain that television programs that would spotlight the successes of Iranian Americans or any other immigrant group which is succeeding in the U.S., would garner higher ratings, greater popularity and generate greater advertising revenue than the type of pure trash shown on the Shahs of Sunset program.
March 31, 2013 | 11:16 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Earlier this month perhaps one of the most important efforts to document the tragic loss of life and property that Jews from North Africa and the Middle East experienced during the 20th century took placed here in Los Angeles. Members of the San Francisco-based “Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa” (JIMENA) gathered at local Sephardic synagogues to video interview 10 L.A. area Jews who escaped their native lands in North Africa and Iran when those countries had turned violently against their Jewish populations during the last century. While the world has been obsessed with the “right of return for Palestinian Arabs” that were supposedly “exiled” in 1948 and 1967 from Israel, no one seems to care about the near 1 million Jews expelled from Arab lands during the same period. What about the loss of property, finances and life Jews from these Islamic lands and Iran suffered? What about the thousands of Jews who were forced to leave their assets behind in Iran or had their assets confiscated by the new Islamic regime in Iran after 1979? Who is speaking out on their behalf and speaking up for justice for their right of return? The answer is simple; JIMENA!
JIMENA was founded by Regina Waldman and Joe Wahad, a Jewish woman born in Libya and a Jewish man born in Egypt, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The new JIMENA websites tell the stories of Jews from each of the Islamic lands using videos, photographs and written narratives. They also include oral history testimonies of Jews who fled Arab countries for North America.
I recently had a chat with JIMENA’s director, Sarah Levin about her organization’s efforts to document the stories of the injustice Sephardic Jews experienced in their native lands during the 20th century. This was her most compelling statement about the process was; “L.A. has large Mizrahi and Sephardic populations of Jews who come from all over the Middle East and North Africa and their stories of material losses, displacement, and fractured identities, have not been documented. I think it’s fair to assume that Jews from Arab countries and Iran now residing in Los Angeles had at least hundreds of millions of dollars of property and assets confiscated by Arab governments and Iran. Their losses, both financial and cultural, have never been quantified and acknowledged”.
The information regarding the escapes and experiences of Iranian Jews following the horrific 1979 Iranian revolution can be found on JIMENA’s new site here.
The following are just some photos of those individuals interviewed by Jimena in Los Angeles earlier this month…
(Iranian Jewish immigrant Abe Berookhim interviewed by JIMENA at L.A.'s Kahal Joseph synagogue, photo by JIMENA)
(Moroccan Jewish immigrant Andre Chriqui interviewed by JIMENA at L.A.'s Em Habanim synagogue, photo by JIMENA)
(Moroccan Jewish immigrant Max Barchichat interviewed by JIMENA at L.A.'s Em Habanim synagogue, photo by JIMENA)
March 29, 2013 | 12:02 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
With the start of Spring this year, many Iranians of all faiths living in Southern California and elsewhere worldwide celebrated the Persian New Year of 'No Rooz' on March 20th. My recent piece in the Journal highlighted the efforts by local Iranian Americans to give back to the larger community during No Rooz celebrations this year. Suprisingly No Rooz is a secular Persian holiday that marks re-birth and giving back-- a celebration of life that brings together Iranian Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bahais and Zoroastrians. Local elected officials on hand to celebrate with Iranian Americans in Westwood Village on March 24th included; L.A. City Councilmembers Dennis Zine, Paul Koretz, Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Treasurer Wnedy Gruel, and U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenes who first began the tradition of honoring No Rooz in L.A. City Hall near eight years ago.
Here is some video of traditional Persian dances taking place at No Rooz Festival in Hollywood...
Here is video of L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz speaking at a No Rooz event in Westwood Village on March 24th...
The following are just some of the photos I captured of No Rooz celebrations in Los Angeles this year...
(Iranian American businessman Alan Semsar and L.A. City Councilmember Eric Garcetti at Hollywood's No Rooz festival, photo by Karmel Melamed)
(Cooks preparing traditional Persian kebabs at Hollywood's No Rooz festival)
(Young Iranian Americans making No Rooz designed eggs)
(Young Iranian dancers at Hollywood's No Rooz festival)
(Photos of ancient Persian reliefs at No Rooz festival in Hollywood)
(left to right; L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, Iranian American businessman Alex Helmi and former California Assemblymember Mike Fuerer, photo by Karmel Melamed)
(left to right; U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenes and L.A. City Treasurer Wendy Gruel, photo Karmel Melamed)
(Former California Assemblymember Mike Fuerer speaking at No Rooz event in Westwood Village)
(Popular No Rooz table known as "Half Seen" table)
March 11, 2013 | 6:13 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
More than 100 community members joined the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on March 6th to honor Dr. Sharon Nazarian, the Iranian Jewish president of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation at the ADL’s annual “Deborah Awards” at the upscale SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. The ADL’s awards recognize women in the community who have shown courage, wisdom and leadership in their activism. Dr. Nazarian was honored for spearheading her family’s founding of the Israel Studies Center at UCLA nearly three years ago. This move was significant as it the center became the first of its kind in the western U.S. to have a sole focus on the academic study of Israel. The Y & S Nazarian Family Foundation has made donations totaling $5 million to the university, which helped establish the Israel Studies Program in 2005 and created an endowment for the center. It offers courses on such varied topics as Israeli politics, law, economics, film, theater, environmental policy and the early history of Zionism. The center also presents speakers and organizes conferences that highlight Israel’s history, cultural diversity, and economic and technological achievements.
Dr. Nazarian said she was honored for the recognition from the ADL and hoped it would draw more local Iranian Jews to join the ADL’s efforts in fighting bigotry and anti-Semitism in the world. “It’s important to see our community of Iranian Jews that has a vested interest in this country to get more involved with the great work of the ADL,” she said. “I think the work that the ADL does is not only good for Jews but the entire world because they fight hatred and issues of genocide that face all of humanity”. Interestingly, the SLS Hotel owned by Dr. Nazarian’s brother, hospitality entrepreneur, Sam Nazarian proudly hosted the ADL event. The ADL gathering is the latest effort by the organization to outreach to L.A.’s Iranian Jewish community and seek their support. In January, 30 Years After, an L.A.-based Iranian Jewish non-profit co-hosted an event with the ADL which exposed to anti-Semitism developed and spread worldwide by Iran’s regime.