Jewish Journal

Eretz-SIAMAK not offering High Holy Day services at local hotels

by Karmel Melamed

August 21, 2007 | 2:18 pm

The leadership of the Eretz-SIAMAK organization will not be offering High Holy Day services at any of the local area hotels this year, as it had in years past. The group’s board of directors will still be providing services at their center in Tarzana. For last 25 years the SIAMAK organization, one of the oldest Iranian Jewish community groups in Los Angeles gathered several hundred local Iran Jews for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services in various hotel banquet halls and country clubs in the city. The non-profit organization never had a base or center as its members were all volunteers, but SIAMAK’s leadership made an effort to organize High Holiday services every year. For many local Iranian Jews, SIAMAK’s services were ideal because they catered to the younger generation in the community that is English speaking and more Americanized. Many younger members of the community also chose to attend SIAMAK’s High Holy Day services because they could meet their potential spouses in a friendly and no-pressured environment. Like many American Jews, the High Holy Days are an ideal time for young Iranian Jewish singles to meet one another and chat. At the same their services offered an innovative “open discussion” group for younger Iranian Jews to discuss certain taboo issues among themselves including politics, different levels of religiosity in Judaism, double standards among young men and women as well as pre-martial sexual relations.

SIAMAK’s services were also appealing to many Iranian Jews because there was no membership fees to be paid in exchange for attending the High Holy Day events. Those Iranian Jews who do not want to pay the sometimes costly membership fees of an Ashkenazi synagogue would feel more at ease just buying one-time tickets for SIAMAK’s holiday services. Even after SIAMAK’s 2004 merger with the Eretz Center in Tarzana, the new “Eretz-SIAMAK” organization still continued to offer the High Holy Day services inside L.A. area hotels because many of their members concentrated in West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills were unwilling to travel by automobile to Tarzana on Yom Kippur. With the Eretz-SIAMAK services being held in Tarzana this year, the group’s leaders have indicated that the youth oriented portion of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services will not be made available this year. Specific reasons as to why the youth portion of the services cancelled this year have not been given. Yet many Eretz-SIAMAK members have said the retirement of the group’s ex-president Dariush Fakheri, who had organized the youth services in years past, was one of the main reasons for the cancellation of their youth services.

A substantial number of Iranian Jews will buy High Holy Day tickets for services held at American synagogues or by other Iranian Jewish groups in the community who have rented local hotel banquet halls. Still others have purchased membership at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills to attend their services or attend services at the Iranian American Jewish Federation’s synagogue Temple Beth El in West Hollywood.

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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