Jewish Journal

Iranian Jewish author Gina Nahai not afraid to support Democrats in ‘08

by Karmel Melamed

April 9, 2008 | 5:08 pm

In her column recently in the L.A. Jewish Journal, Iranian Jewish author Gina Nahai took a real bold stand by publicly supporting two of the remaining Democratic candidates for the 2008 U.S. Presidential race. This move by Nahai is indeed unique because Iranians and Iranian Jews have typically not been very supportive of certain Democrats over the years due to their hatred of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. While Iranian Jews in the past have supported various members of Congress and even former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Carter is perhaps their least favorite because he is blamed for indirectly supporting the rise of radical Islamic clerics to power in Iran and the fall of the late Shah in 1979. My article about Iranian Jewish dislike for Carter can be found here . In recent years the Iranian Jewish community in Southern California has been more vocal about their support for Republicans and George W. Bush due to the party’s overall strong stance against Iran’s current regime and support for Israel.

While I do not agree with many of the foreign policy views of Sentors Clinton or Obama, I tip my hat to Nahai for having the courage of her convictions to speak out about her support for both candidates and the need for our community to be open to different political alternatives. As a journalist covering Iranian Jewry, I am well aware of the pressure in the local Iranian Jewish community for individuals to conform to one set of political, social, professional or religious beliefs. So for Nahai to set herself apart from the rest takes a lot of guts. Here’s a sample of her published piece:

“And if it sounds like I’m giving myself permission here to cast the first stone, that’s because I am—because I’ve been there, a member of a minority group that has been wronged by history, a Jew in a Shiite country, an Iranian in Europe, a Democrat in Los Angeles’ Iranian Jewish community. I’ve been there and know the pressure to conform to the tribe, the desire to close ranks with one’s people against a hostile world, to keep one’s mouth shut and thereby avoid becoming an outcast, being called a traitor, becoming unpopular. I’m not a particularly brave person, but I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion, walking out of a synagogue where the rabbi was preaching intolerance, refusing to join groups that, under the banner of “traditionalism,” promote oppression of one kind or another. Here’s what I’ve learned about swimming against the tide, about the difference between sitting in the pews for 20 years or leaving halfway through the first service: There is such a thing as guilt by omission.”

On a side note it does not surprise me that Gina Nahai is supportive of the Democratic presidential candidates as her husband H. David Nahai has also been a long time supporter of various democratic presidential candidates including Al Gore and John Kerry within the Iranian Jewish community.

In the coming weeks, my own piece regarding the Iranian Jewish views of Senator Obama will be published. This upcoming article will identify the reasons why members of our community are very hesitant to support him because of his stances on diplomacy with Iran.

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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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