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Iranian Jews in New York still keeping a low profile

by Karmel Melamed

February 3, 2008 | 11:49 pm

The Iranian Jewish community living in Long Island, New York is primarly concentrated in the area known as Great Neck and is roughly 15,000 strong today. The community in Great Neck is by far wealthy, educated and quite observant of Jewish religious practices. With all of their success, Iranian Jews in New York have kept a fairly low profile over the past three decades as opposed to the largest concentration of Iranian Jews in the U.S. living in Los Angeles. While Iranian Jews living in L.A. have ventured into new areas including local politics and the entertainment field, it’s not often I see or hear of Iranian Jews in New York partaking in similar activities. So it was quite a surprise for me to read about Hooshang Nematzadeh, executive vice president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York, publicly speaking at a political event sponsored by the Great Neck Democratic Club and the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Nematzadeh, who is featured as the man on the far left in the above photo, kept his remarks neutral with regards to Iran according to a recent article published by the Great Neck Record newspaper. Nematzadeh, like most Iranian Jewish leaders in the U.S. have typically refrained from publicly criticizing Iran’s regime for fear that their comments may be used by the Iranian government as an excuse to harass the near 20,000 Jews still living in Iran. His comments with regards to the situation in Iran were in line with this policy;

“Said Mr. Nematzadeh, “The United States is the greatest democracy.” And he went on to tell how surveys in Iran show that the majority of Iranians align themselves with the United States, and not with the government in control in Iran today. “After 9/11 the people in Iran were in solidarity with the United States,” he said.  Speaking of the regime in control of Iran today, Mr. Nematzadeh stated that “This regime is not representative of the people.”

For the most part Nematzadeh and other Iranian Jewish leaders in New York follow the lead of their brethren in Los Angeles when it comes to political matters. Often times both Iranian Jewish community consult one another and collaborate on supporting many of the same issues—especially when it comes to Israel. Interestingly enough Iranian Jewry in the U.S. have outreached to politicians on both sides of the aisle and often supported Democratic candidates by following the same trends as their American Jewish brethren. While an Iranian Jew is currently Mayor of Beverly Hills and head of the L.A. Department of Water and Power, it still remains to be seen if any Iranian Jewish New Yorkers will serve in their local or state governments.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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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