Iranian Jews living in Southern California and New York these days always seem to have an excuse to throw parties whether it be for a wedding, bar mitzvah, brit milah, engagement, new home, or for one of the many Jewish holidays. While giving money or various sized Swiss gold ingots as gifts have been the norm among members of the community, in the last few years I’ve notice the generation of young Iranian Jewish professionals being more socially conscious when giving their gifts. By in large they have been giving gifts that have a positive philanthropic impact on the greater Jewish community, Israel and the world.
Just recently I was chatting with a cousin of mine who told me that his son had received Israel Bonds as a bar mitzvah gift from a young couple in our family. “I was surprised at the pure genius of this wonderful gift because it’s a great investment for my son as a bond and it also benefits Israel in so many ways,” said my cousin. I’ve also noticed that Iranian Jews are increasingly requesting that their guests give to both Jewish and non-Jewish charities such as the Los Angeles Mission in lieu of money or any other gift. Another young Iranian Jewish friend of mine gave me a certificate for my birthday that indicated he had donated $260 in my name to “Pups for Peace”, an organization that helps train and provide bomb sniffing dogs for security use in Israel. I was not only amazed by his generous gift on my behalf but became somewhat emotional. “Why should I give Swiss gold to anyone after all they’ve done with the Nazi gold issue?” asked my Iranian Jewish friend. “Why not give the money toward a gift that benefits an important Jewish causes and doesn’t just make the Swiss government wealthy”. I was touched because it occurred to me that despite the showing off that often goes on among Iranian Jews in the U.S., there is a growing number of young folks in community that do care enough about Israel’s security to put their money toward supporting these important causes.
My only hope is that these trends in philanthropic gift giving in our community, which is fairly prosperous, continues. We as Iranian Jews living in the U.S. need to think more about “tikkun olam” or healing the world more than just doing well in business. Hopefully just as having lavish parties and driving fancy cars have become the fashionable thing for Iranian Jews to do, so will giving gifts of charity become the same.