September 23, 2008 | 4:01 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
From the beginning of this year, I have witnessed a quiet revolution among young Iranian Jewish professionals unfolding in Southern California with the emergence of the 30 Years After organization. This group of young Iranian Jews has decided that the time is ripe for them to help the rest of their community become more involved in political and social activism in America. As a journalist covering the local Iranian Jewish community, I have been delighted to see our community giving back to the larger Jewish and non-Jewish community through their activism. After 30 years of living in the freedom and prosperity of America, this group’s activities are long overdue.
I had written an article about 30 Years After’s September 14th conference but after attending the event itself, I was impressed by the tremendous responses community members have to this new group. Indeed 30 Years After’s board members deserve kudos for organizing this conference and greater awareness about the true potential Southern California’s Iranian Jews in impacting local politics and social issues in the area. This endeavor of inviting speakers and openly discussing pressing issues facing Iranian American Jews was no easy task. In my opinion, 30 Years After also deserves applause for actually organizing a community organization that is doing something substantive when it comes to political or civic activism, instead of just throwing parties! For too many years, countless Iranian Jewish groups have merely been having events for young people to inactive or fundraise instead of doing anything proactive vis-a-vis community issues. Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community has been lacking a group of fresh leaders who are not figureheads with big titles. It now seems 30 Years After is filling this gap. They are organizing voter registration drives, participating in mentorship programs and putting together discussion groups for their community. Sam Yebri, the 27-year-old attorney and brainchild behind 30 Years After deserves praise for forming the group, energizing the community’s younger generation and seeking support from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to fund the organization’s activities.
While the local Iranian Jewish community has been a-buzz since the group’s conference last weekend, some older members of the community have been less than enthusatic about the new group. Members of the old guard of community leaders in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s—have by in large ignored younger Iranian Jews and I know such was the case with 30 Years After. These older leaders informed me of their indifference to the new organization. How sad that some older Iranian Jews have failed to embrace/support the new generation just because of their own personal pride.
On a side note, I found the 30 Years After conference enjoyable except for being verbally attacked by a couple of disgruntled Iranian Jewish readers of The Jewish Journal. They inaccurately accused me of incorrect reporting on this story and proceeded to bad-mouth me in front of others. Their claims, in my opinion, are invalid as all of the facts in my article have been accurately attributed to named sources and based on solid documentation. Of course as a thick-skinned journalist, I am not upset as I am regularly attacked by members of the local Iranian Jewish community because they are uncomfortable with my raising of certain sensitive issues in my articles. These individuals believe that their verbal assualts, rumor -spreading and false accusations against my work will somehow succeed in discrediting my articles. Again and again, I welcome all criticism from readers of my work and invite them to write their letters to The Journal. If any of you think I’ve been inaccurate then by all means please specifically outline them for the editors of the newspaper. If you think you can do a better job in reporting on the local Iranian Jewish community, then by all means I invite you to do so. We as Iranian Jews cannot remain silent while we face serious issues such as drugs, violence and teenage criminal activity. The only way to resolve these pressing issues is to openly and honestly have a public dialogue—my work, I believe may in some cases help faciliate that dialogue.
Below are some of my own photos from the 30 Years After conference—here are some Jewish community members who shared their insights into the emergence of the Iranian Jewish community in Southern California.
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