Jewish Journal

Kudos to J.U.N. for honoring young Iranian Jewish leadership

by Karmel Melamed

April 14, 2009 | 10:39 am

On April 2nd nearly 150 young L.A. area Iranian Jews gathered at the Tower hotel in the Pico-Robertson area for a Casino Night held by the local “Jewish Unity Network” (J.U.N.) organization. Party goers enjoyed playing various casino style games, danced the night away and honored Dalia Eliav and Soheil Zarabi, two Iranian Jews in their 20’s for encouraging community activism and Jewish values among their peers. “I wanted young Jews on the UCLA campus to be able to unite with their culture and religion in order to create a sense of community,” said 22-year-old Eliav, who has been organizing various youth events for the last five years. J.U.N.’s founder and executive director, Dara Abaei had nothing but praise for both Eliav and Zarabi who he said have both unselfishly dedicated their free time to bringing young Iranian Jews together in various Jewish settings. Kudos to J.U.N. for encouraging leadership among Southern California’s young Iranian Jews!

While I personally do not attend many of these local Iranian Jewish shindigs because there are simply too many of them, I did attend J.U.N.’s Casino Night because the group has been involved in some remarkable work in the community. Both Abaei and J.U.N. deserve praise because J.U.N. is among less than a handful of local Iranian Jewish groups that are actually putting together positive and effective programs for the youth in our community. The group has been in the forefront of addressing such pressing issues as drug abuse, drunk driving, violence, assimilation outside of Judaism and the need for community volunteerism among local Iranian Jews. More importantly, I’ve found that J.U.N. has given Iranian Jewish teens and young professionals the tools to become leaders in their own rite and has encouraged them to embrace their unique Jewish identities. Unfortunately too many of our community’s organizations often have meaningless parties to self promote without having a true message regarding the need for young people to improve themselves and their surroundings. J.U.N. has been the exception to the rule and in turn young Iranian Jews, couples, religious and non-religious alike have been flocking to their events. Lastly J.U.N. deserves high praise because it has also promoted Zionism among Iranian Jewish youth, an essential education considering the fact that many college aged students nowadays are constantly bombarded with anti-Israel rhetoric on their campuses.

Those interested in learning more about J.U.N. can visit their site: http://lajun.com/

The following are just a few sights captured from J.U.N.’s recent Casino Night:

(left to right; Dalia Eliav and Dara Abaei)
(left to right; Soheil Zarabi and Dara Abaei)
(left to right; Jessica and Eman Esmaeilzadeh)
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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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