Angela Cohan is a Los Angeles area Iranian Jewish mom, writer, community activist and a friend of mine who recently shared with me an incident last year in which anti-Semitic remarks were made at a local grocery store own by Iranian Muslims in the Westwood area. Her outrage over the incident has led her to organize a small boycott of the market, but she has decided not to name the store as she believes the owners are not anti-Semitic. Instead she wrote an essay sharing her feelings about the incident. I found her essay to be quite interesting considering the often hidden anti-Semitic sentiments some non-Jewish Iranian groups living in Iran, Europe and even America still harbor toward Jews.
It should be noted that the Iranian American Muslim community is by in large not anti-Semitic and shares close friendships with their Jewish compatriots here in the U.S. In fact the strong cultural and linguistic bonds Iranians of all religions share along with the sense of tolerance created in Iran prior to the 1979 revolution, has kept the majority of them on friendly terms with one another in America.
No doubt this incident which Cohan encountered may have been isolated, nevertheless it is important to take note of as some anti-Semitism still exists among some non-Jewish Iranians. Only by bringing such stories to light and engaging Iranians of other faiths can we as Jews help erase any anti-Jewish sentiments that may exist. Cohan’s painful story is as follows:
By Angela Cohan
We came to California in search of the dream. Like the sound of sirens, through the Pacific Ocean, California beckoned us to a better life and a safer future. Leaving everything behind, we bypassed the contiguous states and landed here in search of Camelot. Almost 30 years later, my soul still remains a slave to the soil that belonged to my ancestors. I seek solace in Westwood where I crave to connect to my roots, when I yearn to speak in my native tongue and go in hopes of finding my compassionate comrades and compatriots. As I entered the Persian market in Westwood I smelled the sweet smell of cream puffs and saffron and took in the sweet smell of the jasmine of my childhood.
The clerk was engaged in a heated argument with a customer. The poor woman had not left the store when I heard the clerk talking condescendingly about her. She was carelessly bad mouthing her Jewish clients. I stared into her callous and icy cold green eyes. She was looking at my credit card. She looked up at me and said: “Cohan? You’re a Cohan? You’re Jewish?”
“Yes.” I declared proudly. I gave her an equally cold and calculated smile. “You don’t look Jewish,” she said with a sly smirk. Suffice it to say that I have not returned to that store and have since created a campaign and told my friends and family members to boycott the market. I didn’t give up my country and move 20,000 kilometers to flee from ignorant bigots to be talked down to by a condescending camel of a woman who started cursing Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and the rest of the mullahs.
She was holding to my arm and not letting me go but not out of contrition. She was talking about burning all the prophets that same fundamental hatred that scared us out of our homeland and drove us away in 1979. Almost 30 years later and halfway around the world, the same dark force has followed us where ignorant fools scrutinize, slander and self-flagellate. My 15-year-old daughter is in Israel studying and teaching tolerance among cultures and this coward is talking about burning people?
Enough hate, enough rage, enough bloodshed! It’s time to grow up and learn to share the world. And so my little critters, I am not a cold-blooded, calculating creature, I have learned to stay calm while the calamity subsides.