Despite being caught in the middle of a labor dispute involving the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel and its workers, the Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish political and civic action group 30 Years After (30YA) welcomed roughly 1,200 people, most of them local Iranian Jews, to its second biennial conference on Oct. 10. About a dozen picketers from UNITE HERE Local 11 lined up outside the Hyatt during the early morning hours, along with protesting members of the Jewish Labor Committee, but despite their presence, the conference moved forward uninterrupted.
30 Years After was established in 2008 to give voice to young professionals in the Iranian Jewish community who want to make a contribution to the larger community but have often felt ignored or held back by the older Iranian Jewish leadership.
An array of local community and religious leaders spoke to the group, including Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe and talk-show host and author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who urged the group to become more philanthropic toward both Jewish and non-Jewish causes. “We’re not successful Iranian Jews because we live in Beverly Hills, or wear Gucci, or have million-dollar weddings — we’re successful Iranian Jews because of our Jewish values and our commitment to tikkun olam,” Boteach told the crowd.
Some prominent elected officials and candidates on the upcoming November ballot were in attendance, including Republicans Meg Whitman, who is running for California governor, and Carly Fiorina, who is running for the California Senate seat; both of them spoke. Their Democratic counterparts had turned down invitations. Other local Democrats who initially agreed to come included Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Assembly members Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield, but they all canceled in support of the hotel workers’ union, instead providing video messages praising 30YA for its political activism in the Iranian Jewish community during the past year.
“30 Years After was instrumental in encouraging the legislature to pass and the governor to sign the ‘Iran Contracting Act of 2010’ (AB 1650), which prohibits companies doing business with Iran’s energy sector to be contracting with the State of California for contract in excess of $20 million,” Blumenfield said in his video address.
Following the event, 30YA board members said they received positive feedback from attendees, who also had opportunities to participate in smaller group discussions covering an array of topics.
“We were very pleased with the outcome of this year’s conference because of the large attendance and the fact that our break-out sessions provided our attendees with the key tools to go out there and apply what they’ve learned to help the community,” said Sam Yebri, president of the organization.
The following are just some of the snapshots from the conference I captured….
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