Nearly four years ago the life of Dina Kadisha, a young Iranian Jewish filmmaker, was completely transformed when she journeyed to Ethiopia with the New York-based American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its volunteers on a humanitarian aid mission to help the country’s remaining Jewish population. “In addition to the extensive relief work I witnessed, I had an opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary rescue mission- evacuating the Falash Mura (Ethiopian Jews) to safety in Israel,” said Kadisha who is in her 20’s and resides in Los Angeles. The amazing impact of giving back to Jews and non-Jews worldwide through the JDC not only prompted Kadisha to volunteer on other humanitarian missions but to also produce a short film called “Operation Promise: Exodus from Ethiopia” chronicling the tireless efforts of the JDC on behalf of Ethiopia’s Jews.
After its inception nearly a century ago, the JDC has been at the forefront of providing immediate humanitarian support to Jews in need worldwide and also to non-Jews suffering due to a natural disaster or other calamity. At the same time today the JDC has been fortunate enough to recruit a new generation of visionary young Jews such as Kadisha who are interested in leading international Jewish humanitarian aid efforts. In fact, the creative energy that helped launch the JDC’s newly establish Los Angeles Chapter came from both Kadisha and Jennifer Yadidi, another remarkable young Iranian Jewish community activist. (On a side note, for years I have been a big fan of Jennifer’s non-profit work on behalf of L.A.’s homeless).
Last month at an evening event held inside “Plush”, a trendy Beverly Hills nightclub, these two young ladies first introduced more than 60 of L.A.’s hip and successful young Jewish professionals to the scope of the JDC’s international relief work. I was fortunate enough to join the party which combined great music, a fun mingling atmosphere with the goal to encourage Jewish professionals in their 20’s and 30’s to get involved with the JDC. The evening was a smashing success and has since caused a great “buzz” in the local community. “The feedback we had from our event has been overwhelming,” said Kadisha. “Young Jewish professionals in Los Angeles have been very excited and eager to get involved with the JDC and their humanitarian work”. These two young Jewish professionals have not only energized other young professionals to give financially to the JDC, but more importantly to volunteer their time and travel overseas in physically helping individuals in serious need.
The apple certainly does not fall far from the tree for Kadisha and I’m certainly not surprised to see her involved and successful in supporting an amazing non-profit like the JDC. Her own family and her maternal family (the Nazarians) have for several decades been heavily involved in launching and supporting a wide range of philanthropic Jewish and Israel related causes. “I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by great role models in my family who have been involved in philanthropy and influenced me to give back—so it was very appealing to me to get involved the JDC”, Kadisha told me in a recent interview. Historically speaking, the majority of Jews living in Iran, two or three generations ago were living in extreme poverty in their ghettos. So it is all the more remarkable when today their successful descendants living in the U.S. are giving back to other Jews around the world who are poverty-stricken.
Whether the JDC has been providing aid to earthquake victims in Haiti earlier this year or to Jews living in the former Soviet Republics, the organization has had a major impact in coming to the rescue for thousands who were in need. “Every Jew anywhere in the world is a stakeholder of the JDC,” said Kadisha. “Many Jews don’t even know that their parents or grandparents across the world were beneficiaries of the JDC during the last 100 years”. In the end, I tip my hat to the JDC for having the vision to welcome Dina Kadisha and Jennifer Yadidi on board with their organization. Moreover it is young Jewish professionals such as as Kadisha and Yadidi that today make me very proud to be an Iranian American Jew living in Southern California. Thank you ladies!