March 1, 2012
Ebrahim Yahid, Iranian-Jewish leader, dies at 90
Shabbat Zachor (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
Ebrahim Yahid, one of Southern California’s most respected Iranian-Jewish community leaders and a longtime volunteer for Israel, died Feb. 22 at 90, following a long illness.
Born in Isfahan, Iran, in 1921, Yahid was educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle , where he became fluent in French, English and Hebrew. At the start of World War II, Yahid volunteered to serve with the British army based in Iran and was later promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. During his intelligence work with the British military, he was also a member of the Jewish Brigade, helping Jewish soldiers from Poland and the Soviet Union board Iranian oil ships bound for Israel. Yahid was also one of a small group of Iranian Jews who aided in the transport of hundreds of orphaned Jewish children, known as the “Tehran Children,” who had fled Nazi Europe via Iran and were later sent to Israel.
During the early 1950s, Yahid was one of the primary Iranian-Jewish figures responsible for helping Iraqi Jews make aliyah to Israel. Before Iran’s 1979 revolution, Yahid spent 20 years serving as one of the primary liaisons between the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Embassy in Tehran under Ambassador Meir Ezri.
With Iranian-Israeli relations improving during the 1960s, Yahid spearheaded trade opportunities between Israel and Iran, and was involved in fundraising efforts in Iran on behalf of the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency.
After fleeing Iran in 1979 and arriving in Los Angeles, Yahid dedicated his life to countless causes within Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community and to numerous Israel-based nonprofit groups. He was one of the founders and original board members of both the Iranian American Jewish Federation and Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills. He also organized and led hundreds of tourist trips to Israel for local Iranian Jews.
“He was an incredibly caring and giving man who unselfishly helped anyone that he knew needed help,” Nessah Synagogue’s Rabbi David Shofet said during Yahid’s funeral last week. “His love of his homeland, Israel, and commitment to her success was really second to none in our community — he will be greatly missed.”