Elias Eshaghian, a pivotal educator and director of many Jewish schools throughout Iran during 20th century, died at 78 on Aug. 8, following a 20-year fight with lung cancer. More than 500 local Iranian Jews recently packed Temple Beth El in West Hollywood for his memorial service.
After obtaining his high school education in Iran from the Alliance Israelite Universelle (AIU), a French Jewish nonprofit education and cultural organization, Eshaghian attended college and received a teaching credential in France.
Eshaghian returned to Iran in October 1951, working for the AIU as an assistant director and French-language teacher in the city of Esfahan. In subsequent years, Eshaghian worked as the director and educator for the AIU schools in the rural Iranian cities of Yazd and Sanandaj.
He returned to Tehran in 1960, where he worked as a French teacher at the AIU boys' and girls' schools, later serving as the director for the boys' school. At a time when Iran's Jews were living in largely poverty-stricken areas, Eshaghian was one of the few community activists to encourage youth to consider higher education.
Eshaghian left AIU in 1970 and went on to work as a part-time reporter at Journal Du Tehran, a French-language newspaper, while also teaching French at Tehran universities.
UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) later hired Eshaghian as a French translator for their events.
Following Iran's radical Islamic revolution, Eshaghian, like many of the country's Jews, fled in 1980 and resettled in Los Angeles where he sold insurance. Despite a long battle with lung cancer, Eshaghian continued to volunteer by serving as chair of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, a local umbrella organization for nearly a dozen Iranian Jewish nonprofit groups. Eshaghian was also one of the founders of the Tarzana-based Eretz Cultural Center, one of the first local Iranian synagogues established in Los Angeles.
Community members honored Eshaghian on May 20 with a launch party for his Persian-language memoir, "A Follower of Culture." The book is a chronicle of the history of Jewish education in Iran during the 20th century, an effort that was supported by the AIU.
During an interview with The Journal earlier this year, Eshaghian recalled the tremendous difficulty he encountered attracting poverty-stricken Jewish students in the different Iranian cities, where young children typically worked in their families' businesses.
"I literally went from store to store of the poor Jews in the city of Yazd and had to drag their kids to get an education at the Alliance schools -- many of those children today in the United States are among the most respected physicians, scientists, engineers and successful businessmen in our community," he said.
To read more of an interview with Elias Eshaghian, visit the Iranian American Jews blog.
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Bernard Julius Brillstein died Aug. 7 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Carrie; daughters, Leigh (Abe) Hoch and Kate; and son, Mike. Hillside
Lion Cohen died Aug. 5 at 82. He is survived by his niece, Eveline (Orlando) Bermudez; and brother-in-law, Ben From. Mount Sinai
Samuel Cohen died Aug. 7 at 98. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; son, Richard (Patti Post); daughter, Marlene Manoff; granddaughters, Kimberly and Heather; and brother, Jack (Naomi). Mount Sinai
Lilian Weil de Bernstein-Hahn died Aug. 2 at 74. She is survived by her husband Dr. Leon; son, Gaston (Sandy); daughter, Gloria; niece, Adrienne Hahn; six grandchildren; and nephews, Ariel and David Mazer. La Tablada Cemetery, Buenos Aires
Jessie Ecker died Aug. 7 at 83. She is survived by her husband, Richard; sons, Marc (Cantor Linda) and Alan; daughter, Sandra (Bruce) McDonald; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Mount Sinai
Joseph Hoffman died Aug. 7 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Selene; children, Terri, Judy, Carol, Lori and Daniel; and many honorary children. Mount Sinai
Ida Holzer died Aug. 5 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Alice; two grandchildren; and sisters, Betty and Miriam. Groman
Leonard Alvin Ingram died Aug. 3 at 88. He is survived by his son, Jason (June); granddaughter, Kelly; and cousin, Irma Kavin. Hillside
Sally Insul died Aug. 4 at 91. She is survived by her son, Alan; and daughters, Charlene Block and Sharon. Hillside
Howard Kaufman died Aug. 5 at 66. He is survived by his son, Joshua; daughter, Ali Kaufman Yares; granddaughter, Elianna; mother, Frances; sister, Golda Whitelaw; and ex-wife, Fara. Mount Sinai
Albert Kogus died Aug. 9 at 95. He is survived by his son, David (Beverly); daughter, Gail (Marv) Jacobs; son-in-law, Ivan Heller; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Mount Sinai
David Kane died Aug. 6 at 86. He is survived by his daughters, Sheryl Shevah and Melinda (Jack) Williams. Hillside
Albert Elias Kurz died Aug. 6 at 89. He is survived by his sons, Andrew and Danie; and daughter, Abigail. Hillside
Fanny Boyar Lesser died Aug. 8 at 95. She is survived by her granddaughters, Heather (Doug) Kayne and Janene (Karl) Gerber; and nieces, Arlene (Irwin) Volk and Marilyn Clement. Mount Sinai
Ethel Levine died Aug. 10 at 96. She is survived by her daughters, Adrienne Leonard and Carole (Richard) Kirschenbaum; five grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and brother, Jack Sadofsky. Mount Sinai
Murray Loeterman died Aug. 9 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Pearl; sons, Mark (Nancy) and Ben (Mardi); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Theodore Perlman died Aug. 8 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Elaine; daughter, Susan Patterson; sister, Bernice (Maynard) Strull; and nephews, Jerry and Dan Strull and Tony Kent. Mount Sinai
Seymour Polan died Aug. 9 at 85. He is survived by his sons, Mark (Debra) and Dr. Gary (Lauren); grandchildren, Richie and Bryan; and brother, Jack. Mount Sinai
Habibollah Nazarian died July 27 at 97. He is survived by his sons, Houshang and Feridoon; daughters, Nahid and Simin; five grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and brothers, Rahim and Faraj. Chevra Kadisha
Erma Rauch died Aug. 5 at 86. She is survived by her son, Jack (Merle); daughter, Cathy; four stepchildren; six step-grandchildren; and sister, Dorothy (Allen) Nirenstein. Hillside
Esther Ross died July 31 at 82.She is survived by her husband, Leonard; daughter, Cathy (Lance) Pierce; son, Paul (Suzanne); and grandchildren, Hannah and Zachary. Mount Sinai
Arna Saphier died Aug. 7 at 93. She is survived by her sons, Peter and Michael; and sister, Beatrix Padway. Hillside
Violet Satmary died Aug. 8 at 84. She is survived by her husband, Alex; daughters, Shirley (Neil) Jasper and Susan (Richard) Hirschhaut; four grandchildren; and sister, Helen Weinberger. Mount Sinai
Benno Schneider died Aug. 5 at 84.He is survived by his sons, Sascha (Lauren) and Ira (Suzanne); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Alex Schoenbrun died Aug. 5 at 94. He is survived by his daughters, Roberta Esquibias and Maxine Lyons. Hillside
Walter Joseph "Wally" Sherwin died Aug. 6 at 89. He is survived by his children, Dennis (Gail), Robert (Jeanne) and Candy (Joe); four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Ida Siegal died Aug. 7 at 91. She is survive d by her son, Stuart; daughters, Ronna Slutsky and Lois Sherman; and sister, Ethel Harmatz. Hillside
Simone Silver died Aug. 10 at 87. She is survived by her husband, Joseph; daughters, Jackie Frank and Judy Gold; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Hillside
Dr. Sheldon Thorrens died Aug. 5 at 73. He is survived be his wife, Shirley Thorrens; and family. Hillside
Dorothy Wallach died Aug. 6 at 99. She is survived by her daughter, Beryl Yaffa; son, Marlin (Martha); seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Philip Yallowitz died Aug. 8 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor; daughter, Anita (Philip) Wolman; and grandchildren, Lauren and Daniel. Mount Sinai