In the early hours of Jan. 2, Shervin Lalezary was on only his fourth solo patrol as a Los Angeles reserve sheriff's deputy. Driving on Sunset Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood, he spotted a minivan that fit the description of one believed to be used by an arsonist who had been on a nightly rampage for days, terrorizing huge swaths of Los Angeles.
Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community has long been divided over a host of social and religious issues, often discouraging hopes among the elders for community continuity. Eman Esmailzadeh, a 27-year-old engineer and community activist, is one of a small number of young people who are now focused on reuniting this immigrant community, in part by encouraging teenagers to identify with their Judaism.
With Iran a hot topic in the U.S. presidential race this year, the candidates' foreign policy statements are being examined closely by everyone, not least the Iranian Jewish community. Comments by Democratic frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in particular, have left many Iranian Jews reluctant to support his candidacy.
The September release of a new documentary that follows Jimmy Carter on tour for his controversial book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," has reignited the longstanding animosity many Iranian Americans feel toward the former U.S. president.
At a Sinai Temple Men's Club meeting earlier this month, Berookhim publicly shared the 30-year-old heart-wrenching story of his 31-year-old uncle's arrest and execution at the hands of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Only Rita could have pulled it off. Her famous "One" concert was the first time any Israeli recording artist has attempted such an extravagant, multimedia performance. With its crew of 50 tumbling dancers, grandiose costumes, pyrotechnics and video art, the $5 million production looked like it came right off the Las Vegas Strip.
Haji Hayim sings and dances to a traditional song typically sung at b'nai mitzvah ceremonies, but he does so to a techno beat. The cartoon character started grabbing the attention of the Iranian Jewish community in January 2006, when his video was distributed in e-mails as part of the official launch of Persianrabbi.com, the brainchild of 23-year-old product developer and community leader Eman Chayim Esmailzadeh.
I'm thinking of the Southern accent, the country-club attitude, the ship-captain husband, trying to figure out how any of that fits in with a story about a family from the Jewish ghetto of Esfahan. "She might have told me," I confess. "I didn't listen because it didn't make sense."
Despite a flurry of criticism directed at Israeli President Moshe Katsav over rape and sexual harassment allegations, support for Israel's embattled president remains strong among Southern California's Iranian Jews.
In his introduction to Esther's Children," (Jewish Publication Society, $110) editor Houman Sarshar speaks of a time when, at 6 years old and about to start elementary school, he discovered his legacy as an Iranian Jew. Over breakfast in their apartment in Tehran, Houman's father, a top planning commissioner in the Shah's Iran, notices the Star of David pendant -- a recent gift from a grandmother -- hanging from his son's neck. He reaches over and slips the necklace under Houman's shirt.
"If anyone in school asks about your religion," he instructs his son, "lie. Tell them you're Muslim."