Los Angeles has one of the largest populations of Persian Americans in the United States, which is why some refer to the city as Tehrangeles. There are roughly 30,000 Persian Jews among the 300,000 or so Persian Americans living in the City of Angels, according to USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, making Southern California also the site of one of the largest concentrations of ex-pat Persian Mizrahim.
Most of the Persian Jewish community can be found on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Persian synagogues, organizations, markets, restaurants, pharmacies, hair salons and other service-oriented businesses have taken root in these Southland areas, providing a cultural connection for the refugee generation, which arrived between 1977 and 1980, and their American-born children.
The following guide includes synagogues, businesses, agencies and services frequented by the L.A. Persian Jewish community.
Brentwood and Santa Monica’s ocean-adjacent living is gradually luring families from Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles, and this has added a significant Persian Jewish population to Chabad of Brentwood.
Westwood/West Los Angeles
Signs in both English and Farsi stretch along Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in West Los Angeles, but the city’s largest variety of Persian-owned businesses are found along Westwood Boulevard.
Pico-Robertson Persian grocers sell almost everything, including music and movies. No matter the time of day, the store aisles are likely to be lined with the carts of fervent shoppers. Some business signs in this observant neighborhood are written in Farsi with “glatt kosher” added in English.
Beverly Hills is home to one of the most politically active communities, featuring three Persian Jewish candidates currently running for two City Council seats. As for places people tend to visit, there is an elegant bakery, beauty salon and supply shop, and the Laemmle Music Hall, which occasionally features Farsi-language films. Nessah Educational and Cultural Center is popular among Persian Jews who observe the traditional form of Judaism practiced in Iran. The congregation is led by Rabbi David Shofet, whose father, Rabbi Hacham Yedidia Shofet, was the late spiritual leader of Jews in Iran and in Southern California.
Hollywood Temple Beth-El was once known as the “Temple to the Stars,” featuring such celebrities as Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Cantor, Universal founder Carl Laemmle and “Wizard of Oz” director Mervyn LeRoy. The building was sold in the late 1990s. The space is now home to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation and is a favorite place to celebrate a wedding or other simchas.
Many Persian Jewish entrepreneurs in the jewelry, clothing, fabric and upholstery industries work downtown. The area features two kosher restaurants and a new synagogue, Ohr HaShalom, popularly known as the Downtown Synagogue, which is located in a storefront between fabric shops and is open only on weekdays.
San Fernando Valley
The Valley has one of the most widely dispersed Persian Jewish communities in Southern California, with many families living along the 101 corridor in cities like Tarzana, Encino and Sherman Oaks.
Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana is the oldest Persian Jewish organization in California and the largest in the San Fernando Valley.
Established in 1979, Eretz-SIAMAK offers social and immigrant services, community programming and business networking opportunities; subsidizes living expenses for nearly 100 poverty stricken Persian Jewish families; publishes the Iranian Jewish Chronicle Magazine (also known in Persian as Chashm Andaaz), and holds daily minyanim, weekly Shabbat morning services and High Holiday services.