Posted by Tabby Davoodi
30 YEARS AFTER, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization, applauds the bipartisan sponsorship in Congress of legislation that would offer due recognition of the undeniable plight and suffering of Jews who were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries over the past 60 years. An estimated 850,000 Jews were displaced from their homes throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf since 1948, many of them having fled under increased threats of violence that often brutally targeted them simply because they were Jews.
If passed, the bill, which is currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, would be particularly significant as it would ensure that the stories and struggles of these long-forgotten Jewish refugees would take their rightful place among the international dialogue of all relevant organizations and entities that seek to address a lasting solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the United Nations, which has consistently slammed the Jewish state with anti-Israel resolutions for the past 64 years, most of which have focused solely on the issue of Palestinian refugees and have completely ignored the reality of almost 1 million displaced Jews.
As the children of Iranian Jews, members of 30 YEARS AFTER, now young professionals living in the United States, feel particularly connected to the objectives of this bill and are deeply and personally invested in its passage.
For those of us in 30 YEARS AFTER who were born in Iran and were a part of its once-vibrant and ancient Jewish community (totaling roughly over 100,000 before 1979), we recall all too well the sting of childhoods endured in the Islamic Republic and the turmoil and confusion of escape from the land that we had known for thousands of years, and from the homes, friends, and especially beloved family members that many of us were to never, ever see again.
Our plight—the thousands of stories of Iranian Jews that in the last thirty years were forced to escape the country by hiding in the backs of mule carts, of sleeping children that were gently pulled from their beds in the middle of the night by their mothers and fathers, only to wake up the next morning and find themselves already hundreds of miles away from Iran’s borders, of rabbis and elders that would discreetly enter our synagogues in the darkness of the night to take Sefer Torahs and prayer books out of these spaces, so that they would not be destroyed upon their escape (many of these precious Sefer Torahs can now be found in the homes and synagogues of Iranian Jews from Los Angeles to New York); from desperate families that were informed at airports that they would not be allowed to leave the country together, so that children would bid goodbye to fathers and wives would be separated from husbands for years to come. These are the stories that have been all but ignored by almost every single international entity that seems to focus entirely and at times even obsessively on the plight of Palestinian refugees. While their stories and painful hardships cannot be denied, it seems that ours were never even acknowledged to begin with.
30 YEARS AFTER applauds the efforts of Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Joe Crowley (D-NY), and Bob Turner (R-NY) and encourages our community to contact their respective offices and thank them for their initiative. We strongly and sincerely urge the United States Congress to pass this legislation on behalf of millions of Americans, thousands of whom are themselves the children of displaced Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries and have since taken their rightful part in the rich fabric of American life, while remembering to keep alive the inspiring stories of how and why they came to arrive to this incredible country in the first place.
To hear more about the remarkable stories of Iran’s Jews, please visit 30 YEARS AFTER’s video testimonial initiative, “Our Legacy Project,” at www.ourlegacyproject.org.
8.12.13 at 10:16 am | In Israel, humanity is undeniably tangible.
6.4.13 at 5:10 pm | Thanks to Senator Frank Lautenberg, thousands of. . .
4.11.13 at 7:36 pm | The next mayor of Los Angeles should support the. . .
3.22.13 at 2:29 pm | Reflections on Persian Jewish Passover traditions. . .
2.26.13 at 6:01 pm | Congressman Ed Royce (R), Chairman of the House. . .
10.16.12 at 3:52 pm | As the 2012 elections near, we must look within. . .
8.21.12 at 3:14 pm | (4)
12.8.09 at 2:08 pm | (4)
10.16.12 at 3:52 pm | As the 2012 elections near, we must look within. . . (3)
October 17, 2011 | 3:28 pm
Posted Michael Yadegaran
In the summer of 2006, rockets rained down on Israel from its northern and southern borders as its army engaged militants on both fronts in fierce battle. What made this period one of the most difficult in Israel’s recent collective memory was that for the first time in over a decade, an Israeli soldier was taken prisoner while still alive. If all goes according to plan, this harrowing saga will come to an end when, after five years of captivity, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit returns home.
Those unfamiliar with the plight of Shalit or the immensely popular movement advocating for his release from the hands of the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza have expressed shock and confusion that Israel’s government, one which is known to be tough on terror, has indeed negotiated with and given in to many of Hamas’ demands.
Following the abduction of Shalit, Hamas made it clear that the release of the 24-year-old Israeli would stir up difficult moral dilemmas for Israel’s government and the Israeli public in general. According to reports, 1,027 Palestinians will be released to Hamas in exchange for Shalit. Many of those being released by Israel have been tried and convicted in Israeli courts for the most despicable of crimes. Dozens have “blood on their hands” and directly took part in the murder and maiming of countless Israeli civilians.
The reasoning behind the release is not easily understandable to outsiders. The deal has struck many as irrational and presents threatening security and strategic liabilities to Israel; many dangerous individuals will once again be free to attack the Jewish state, and it provides an incentive for terror groups to kidnap additional Israelis.
To fully understand why Israel’s security-oriented government approved the deal, you have to start by walking to the Prime Minister’s residence in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. There, you will find a modest (but passionate) protest tent dedicated to the release of Shalit, where his parents have kept constant vigil for months. The campaign to release Shalit started, and now ends with his parents: Noam and Aviva. They have traveled the world, protested across the country, taken on the Israeli political elite, and put pressure on the most important figures in the Israeli and Jewish world to secure their son’s release. Their ordeal has resonated with the vast majority of Israelis, who each year send their teenage sons and daughters into compulsory military duty. They have carried out a sophisticated grassroots campaign with the help of Gilad’s friends, dubbed “Gilad’s Army.” The media-savvy movement for Shalit’s release has attained international coverage and sparked inspired social media endeavors.
Not to be discounted in bringing about Shalit’s release is the Israel Defense Force’s code of ethics, particularly the Jewish tenet of Pidyon Shvuyim. The principle of Pidyon Shvuyim grants the redemption of captives utmost importance and gives a whole new meaning to the age-old mantra of never leaving a man behind. To bring a single soldier home at such a steep price displays an undying commitment to Israel’s young men and women by their leaders, fulfilling Pidyon Shvuyim in its most honorable form.
Jews around the world have reacted with great happiness at the news of Shalit’s eventual release. Despite the painful price, there is a reason why untold millions stand by Noam and Aviva Shalit. Israel’s establishment in 1948 marked the founding of a modern safe haven for Jews which would serve as our collective home. Ever since, Israelis and Jews in the diaspora have felt a particularly staunch sense of mutual commitment and responsibility for one another. The release of Shalit has come to represent his return not only to the home of his parents in Mitzpe Hila, but to every home in Israel; it is as if the parents of Israel are embracing a son and the children of Israel are welcoming home their brother.
Last July, I had the privilege to meet with Noam Shalit at the protest tent in Jerusalem. I spoke with a man who was tired, heartbroken, and understandably frustrated. His answers were short and calculated, displaying the experience of an elder statesman. Although I was one of hundreds to speak with him that day, the perseverance and conviction Noam Shalit spoke with was remarkable. I was touched by his impassioned plea to bring his youngest son home. As I left Jerusalem, I tied a ribbon to my backpack, put on a shirt emblazoned with Shalit’s likeness, and proudly carried his story home.
Although we are thousands of miles apart and of different nationalities, regardless of the language barrier separating us, despite the lack of familial ties—I am eager to welcome my brother Gilad home.
*Michael Yadegaran holds a B.A. in Near East Studies from the University of California, San Diego and serves as the Vice President of 30 Years After.
October 13, 2011 | 12:45 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
30 Years After, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization, applauds the State of California’s vigorous enforcement of the Iran Contracting Act of 2010, authored by Assemblymembers Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield. Pursuant to the new law, California recently published a list of 63 corporations barred from bidding on lucrative state contracts due to their continued business with Iran. According to the Financial Times, “California has changed the game on Iran divestment.” Other states should follow suit immediately.
In recent years, various cities and states across the nation have enacted legislation that tightens existing economic sanctions on Iran. These laws complement federal sanctions imposed with overwhelming bipartisan support from Congress and the White House. The enactment and implementation of biting sanctions that force corporations to choose to do business either with Iran or with the United States and American municipalities has been a priority for 30 Years After and the Iranian-American Jewish community. In May 2010, members of 30 Years After testified in Sacramento and in Washington D.C. and met with local, state, and national officials in support of legislation that cuts off the Islamic Republic’s access to capital.
As new threats of terrorism from Iran come to light, we are steadfast in our belief that economic and diplomatic efforts are critical to punish Iran for its support of terrorism, end its brutal repression of its citizens, and prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We applaud our local, state, and national leaders, including Assemblymembers Feuer and Blumenfield, for their bold leadership.
Founded in 2007, 30 Years After is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with chapters in Los Angeles and New York, whose mission is to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian-American Jews in American civic, political, and Jewish life.
October 1, 2010 | 11:18 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
30 Years After applauds Governor Schwarzenegger for signing the Iran Contracting Act of 2010 (AB 1650) into law yesterday. The law would preclude all public entities in California from renewing or entering into contracts with companies that have substantial business in Iran’s energy sector. 30 Years After and the Iranian American Jewish community commend the sponsors of the bill, Assembly Members Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield, for their leadership in sponsoring this critical piece of legislation, which will end taxpayers’ investment in companies supporting Iran’s dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons.
IRAN DIVESTMENT LEGISLATION SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
AB 1650 Prohibits Companies with Significant Business in Iran’s Energy Sector
from Contracting with the State of California and Local Governments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2010
Feuer Contact: Arianna Smith (916) 319-2042
Blumenfield Contact: Colleen Beamish (916) 319-2040
September 30, 2010 (Sacramento) – The Governor has signed Assembly Bill 1650 by Assembly members Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield, legislation prohibiting contracts of $1 million or more between the State of California (including its cities and counties) and companies with significant business in Iran’s energy sector. The measure bolsters sanctions that the U.S. and the United Nations imposed on Iran earlier this year.
On July 1, the President signed into law bipartisan legislation to limit Iran’s ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability. The law authorizes states and local governments to divest from companies with investments that support Iran’s energy sector and thus promote the efforts of Iran’s government to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. With the Governor’s approval of AB 1650, California will be the first state in the nation to enact legislation under this law.
“Just yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order imposing sanctions on officials complicit in egregious human rights abuses in Iran. Today the state of California joins this federal effort by sending a clear message to international companies: If you support the nuclear ambitions and human rights abuses of Iran’s terrorist regime, we won’t do business with you,” said Feuer. “As the first state to pass legislation under the federal law, California will lead the nation in encouraging companies to reject investments in Iran’s energy sector.”
“Any international company that participates in Iran’s economy is directly helping that country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and supporting Iran’s goal of annihilating its political enemies. With the enactment of this legislation, the state of California is taking a strong stand against Iran’s tyrannical ambitions, and the companies that are complicit in its evil acts,” Blumenfield said.
AB 1650 precludes all public entities in the State of California from renewing or entering into contracts of $1 million or more with companies that have substantial business in Iran’s energy sector. The bill ensures that California’s tax dollars do not go to companies whose investments support Iran’s nuclear program, exploitation of terror and brutal suppression of internal dissent. Companies with current interests in Iran’s energy sector which choose to cease these operations will be permitted to contract with the state and local governments in California.
July 6, 2010 | 7:22 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
REFLECTIONS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
July 5, 2010
By Sam Yebri
Thank goodness for frequent flyer miles. When I received word that I was invited to the White House to witness President Obama sign the new Iran sanctions legislation, I scrambled to find a last-minute flight. Fortunately, I found a red-eye and was off to the East Room.
The new law – the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act –provides the best hope that political and economic measures can peacefully persuade Iran to end its illicit nuclear program before it is too late. It builds upon the recently passed United States Security Council Resolution, grants the President new authority, and strengthens a multilateral strategy to hold Iran accountable for failing to meet its international obligations. The new law will strike at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear weapons program by forcing corporations around the world, including banks and energy companies, to choose between access to the American economy or business with the Iranian regime.
On Thursday, the President walked into the East Room, where 125 people were waiting to witness history, including Members of Congress, Administration and State Department officials, Jewish community leaders, and members of the press. And me. It was surreal to be in the same room, alongside leaders like Congressman Howard Berman (who was the leading force behind the bill), Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Brad Sherman and Eric Cantor, Ambassadors Dennis Ross and Susan Rice, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, and Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil.
Upon reflection, I was there wearing three hats, representing three different communities.
First, I was there on behalf of the Iranian-American community. Iranian Americans have a unique perspective on this issue. It is well known that the Iranian government is developing nuclear weapons, brutally suppressing its own people, and sponsoring terrorism from Iraq to Gaza. For our community, Iran was also the home of our parents and ancestors, a land rich in history and culture, whose people yearn to be free. Over the last three years, 30 Years After has inspired thousands of Iranian-American Jews to embrace our responsibilities as Americans – to become active in the civic life of Los Angeles, to vote, and to raise our voices on issues that matter to us. That 30 Years After was invited to the White House for this historic and timely legislative event is a reflection of the progress that the Iranian-American Jewish community is making politically.
Second, I was also a proud representative of the Los Angeles pro-Israel community. For the last decade, dating back to my days as a campus activist, leading organizations such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), America’s pro-Israel lobby, have brought to the attention of Congress, the White House, and the American people the perilous threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would have not only to Israel but to the United States and our Arab and European allies. Los Angeles is a hotbed for pro-Israel fundraising with countless activists, political action committees (like the World Alliance for Israel), and political networks who use their political dollars to back congressional candidates who both support the U.S.-Israel relationship and understand the Iranian threat. A week does not go by that an out-of-state Member of Congress or candidate does not visit Los Angeles to meet with these tireless activists. I am proud to be a part of a growing network of young pro-Israel activists who understand that the U.S.-Israel relationship is worth fighting for and cannot be taken for granted. If it were appropriate in the East Room, I would have given a “shout-out” to my friends and colleagues that our activism helped make this important law a reality.
Finally, I was there as a Democrat, with both strong progressive and pro-Israel values. Through my involvement with the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Bet Tzedek Legal Services, I have helped support and champion social justice issues that reflect our Jewish values of protecting the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. I have financially supported Democratic candidates who are leading the charge on health care, immigration, and climate change reform. However, there is a growing perception in the Los Angeles Jewish community that muscular support for the State of Israel is inconsistent with Democratic and progressive politics. The issue of Iran disproves that notion.
Regardless of where you stand on Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem or the blockade of Gaza, Iran can and should be a priority for all progressives. First, arguably the most cutting-edge human rights campaign and pro-democracy movement in generations has been taking place in the streets and “Tweets” of Tehran. The Iranian people are courageously fighting against brutal suppression for the rights of women, gays, religious minorities, and a free press. Second, for all of us who wish both to avoid a military confrontation over Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Islamic extremists, we must advocate for every financial and diplomatic measure to pressure Iran to change its behavior. The legislation imposes sanctions on individuals who commit serious human rights abuses and specifically exempts from our trade embargo technologies that allow the Iranian people to access information and communicate freely. In the spirit of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against apartheid South Africa and the human rights campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry decades ago, the campaign for a free, democratic, and nuclear-free Iran must become our generation’s cause célèbre, a sustained, broad-based campaign for justice and dignity for the Iranian people and peace for the region.
Fortunately, the legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, with a vote of 99-0 in the Senate and 408-8-1 in the House. Upon signing the bill into law, the President pledged to enforce the sanctions vigorously. It is time to give credit to President Obama for enacting this law and support the Administration in enforcing it. The Jewish community is broad and diverse, and, while nuanced debate is healthy and important, there are certain issues and certain moments in history that require unity. In 2010, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran fits that bill. And regardless of how you identify yourself – progressive or conservative, pro-Israel or pro-peace, we are one community, on the same team, fighting for the same peaceful future.
Sam Yebri is an attorney and President of 30 Years After, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization. He is also an active AIPAC activist and Regional Councilmember of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.
March 3, 2010 | 3:54 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
By: Michael Yadegaran
Growing up, I listened in utter disbelief as different members of my family recalled the hardships they endured as political refugees leaving Iran. Their accounts revisit the arduous and heartbreaking process of fleeing a country so deeply entwined with our history as Iranian Jews. It seemed to me that nothing I ever did could match the sacrifices my family, and thousands of others made, in order to plant the roots for myself and my fellow first-generation Iranian Jews in America. Our families instilled in us values that emanated from a traditionalist society, some of which serve as a collective annoyance to us youngsters, but in hindsight provided us with a head start on our competition. Arguably the most important advantage we have been given is our community’s emphasis on leadership and success.
The countless hours studying, the expectations of a degree from no less than UCLA, and the necessity to maintain a positive name for our families levy a burden on us college-aged members of the community. With the outburst of creativity and leadership from my generation in recent years, these societal pressures have fostered a thirst and ambition among young Iranian Jews that many of my American contemporaries lack.
One such bright spot has been the establishment and sustained impact of an organization that I am proud to be a part of: 30 Years After. Over the years, Iranian Jews have established themselves as philanthropists in America. However, our political activism rarely reached beyond the occasional campaign contribution. The establishment of 30 Years After brought to our community a highly organized and determined grassroots Iranian Jewish activist organization, unprecedented in our thirty years in America. A major factor that has lead to 30 Years After’s ability to galvanize the community and stir up interest in civic action has been the infusion of young blood into our community organizing work.
Well-established and longstanding Iranian Jewish organizations are, and continue to be, highly motivated and effective in the fields of immigrant support, philanthropy, and social services. The one sector that they have never successfully tackled is politics. Much of the previous generation, disenchanted with the state of political affairs and fearful of being politically active in Iran, did not have the desire or motivation to enter the political arena. Rather, they focused on professional success, leaving a lasting mark in real estate, business, law, and medicine.
With the entrance of an Iranian Jewish organization in the United States whose narrow focus is political participation and civic action on a community-wide level, we are in the midst of a movement that has the potential to extend its influence over local and national politics in the near future. Members of 30 Years After’s Board of Directors, all under the age of thirty (myself included), have testified at local and state hearings in favor of state legislation that would divest California and Los Angeles pension funds from companies doing business in Iran’s energy sector. 30 Years After has built relationships with leading local, state, and national elected officials in an effort to give voice to the Iranian American Jewish community. Leading Jewish organizations consistently partner with us on events and programs. We have registered hundreds of new voters and educated our community on issues such as health care reform, energy independence, and Iran’s nuclear program.
Starting from mixers and transitioning to substantive, activism-based events, 30 Years After is striving to be the necessary vehicle to give Iranian American Jews the political clout we deserve. It is now up to our community to stand behind us and give meaning to the work we do.
Michael Yadegaran is a Junior at the University of California, San Diego pursuing a B.A. in History with an emphasis on Near East Studies. He serves on 30 Years After’s Board of Directors and is currently studying at Tel Aviv University in Ramat Aviv, Israel. To learn more about 30 Years After and the 2nd biennial Civic Action Conference on October 10th, 2010 please visit www.30YearsAfter.org.
February 11, 2010 | 8:44 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
February 11th is a date of reflection for all Iranians. Today, thirty-one years ago, Iran underwent a revolution that would bring to power a radical regime and compel hundreds of thousands of Iranians to flee their homeland.
Iranian Jews who immigrated to the United States were the lucky ones. Over the last three decades, Iranian-American Jews have embodied the modern-day American Dream. We have rebuilt our lives and communities, graduated from elite American universities, founded successful businesses, and contributed philanthropically and culturally to American society. February 11th reminds us how fortunate our community is to have left Iran when we did and how much of a blessing America is.
February 11th also magnifies the suffering and aspirations of the people of Iran today. We see those Iranians standing up bravely in pursuit of a political voice and social change as the brothers and sisters we left behind. Their fight must be ours; their redemption, our cause to be championed. As the Iranian regime continues to suppress its citizens, 30 Years After challenges all Americans, especially Iranian Americans and Jewish Americans, to utilize the tools of freedom absent in Iran – democracy, free press, and free speech – to ensure the events broadcast on CNN today - February 11th - are not just another news story.
January 31, 2010 | 11:25 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
Our Legacy Project
Written by Eman Esmailzadeh and Sam Yebri.
This past December, 30 Years After launched “Our Legacy Project,” an unprecedented community-wide endeavor to commemorate and preserve Iranian Jewish history by connecting the future of the Jewish people with the legacy of their past.
Each of our families has compelling stories about the Jewish experience in Iran. We have heard them at our Shabbat tables. Some saw loved ones arrested and imprisoned as political prisoners. Others fled across borders like nomads on the backs of donkeys or camels. More escaped the Islamic Republic as political refugees in search of safety and opportunity. Yet, these stories of sacrifice and courage that sustained our community have never been fully told in a public fashion.
30 Years After strives to document these stories and memories before they disappear from our community’s collective memory. Our Legacy Project is a unique venture to tell an entire Jewish community’s history through videotaped stories and interviews conducted, collected and organized by the community’s youth and young leaders.
In just two months, the project has collected over 100 videos in categories ranging from the Exodus from Iran, Life During the Revolution, Relations with Non-Jews and Traditional Jewish Life in Iran.
The stories have been captured in both English and Farsi in order to cross generational boundaries. Videos are available for all to view at www.OurLegacyProject.org. This YouTube-like website enables the community to easily upload brief (five minutes or less) videotaped stories directly on the website. Our first videotaping day at Nessah Synagogue in December 2009, at which dozens of individuals shared their stories, will be repeated at synagogues and senior centers throughout Los Angeles. In the upcoming year, we also plan to expand the project to other major Iranian Jewish population centers, including New York and Israel. This will help the Project develop a comprehensive picture of Jewish Life in Iran.
One end goal of Our Legacy Project is to share our community’s most vivid and interesting stories as part of a video documentary that can be seen in homes across the globe. In the process, we hope all Iranian Jews – young and old – will develop a better understanding of the Jewish experience in Iran and an appreciation for how our Jewish values and identity sustained our community.
If you are interested in helping 30 Years After with this new and exciting endeavor, please send an email to email@example.com. Please visit www.OurLegacyProject.org for more information.