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Modern Royalty: The Balancing Act of Being a Persian-American Woman

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For the first time ever, Princess Yasmine Pahlavi made an appearance to a large group of women at the 4th Annual Persian American Women’s Conference on May 18, 2016 at The Skirball Center, and I was lucky enough to attend and hear her heartfelt words. Princess Yasmine Pahlavi is the wife of Reza Pahlavi, the last crowned prince of the Imperial State of Iran. The Persian American Women’s Conference was founded by Mojgan Hakimi, PhD. in 2012 with the goal of bringing together a network of esteemed Persian women for the greater good. As stated by the Conference’s mission statement, they are “dedicated to the women of our community. Our journey is one of sisterhood and positive regard. Our mission is to explore, our vision is to inspire, and our common bond is to unconditionally support all women.”

Making a Difference,” was the theme of this sold out conference, which was chaired by Mrs. Elenor Gabay. Featured participants were highly successful Persian women who have made a difference to various communities worldwide. They featured women like Sara Safari, who is diligently working to fight against human trafficking; Delfarib Fanai — the co-founder of Moms Against Poverty, and Jila Ajeli Kashef — Founder and President of Keep Children in School. Other women that were highlighted include: best selling author Angella Nazarian, Mariam Khosravani — community leader and philanthropist, Dr. Saba Soomekh — associate Director of Research at the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, and Honorable Ashley Tabaddor — Immigration Court Judge. Princess Yasmine Pahlavi was part of this distinguished list of speakers, and the event featured her in an exclusive interview with Angella Nazarian.

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Princess Yasmine Pahlavi and I

As the co-founder of Chaya, a Jewish Iranian American women’s empowerment organization in Los Angeles, I was naturally intrigued by the opportunity to attend a conference highlighting Persian women. Before this conference I knew a little about Princess Pahlavi, and I later learned how dedicated she has been to giving back to underprivileged populations around the world. Specifically, as an attorney for the Children’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., she has done much work for the rights of at-risk and underprivileged youth. She was also the Co-Founder and a Director of The Foundation for the Children of Iran, which provides health care services to children of Iranian origin regardless of race, religious, or political affiliation.

As a first generation Iranian American woman, attending the Persian American Women’s Conference was a chance for me to connect to the rich history my parents and ancestors had to leave behind. After all, I do have a special connection to the Pahlavis as my name, Farah, is the name of the former queen of Iran. I arrived at my seat, one of over five hundred Persian women of all ages and religious backgrounds. I couldn’t help but hear the excited chatter amongst attendees. You could feel how thrilled they were to connect with a part of the Pahlavi dynasty that contributed to their happiest times in Iran; A time when women were able to seize their Persian heritage and express themselves freely. These women, having been displaced from their homes, were now brought together in their new homeland to get a glimpse of the royalty they had left behind.

The riveting stories and backgrounds these women shared throughout the morning were so inspirational. The highlight of the program was the interview Mrs. Angella Nazarian conducted with Princess Yasmine. Princess Yasmine’s vulnerability at the conference was moving, as she shared intimate details of her life. She shared stories of how she met her husband, and the challenges of balancing life as a mother, wife, and humanitarian. Tears streamed down her face as she spoke about the hardships she and her husband faced, such as the tribulations of dealing with the exile from Iran in 1979. “I learned that life is unpredictable; you can lose everything in an instant. Never depend on THINGS — they could be lost. You need to be able to stand on your feet and be resourceful.” As she was speaking, I wondered to myself: what if my parents didn’t flee their homeland? What if Princess Yasmine was the Queen of modern Iran?

My mother would always tell me stories of how much Farah Pahlavi stood as an important role model and symbol for Iranians during her time. From the outfits she wore, to the way she raised her children, women in Iran were empowered by her strength and love for her family and nation. The women in my mother’s generation never had a chance to mourn the loss of the royalty with whom they once shared a deep connection. Hearing Princess Yasmine Pahlavi, a woman of true royalty, made me realize that although the hardship of having to flee Iran almost 40 years ago was a tragedy, here in the United States, we are able to connect and celebrate with such a powerful and inspiring woman.

Growing up as a child of Iranian immigrants, I never had a chance to connect to the royalty my parents had. Today, first generation Iranian-American women have to constantly balance dual lives. They often feel like they have a responsibility to uphold their Iranian heritage and culture, while at the same time fit into American culture. Oftentimes, this presents cultural expectations that are in direct opposition.

First generation Iranian-American women have a unique opportunity to express their modern Iranian identity by connecting to the royalty their parents once experienced, while being able to create a new generation of empowered women leaders. We have a chance to challenge the social norms and stereotypes put on us and create a generation of women who transform, empower, inspire, and support one another. We each have the ability to harness our inner royalty and create a generation of empowered women serving as role models for each other and for generations to come. We may not have a Farah queen figure, but I am proud to know countless Persian women of all ages who are leaders that represent the modern royalty that our society needs.

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Farah currently serves as Director of IsraAID’s Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), a program that trains professionals in humanitarian aid and disaster response and deploys them around the world. Farah has worked with IsraAID implementing programs for refugees in Greece, and acting as head of mission for the emergency response to the Volcan de Fuego eruption in Guatemala. Farah has also responded to disasters and implemented public health programs in the U.S., India, Israel and Haiti. In addition to health sciences, disease prevention, humanitarian aid, and emergency response to disasters, Farah is an expert in community engagement, having co-founded The Skribe Magazine and Chayacommunity.com, an organization supporting thousands of young Iranian-American Jews through events that deepen their sense of self. Farah earned an undergrad degree from UCLA and graduate degree from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. When she is not working, Farah loves practicing and teaching yoga, painting, hiking, and spending time with her parents and four siblings. Farah lives in Los Angeles, California. farah@theskribe.com

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IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area

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 World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment

Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.

IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.

“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”

The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.

With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.

“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”

Professionals interested in attending should RSVP here  and/or learn more and join the network here.

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About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.

About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.

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Nothing Matters More Than This

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We live in a world where FOCUS is even MORE important than your INTELLIGENCE.

From our never-ending Facebook feed, to our freshly-updated YouTube subscription page, to our email inbox, we live in an abundant world of information.

However, is it really necessary to consume all of this general information?

Will it ever be useful? Will it ever make any difference in your life?

No. Most likely not.

Learning a little about a lot of different things doesn’t really amount to much.

Instead, you should FOCUS.

Focus on learning and applying ONE skill as intensely and deeply as possible.

Focus is where mastery kicks in.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player that ever played because he was the best all-around person.

Kobe Bryant was world-class because he was absolutely great at ONE thing and one thing only: playing basketball.

So instead of consuming as much general information as you possibly can… instead FOCUS.

FOCUS on one topic. FOCUS on one task. FOCUS on one goal.

Because today, more than ever, focus is way more important than your intelligence.

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New Initiative Launched to Restore Memories and a Legacy

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On Tuesday January 30th, Thirty Years After (30 YA) hosted the Legacy Launch, one of their largest, most innovative and interactive projects to date, at the Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sam Yebri, President of Thirty Years After, explains the Legacy Project, “The Project is a grassroots initiative that will help preserve and honor the Iranian  Jewish experience through video for future generations,  and provide an opportunity for every family to capture their parents’  and grandparents’ most compelling memories and anecdotes before it is  too late.”

Doors opened to guest at 7:00 pm where they were greeted with smiles from 30 YA volunteers and staff members. The lobby was packed with guests who were treated to wonderful Iranian street food not often seen or eaten in the United States. The delicious cuisine included Labu (beets baked in their own juice, and typically served steaming hot in a street cart during the dead of winter), Baghali (beans topped with spices, typically served the same way as Labu), Dizi (a meat mash/stew– usually made with lamb, but made with beef and chickpeas at our event), Shohleh Zard (saffron rice pudding), Chos-e-fil (otherwise known as popcorn) and Mahi-Cheh Polo (herbed rice with beef shanks).

The large number of attendees was a testament to the genuine and unprecedented support for the new generation of leaders of the Los Angeles Iranian-American Jewish community.  The printed program for the event listed over 25 generous families and businesses that supported the Legacy Launch and congratulated 30 YA on celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

This event was magical because of the broad range of emotions experienced just by being shoulder to shoulder with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins born in Tehran. Sadness is one emotion that could have been felt while standing in the room, because of all of the untold stories that were not recorded, told or heard. How many stories have we “missed out” on because family members have passed away, younger generations have gone off to college, or simply because we took time for granted? At the Legacy Launch, time stood still for a few hours for the sake of a community recording the past, but very aware of time, embracing beloved memories on video, but also progressively moving toward the future.

Yebri explained, “Our history informs our present and powers our future. This is especially true when our families and community have such a rich legacy of inspiring memories and experiences in Iran and during our exodus to America.  30 Years After  is thrilled to launch ‘The Legacy Project’ as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.”

Bobby Zolekhian, former President of Nessah Young Professionals expressed, “It was one of the most inspirational events I have been to. I am recruiting people to share their stories. This is something extraordinary!”

Featured guest speakers during the screening included Mrs. Susan Azizzadeh, President of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Dr. Saba Soomekh, Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC, Megan Nemandoust, Margalit Rosenthal, Liora Simozar and 30 YA President, Sam Yebri.

The dynamic presentation of the screening and its intimate interviews clearly validated that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews growing up in the United States are confidently embracing their unspoken responsibility to record the stories of generations before them for a purpose with a greater cause– maintaining their identity, culture, and traditions.

Learn more about preserving your legacy with 30 YA at https://legacy.30yearsafter.org/

 

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