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My 30 YEARS AFTER Maher Fellowship Experience

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A sea of 16,000 people under the AIPAC banners in Washington D.C. dwarfed our delegation of 18 dynamic Iranian-American Jews in March 2015. An army of ambassadors thirsty for the historical event lined the coliseum-sized assembly. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was in 24 hours. I was just one of the attendees at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, timed the same week as the negotiations deadline with Iran.

Jewish leaders engulfed us left and right, and we were the only Persian Jews. We listened to senators and congressmen speak of the duplicity of the Iranian regime even though our bedtime stories, jaded by tales of tyranny as told by our parents, were etched on our foreheads. While American speakers speculated how to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions, we actually knew how to negotiate with Iranians from our time in the bazaar. So difficult it was for democracy-loving, capitalism-breathing citizens to understand a dictatorship like Iran. So easy it was for us to see the truth guised by tyrannical communists manipulating Islam as a tool to suppress a nation, our former nation. It was our experience that could impact a senator from Ohio who had never met an Iranian let alone an Iranian Jew about the Iranian regime. It was our stories that could move a politician to stand with us and defend justice. As one of the only Persian Jewish delegations at a conference seemingly obsessed with Iran, we were arguably the most crucial participants. Fellows in DC

30 YEARS AFTER is the prevailing vehicle for civic action by Iranian-American Jews, and here we were, her hand-selected lobby. We were going to let our voices be heard, unlike the silenced voices who raised us. I watched the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with silver hair and red tie, take the stage. He adamantly opposed Iran’s journey to nuclear power. His words ignited a swelling fire pounding in my chest and a spark of adrenaline that shot up my spine and tingled my nerves. I was obligated to take action. I was obligated to call on my talent, my identity, and my community to assemble against a nuclear-armed Iran.

at AIPACI was not alone. I looked to my right to see Tabby Refael, then Executive Director of 30 YEARS AFTER, a brilliant political activist who had dedicated her leadership prowess to empower our fellowship. I looked to my left to see Jason Youdeem, the pioneer behind our program. I could see all 17 other members of our mission, the Maher Fellows, 30 YEARS AFTER’s young leadership training program, staring at the senator on stage with the same burning look in their faces as I. A bolstering wave of reassurance wafted over my gleaming eyes as I felt lucky to be with them, for we represented a rare hybrid people, the Iranian-American Jews. I was proud of them.

Back in Los Angeles, the Maher Fellows, were not only dutifully charged to lobby our congressmen, but we were also trained to lead with precision. I’ll never forget our first session in Beverly Hills with David Suissa, president of Tribe Media Corps and I. David taught us about our responsibility to carry on our Jewish tradition, a tradition that spans thousands of years. An unbreakable chain that no matter how hard history has tried to break, could never break us. A tradition we are all responsible to pass on.mahersitch

The fellowship would answer our lingering questions. Like what does it mean to be Persian versus Iranian? What does it mean to be an Iranian-American Jew? Where do we really come from? How did we go from the Persian empire to the Iranian regime? Why does Iran care so much about oil prices? Eighteen of us sat in a conference room at the Huntley Hotel barraging UCLA Professor Benjamin Radd with so many questions about Iranian politics, economics, and history. With a quiet confidence, Professor Radd effortlessly detailed us with his limitless answers. Once given the facts by the seemingly omnipotent scholar, we were equipped with the tools to defend our identity with confidence. I suggest you invite him to your Shabbat dinner and he’ll plant the tree of knowledge right there in your dining room. He’s that good.

After our leadership training from some of the best and more prominent figures, including the former Mayor of Beverly Hills, our experience at AIPAC was not only an awakening but also a calling.  After reading the deal that President Obama recently settled with Iran, our fellows rallied under the voice of 30 YEARS AFTER’s president and co-founder, Sam Yebri, a visionary scholar with an arsenal of leadership capabilities, piercing gaze, and poised posture. Together, we would contact congress and negate the deal.

In sum, my experience makes me feel fortunate to be in the company of the great Persian Jewish leaders of our time. Before I was accepted, I was so anxious for my interview. I sat down in a boardroom with Yebri,  Davoodi, Youdeem, a visionary and pioneer, and Oron Maher, the generous, young benefactor of the Maher Fellowship. Behind a kind, gentle smile, I shouted out my answers to their probing questions. I exclaimed to them my passion. I substantiated why I was searching for others with the same passion as me.mahermaher

One year later, I feel privileged to call the same board my best friends. The annual 30 YEARS AFTER Maher Fellowship is not an optional social activity; it is your calling, your duty, and it is the future of our story, the story of the Persian Jews. What page will your name fall on?

 

Interested in becoming a fellow!? Applications for the 2015 Maher Fellowship are NOW open: http://30yearsafter.org/maher-fellowship-application/ 

       

 

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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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december, 2019

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