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Those free-loading uncharitable Persians!

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Ever since an email from MyAish’s Rabbi Yitz Jacobs went out with the subject “My Aish is Closing Down,” the community is abuzz with the causes of the unsustainability of such an impactful outreach programing reaching so many Persian Jews. An educational program that literally touches thousands of lives annually, one that has been the sole catalyst for countless LA Jewish youth reconnecting with their Jewishness, and the impetus to many happy marriages, is on the brinks of closing down.

To my dismay, as the chatter intensifies, accusations of Persians being “uncharitable”, “cheap” and “freeloaders” can regularly be heard in conversations decrying recent developments. Besides for not being constructive, such broad claims don’t stand much weight when one considers the sheer number of Persian Jewish organizations that have been built in Los Angeles using charitable funds for their existence. Over 20 synagogues, a multi-million dollar interest-free educational loan society, $100k plus appeals for the State of Israel, and several foundations set up to help the poor in our community, are just a few initiatives whose funding have come mainly from Persian Jews. (Not to mention The Skribe website and print magazine was launched with donations from this same community.) And for those that care, such derogatory attacks on an ethnic group is possibly Lashon Hara (See link if you don’t believe me).

So if we are not “cheap uncharitable freeloading” Persians, the question still remains: why is it so hard to raise funds from Persian Jews for such instrumental Jewish educational programs such as MyAish?

A cursory perusal of the Jewish educational system of Iran of the past two generations might shed light on the situation we find ourselves.  By the mid 1900s, the Jewish education system had changed from small privately funded “mullah” based education to more modern philanthropically funded Western-style schools like Alliance Israelite (Etehad) and Otzar HaTorah (Ganjeh Danesh). The reality is that the generous and massive funding for these new schools almost exclusively came from European and American Jews and not Persian Jews themselves.

There is no doubt these schools were the foundation for the continued Jewish life seen in Persian Jews outside of Israel. With that said, perhaps a side effect of the unpaid Jewish education created a cultural habit of dependence and expectation that ‘others’ will take care of the Jewish education of the community.  To further solidify this habit, those looking for Jewish education after escaping Iran to the U.S. found tuition-free refuge within the graceful organizations like Rav Tov, Chabad Lubavitch, and Ner Yisrael.

If my assumptions are not incorrect, one can perhaps understand one of the reasons why it is so hard to collect funding for Jewish education from a community that in reality is relatively charitable and extremely wealthy. The culture has become accustomed to others splitting it’s own Jewish education bill.

Regardless of the causes of this expectation of outside funding for Jewish education, the reality is that for any Jewish community to survive, Jewish education must be championed.  This is so important that, halachically speaking, the funding of a Jewish educational system takes priority over charitable funds and even synagogues (Click Here for details).

One does does not have to research the many communities whose Jewishness have become a relic of the past to find links between Jewish Education and Jewish Continuity.

One has to simply ask: what is becoming of  the Iraqi Jewish Community of Los Angeles? A community rich in Jewish culture and history who seemingly chose to invest its resources into a grand synagogue instead of a Jewish school system. The grandiose and beautiful 500+ seat Kahal Yosef Synagogue on Santa Monica Boulevard can now barely make a quorum of 10 during certain services. To the dismay of many in their community, among the sea of Persian attendees, a person would be hard pressed to find the grandchildren of the original Baghdadi founders still attending the synagogue on a typical Shabbat. It’s extensive library is void of readers and the thousands of Jewish books collecting dust. To the extent that Synagogue participation is an indicator of Jewish engagement, although the community is very charitable, the Jewish engagement of the community as a whole is in jeopardy. Simply put, synagogues don’t build Judaism, Jewish education builds Judaism!

If we care about Jewish continuity we have an obligation to seek out the institutions that are teaching the most Jewish values and support them.  At this critical juncture of our community’s future, where loss of Jewish values is increasingly affecting our youth, we all have an amazing opportunity to affect change by supporting Jewish education and outreach. Regardless of our community’s past, this opportunity is wide open for everyone to participate; Let us seize the opportunity!

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Eman Esmailzadeh is a graduate of UC Irvine where he studied mechanical Engineering and Business Management. After college, he advanced his Judaic studies at various seminaries in New York and Jerusalem. He currently is the Brand Director at Coloronix, a manufacturer of themed lighting products.

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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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Community

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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november, 2019

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