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Joon: Reveling in the Rich Flavors of Persian Jewry

Editor Rob Eshman, in the Jewish Journal, wrote Joon, an explosively honest essay about the integration of the Persian Jewish community into the LA Jewish community. Wrote he:

For as long as I’ve worked in the Jewish community — 14 years — I’ve heard insults leveled at Iranian Jews.

They’re pushy, acquisitive, flashy, nouveau riche, cheap. They’re grasping, insincere, clannish, suspicious, old-fashioned. “They’ve ruined Beverly Hills High.” “They’ve invaded Milken High.” “They’ve taken over Sinai Temple.”

I repeat the invectives by way of making one point: Enough already.

Eshman continues:

As for the established Jewish community, I’d like to believe we have become 100 percent accepting. I’d like to believe that on the occasion of this 30-year anniversary, those of us who still default to — I’ll be blunt — racist generalizations, take the time to learn the remarkable recent history of Iranian Jewry — a story as compelling, frightening and death-defying for those who lived it as any our own relatives experienced.

I’d like to believe we’ll come to understand that there was exactly no — zero — difference between our antagonism of this greenhorn community and the cold-shoulder with which established German Jewish communities in America greeted the waves of our Eastern European ancestors 100 years ago.

At Congregation Or Ami, we have a handful of Jews of Persian descent. They are some of the warmest, most expressive, wonderful members of our congregation. Two became Adult B’not Mitzvah last year and gave Divrei Torah that captured so vividly the love of Torah and Judaism that they brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the sanctuary. They represent the best of our Jewish people. I cannot imagine Or Ami without these two or their relatives.

My kids went to school elsewhere and had wonderful Persian Jewish friends. Michelle and I loved experiencing the rich Persian Jewish culture, food, and family. We supported those friendships wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way. The level of animosity – stereotyping bordering on racism – by Ashkenzi Jews toward the Persian Jews was astonishing. At times, I recall responding to someone’s borderline racist comment about “Persian Jews” by saying sarcastically “they’re almost as bad as [insert racist slang for another group here]”. It was the only way to show them how offensive their comments were.

We take pride in Or Ami’s acceptance of the multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial uniqueness of many of our families. Each brings delicious new flavors to our smorgasbord; each weaves colorful threads into the tapestry we call our community. We even have a page on our website devoted to our openness to this uniqueness. We can only hope that the rest of the Jewish community follows suit too!

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Researching information on the same topic” Persian Jews in L.A.”, I came across this article. I found it very honest. Eventhough my research is going into much deeper issues and searching for causes, I enjoyed reading this straight forward article.

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