Historic Persian Rabbinic Conference held in Los Angeles

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

The first National Conference of Persian Jewish Rabbinic Leaders was held in L.A. from June 5th through 7th, 2017. Rabbis from the major Persian Jewish communities in the United States attended the three-day conference to brainstorm on the ongoing challenges that confront Persian Jews in America.

With the downfall of the Shah in January of 1979, the Jews of Iran saw the writing on the wall and knew enough to leave the country as soon as possible. Most of the Jews that fled Iran settled in Los Angeles and New York.

Acclimating themselves to a foreign country with a different language, lifestyle, customs, and climate was not an easy transition. A major concern for the community was the effect of America on this ancient and unique Jewish community. Would this country be a major driving force leading to assimilation, disconnecting community members from thousands of years of Jewish Persian continuity?

“Instead,” said Rabbi Michoel Segankohanim, “the Persian Jewish community has grown in vibrancy and religious commitment. In the greater Los Angeles area, there are now more than 25 Persian shuls – all Orthodox.” Added to that are the numerous religious school founded and formulated to generate the continuity and customs of Persian Jewish traditions.

In response to this amazing growth and expansion, The Persian Rabbinical Council (PRC) of California saw the need to organize a gathering of rabbis and hosted this historic conference of workshops and discussions to structure and inspire the rabbis and leaders of their American Persian kehillot.

Most of the attending rabbanim were alumni of Yeshivas Ner Israel of Baltimore. Ner Israel, and Rabbi Naftali Neuberger, zt”l, played a great role in educating the future rabbanim of the kehillot, thus ensuring continuity of Torah-true Judaism within the Persian Jewish community

The sessions during the conference included discussions led by Rabbi Dr. David Fox, a renowned forensic and clinical psychologist, who discussed challenges and tools for working with baalei Batim; Rabbi Zev Cohen, Rav of Congregation Adas Yeshurun in Chicago and an international speaker, who discussed the role of the synagogue rabbi and dealing with youth; and Rebbetzin  Bella Gottesman, a top mechanechet in Los Angeles and a sought-after speaker, who ran sessions for the rebbetzins about sharing with and role modeling to congregants.

Others who participated included Rabbi Dovid Shofet of Nessah Synagogue; Rabbi David Akhamzadeh of Beit Knesset Ohr HaEmet; Rabbi David Zargari, Dean of Tashbar; Rabbi Shmuel Khoshkerman, Rabbi of Congregation Ner Mizrach of Atlanta, Georgia; Rabbi Michoel Segankohanim of Congregation Ahavat Shalom; Rabbi Shemuel Soleimany of Persian Congregation in Brooklyn, New York; Rabbi Eliezer Ben-David, founder and spiritual mentor of Kollel Ohr HaEmet in Great Neck, New York; and Rabbi Yischak Baalness, Rabbi of Az Yashir Torah Center in Brooklyn, New York.

While the conference was arranged for the rabbis, on Wednesday evening the community was invited to a lavish dinner. This event offered an opportunity to meet, greet, and hear divrei Torah and encouragement from the prominent leading Persian rabbis from around the world, including the renown Rabbi Eliezer Ben-David and Rabbi Yischak Baalness, rabbis who have influenced and inspired Torah learning and religious adherence to Persian communities worldwide.

Rabbi Michoel Segankohanim, who in addition to serving Ahavat Shalom is currently Rabbinic Administrator of PRC, related that the conference was very successful. They have already received many emails from the attending rabbis expressing praise and thanks for this historic gathering.

Rabbi Nissin Davidi said to him, “Congratulations for a job well-done and a mission accomplished,” and Rabbi Yehuda Boroosan from Atlanta wrote, “It was an incredible event and remarkably inspiring.”

Rabbi David Akhamzadeh of Beit Knesset Ohr HaEmet, one of the conference organizers summed it all up: “The conference set out to unite the rabbis from our various communities, to provide direction and assistance in their avodat hakodesh, to educate and inspire on the ways to keep our community cohesive and Jewish. We have, baruch Hashem, witnessed a rebirth of the Persian Jewish Community. May it continue m’chayil el chayil.”


Ohr Eliyahu PTA Organizes Hair-Cutting Drive

The main mission of the PTA of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu is to connect the teachers with parents and students, making Ohr Eliyahu a true family unit. Last year, after many events and activities connecting those three branches, the PTA dreamed bigger. Why not incorporate the community at large?

That is when the collaboration of Ohr Eliyahu and Zichron Menachem was born. Zichron Menachem is an organization in Israel benefiting those with cancer. Following the model of England, Australia, and other states in America, a hair-cutting event was organized through the PTA of YAYOE to benefit those in need of wigs due to illness.

The response was overwhelming and beautiful. This past Thursday evening, June 15, 2017, 22 women and children donated their hair at the second annual hair-cutting event in Los Angeles, California. Participants were pampered in return for their altruism.

A special thank you is owed to all the girls and women who donated their hair to such a worthy cause. The organizers also send a special thank you to the official Corporate Sponsors of this event: Vincent Hair Artistry, Rosie Bowsie, Sarah Chloe, The Event Detail, Events Enchanted, and Elizabeth Salano Photography. For more information on the next Hair for Wigs event and how to be involved, please contact PTA@Yayoe.com. For more information about Zichron Menachem and the wonderful work that they do please contact ester@zichron.org or visit www.zichron.org

Congregation Bais Naftoli Celebrates Silver Anniversary

On Sunday morning, Congregation Bais Naftoli honored radio and television personality Larry Elder and Judge (Dayan) Rabbi Yuval Noff during the standing-room-only celebration of the congregation’s 25th Silver Anniversary.

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang; Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell; former mayor and gubernatorial candidate, Antonio Villaraigosa; and Councilman Paul Koretz delivered congratulatory remarks.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Elder noted that his entire career was supported by Jewish friends and mentors. He indicated that two Jews – Dennis Prager, a fellow syndicated Salem Radio host, and George Green, retired President-General Manager of KABC Radio – were responsible for his successful run at 790 AM.

Rabbi Noff, who is an RCA dayan and President of Kol Simcha Charitable Foundation in Baltimore, thanked the Los Angeles Jewish community for recognizing his charitable work, mostly with cancer patients being treated at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Bais Naftoli_001

Top Row L-R: Rabbi Yuval Noff, RCA Judge (Dayan), Larry Elder, Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman, Consul General of Germany Hans Jorg Neumann and Consul General of Hungary Tamas Szeles. Bottom Row L-R: Former Mayor of Los Angeles and Gubernatorial Candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was lauded for his constant support of the State of Israel, both as Mayor of Los Angeles and while Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Andrew Friedman, President of the Congregation, emphasized that since only 1.5% of the U.S. population is Jewish, it is crucial that the Jewish community builds bridges, makes coalitions and reaches out to the gentile community. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched together with members of the Jewish community in the Civil Rights movement, members of the Latino, African American, and Jewish minority groups should march together in support of the State of Israel.

Consuls General of Hungary and Germany, Tamas Szeles and Hans Jorg Neumann, as well as members of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments, Special Agents from the FBI, DEA, ICE and CHP, joined the event.

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