In which our loyal readers take us to task for various and sundry


Spoof Cover

As the former creative director for Primedia for nearly 10 years and the publisher of Blvd Magazine, I was responsible for dozens of magazines, their content and their covers. In my weekly staff meetings, I never would have turned to any of you losers for cover ideas if the Purim spoof covers was your claim-to-fame (Cover, March 2). I wouldn’t have hired any of you.

Take a minute the next time your “‘creatives’ who make it all possible” come-up with another great idea. Go to the waiting room of one of the Jewish cemeteries or a market outside of Beverly Hills, like Chino Hills where I live, and look to see how your “genius” covers look to the real world. I cringe!

Elliot Gilbert
via e-mail

Truth About Peace Now

In his letter, Nathan Wirtschafter is misleading the readers by claiming as fact something that is patently false (Letters, Feb. 23). Readers may be unaware that Peace Now was established by 348 Israel Defense Forces officers and reservists in 1978. They were not pacifists and neither is the movement, which soon grew into the largest grass-roots movement in Israeli history. Peace Now believes strongly in Israel’s military deterrent and use of force, when necessary.

Peace Now’s goal is to help Israel establish permanent, defensible borders with her neighbors and ultimately negotiated peace agreements that solidify Israel’s security and its Jewish and democratic character.

David Pine
West Coast Regional Director
Americans for Peace Now

Support Our Jewish Troops

Thank you for publishing Jane Ulman’s article about Jewish soldiers in World War II who celebrated Purim with a liberated Jewish family in Belgium (“When a Holiday Turned the World Right Side Up,” March 2). Demographics notwithstanding, there are Jews who serve on active duty in the United States today. Whatever your politics, it is nice to show them some support.

Last year, generous minyan regulars from Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center, including Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater and Rabbi Emeritus Gilbert Kollin, shipped greeting cards, kosher salami and tefillin to our appreciative Jewish troops. If your readers would like to provide our Jewish soldiers, sailors and Marines with kosher food this Passover, please consider a donation to the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council 520 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018 (www.jcca.org/jwb).

Anita Susan Brenner
Pasadena

Sorry, I Don’t See Any Eggshells

I am writing to respond to the closing quote in Tom Tugend’s article on the firing of Craig Prizant (“Federation Might Face Suit Over Fundraiser’s Firing,” March 2). I’m responding because this quote refers to me, as I am a 12-year member of the campaign staff at The Jewish Federation. In my view, the quote makes very incorrect assumptions about the mood in our department.

At this time, I find an incredible “esprit de corps” and lots of hard work happening on the campaign floors. Contrary to the anonymous board member who was quoted in the article, I have not heard anyone speak of fear of losing their job. It seems to me that staff has been invited to speak out and share their opinions more than ever before. It seems to me that morale is high during this busy time of year for us.

Our mission of tikkun olam continues moving forward with a group of amazing, passionate fundraisers and our entire staff doing an incredible job. There are great things happening here at The Jewish Federation.

With all apologizes to the anonymous board member you quote, I haven’t seen any eggshells scattered around anywhere.

Gwenn Drucker-Flait
via e-mail

Not-so-Kosher Guide

I am a Jewish Persian woman who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 30 years (“A Guide to Jewish Tehrangeles,” Feb. 23). I was glad to see you reporting on Persian Jewish Communities in Los Angeles and showing all people we are educated people who contribute and enjoy living in the United States.

I just had issues with your article written by Sara Bakhshian, under the heading “Handy Guide to Jewish Tehrangeles,” because I thought it was extremely misleading and wrong.

If this is a Jewish Journal, it should not have included nonkosher restaurants and bakeries and represented them in your magazine. It can be misleading for a lot of other Jewish readers that read your magazine and think if it is listed under this heading they must be kosher. Darya is a nonkosher restaurant, for example.

I have nothing against a nonkosher establishment. I just though it was wrong to put any food or eatery that does not observe Jewish laws in your list.

Mojy Lavi
Beverly Hills

Dear Mr. Suissa

I have heard eulogies by clergy who did not know the deceased, or barely knew the deceased as a congregant, and here David Suissa, a person who did not know Laura, and was not required to eulogize her, wrote a most moving eulogy (“Death in the Hood,” Feb. 23).

I am Laura’s father. Laura’s mother and I thank you for a most moving tribute, which we, Laura’s extended family and her friends, will treasure.

Yours was a tribute not only to the person, but also to the religious, ethical and moral values by which she and her husband Steve attempted to conduct their lives.

Laura and her brother, Gunnar, followed my trade and became divorce lawyers. Of course, my pride is not only in their professional accomplishments, but also in the ethical values they brought to their practices.

To the Aish community, Laura is being remembered, as is appropriate, by her contributions to that community. What helps us in the healing process is that we have no regrets about anything Laura did. We have only pride for her contributions to her family, her community and her profession.

I will be looking for other writings by you on-line. You write exceedingly well.

The Jewish Journal’s handy guide to Jewish Tehrangeles


Los Angeles has one of the largest populations of Persian Americans in the United States, which is why some refer to the city as Tehrangeles. There are roughly 30,000 Persian Jews among the 300,000 or so Persian Americans living in the City of Angels, according to USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, making Southern California also the site of one of the largest concentrations of ex-pat Persian Mizrahim.

Most of the Persian Jewish community can be found on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Persian synagogues, organizations, markets, restaurants, pharmacies, hair salons and other service-oriented businesses have taken root in these Southland areas, providing a cultural connection for the refugee generation, which arrived between 1977 and 1980, and their American-born children.

The following guide includes synagogues, businesses, agencies and services frequented by the L.A. Persian Jewish community.

Santa Monica/Brentwood

Brentwood and Santa Monica’s ocean-adjacent living is gradually luring families from Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles, and this has added a significant Persian Jewish population to Chabad of Brentwood.

Beauty

Nahid Beauty Salon
2925 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 828-9545

Markets

Tehran Market
1417 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 393-6719

Synagogues

Chabad of Brentwood
644 S. Bundy Drive, Brentwood
(310) 826-4453
www.chabadbw.com

Maohr HaTorah
1537 Franklin Ave., Santa Monica
(310) 207-0666
www.maohr.com

Westwood/West Los Angeles

Signs in both English and Farsi stretch along Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in West Los Angeles, but the city’s largest variety of Persian-owned businesses are found along Westwood Boulevard.

Bakeries

Rex Bakery
1659 Sawtelle Blvd.
(310) 445-8799

Star Bakery
11628 Santa Monica Blvd., No. 6
(310) 207-0025

Beauty

Mahnaz Beauty Garden
1410 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-0500

Books

Ketab Corporation
1419 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 477-7477
www.ketab.com

Pars Books & Publishing
1434 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 441-1015

Carpets and Rugs

Damoka Persian Rug Center
1424 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-7900

Hardware

Boulevard Hardware
1456 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-0795

Markets

Santa Monica Glatt Kosher
11540 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 473-4435

Star Market
12136 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 447-1612

Music

Music Box
1451 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 473-3466
www.musicboxla.com

Restaurants

Darya Restaurant
12130 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 442-9000
www.daryarestaurant.com

Shahrezad Royal Persian Cuisine
1422 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 470-3242

Shamshiri Grill
1712 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 474-1410
www.shamshiri.com

Synagogues

Ohr Hashalom
10848 Missouri Ave.
(310) 441-9938

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
10500 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 475-7311
www.sephardictemple.org

Sinai Temple
10400 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 474-1518
www.sinaitemple.org

Stephen S. Wise Temple
15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles
(310) 476-8561
www.sswt.org

Travel Agencies

Amiri Tour & Travel
1388 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-8865
amiritravel.com

Video

Prestige Photography & Video
1561 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 312-1221

L.A. Color Studio
1461 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 478-8883
www.lacolorstudio.com

Pico-Roberston

Pico-Robertson Persian grocers sell almost everything, including music and movies. No matter the time of day, the store aisles are likely to be lined with the carts of fervent shoppers. Some business signs in this observant neighborhood are written in Farsi with “glatt kosher” added in English.

Bakeries

Elat Pastry
8721 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 385-5993

Groceries

Elat Market
8730 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 659-7070

Eliass Kosher Market
8829 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 278-7503

Livonia Glatt Market
8922 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 271-4343

Pars Market
9016 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 859-8125

Sinai Kosher Market
8680 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 657-4447

Pharmacies

Century Pico Discount Pharmacy
8722 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 657-6999

Restaurants

Elat Burger
9340 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 278-4692

Kolah Farangi
9180 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 274-4007
Synagogues
Chabad Persian Youth
9022 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 777-0358

Netan Eli
1453 S. Robertson Blvd.
(310) 274-2526

Ohel Moshe
644 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 652-1533
www.ohelmoshe.com

Ohr HaEmet
1030 Robertson Blvd.
(310) 854-3006

Torat Hayim
1026 S. Robertson Blvd.
(310) 652-8349

Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills is home to one of the most politically active communities, featuring three Persian Jewish candidates currently running for two City Council seats. As for places people tend to visit, there is an elegant bakery, beauty salon and supply shop, and the Laemmle Music Hall, which occasionally features Farsi-language films. Nessah Educational and Cultural Center is popular among Persian Jews who observe the traditional form of Judaism practiced in Iran. The congregation is led by Rabbi David Shofet, whose father, Rabbi Hacham Yedidia Shofet, was the late spiritual leader of Jews in Iran and in Southern California.

Bakeries

Nahid La Patisserie Artistique
421 N. Rodeo Drive
(310) 274-8410

Beauty

Jacky Hair Design
215 S. La Cienega Blvd.
(310) 659-6326

Yafa Hair Salon & Beauty Supply
818 Robertson Blvd.
(310) 659-6366

Charitable and Nonprofit Organizations

Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization
1855 Loma Vista
(310) 472-5261
www.ijwo.org

Restaurants

Beverly Hills Colbeh
9025 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 247-1239
www.beverlyhillscolbeh.com

Senior Citizens Service Organizations

Iranian Jewish Senior Center
8764 W Olympic Blvd.
(310) 289-1026

Synagogues

Nessah Educational and Cultural Center
142 S. Rexford Drive
(310) 273-2400
www.nessah.org

Theaters

Laemmle Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 274-6869

West Hollywood

Hollywood Temple Beth-El was once known as the “Temple to the Stars,” featuring such celebrities as Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Cantor, Universal founder Carl Laemmle and “Wizard of Oz” director Mervyn LeRoy. The building was sold in the late 1990s. The space is now home to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation and is a favorite place to celebrate a wedding or other simchas.

Carpets and Rugs

Mehraban Oriental Rugs
545 N. La Cienega Blvd.
(310) 657-4400

Synagogues

Hollywood Temple Beth El/Iranian American Jewish Federation Center
1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd.
(323) 656-3150

Downtown

Many Persian Jewish entrepreneurs in the jewelry, clothing, fabric and upholstery industries work downtown. The area features two kosher restaurants and a new synagogue, Ohr HaShalom, popularly known as the Downtown Synagogue, which is located in a storefront between fabric shops and is open only on weekdays.

Restaurants

Afshan Restaurant

Persian Jews break with tradition to break through in Hollywood


The generation of Iranian Jews who escaped Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution with their parents and traded a fearful existence for lives in New York and Los Angeles are now emerging in the entertainment industry.

Whether it’s producing Oscar-winning films, appearing on prime-time network television series or performing stand-up comedy, young Jews of Iranian heritage have been breaking with their community’s traditional norms and leaving their imprint on Hollywood.

Perhaps the most notable success came last year when Iranian Jewish film producer Bob Yari’s independent film, “Crash,” won the best picture Oscar and generated nearly $100 million in worldwide sales.

“I had a gut feeling that it would be something special, but you never know, so I was hoping and my hopes came to fruition,” said Yari, 45, whose four production companies have produced 26 independent films in the last four years.

Yari made his fortune in real estate development but is no novice when it comes to Hollywood. After receiving a degree in cinematography, he directed the 1989 film, “Mind Games,” for MGM. The litigation involved in the film and its lack of success drove Yari away from the industry until five years ago, when he returned as a producer.

“I’m always interested in telling stories that I think touch people and mean something to people,” he said. “One of the things that’s always attracted me to film is its power to influence people to put aside their prejudices or judging people based on their heritage or color of skin.”

Yari is not the only Iranian Jew doing well in Hollywood. Nightclub and hotel entrepreneur Sam Nazarian, 31, is financing and producing films through his L.A.-based SBE Entertainment Group. His production company, Element Films, has produced seven films in the last three years and is slated to release three more this year, according to the Internet Movie Database Web site.

Some Iranian Jewish filmmakers are trying to parlay their success to tell their own cultural narratives. Soly Haim, a L.A.-based independent producer, is seeking financing for a documentary about how Iranian Jews helped Jews flee Iraq in the middle of the 20th century.

“Documentaries are hard to get financing for because, unlike films, documentaries usually go for television broadcasts, and the revenues generated do not match the revenues generated from feature films,” said Haim, 45.

In the meantime, Haim’s production company, Screen Magic Entertainment, this summer will release the independent film, “When a Man Falls in the Forest,” starring Sharon Stone and Timothy Hutton. The film revolves around an unhappily married woman who shoplifts to relieve the suffering brought on by her boring marriage and to find excitement in a small Midwestern town.

Yari, for his part, said he’s looking to develop a feature film about the events that led to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the collapse of the late shah’s regime.

Young Iranian Jews have also achieved moderate success working behind the scenes in television. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences customarily honors the behind-the-scenes toilers, and at last year’s technical awards ceremony, Lila Yomtoob, a sound editor on the HBO documentary, “Baghdad ER,” became the first Iranian Jew to win an Emmy.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Yomtoob, who now lives in Brooklyn. “But when I saw that I was seated in the sixth row, I had a feeling I was going to win.”

“Baghdad ER” chronicles two months in the day-to-day lives of doctors, nurses, medics, soldiers and chaplains working in the U.S. Army’s premier medical facility in Baghdad’s Green Zone.Bahar SoomekhAfter completing film school in 2000, Yomtoob worked as a freelance sound editor on a variety of film and television projects, including “Two Weeks Notice,” which starred Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, as well as for the HBO series, “The Wire.” Despite her recent success, she said her family did not initially approve of her career choice in Hollywood.

“I would say that my decision to get into the industry was met with skepticism,” Yomtoob said. “My parents, my family, a lot of cousins are doctors and lawyers. My father wanted the same for me, but I went ahead and did it anyway.”

The acting bug has also bitten a number of young Iranian Jews. The best-known to emerge in recent years is Bahar Soomekh, who made her film debut in “Crash” in the role of a young Iranian woman named Dorri.

“It’s really scary with acting because there is no guarantee,” said Soomekh, a 30-something L.A. resident. “It’s so different than anything else, because in the corporate world, you do something and you see your success, but with acting you could go to audition after audition, and 90 percent of the time there is rejection.”

Since “Crash,” Soomekh has landed roles in other major films, including last year’s “Mission: Impossible III” and the horror thriller “Saw III.” Last year she also played the role of Margo in the ABC television series, “Day Break.” She said she has been showered with support for her career from other Iranian Jews.

“Wherever I go, people I don’t even know grab me, hug me and tell me how proud they are and how exciting it is for them to see someone on the big screen from their community,” Soomekh said. “It’s unbelievable how many people my age in the community tell me, ‘It’s always been my dream, and I’m living vicariously through you’.”

Another Iranian Jewish actor, Jonathan Ahdout, 17, was a regular in the 2005 season on the Fox television series, “24,” playing the role of a young Iranian terrorist.

“My biggest fear is becoming typecast as the Muslim Middle Easterner, because I think society today has their sights set on the Middle East, and it’s become a much bigger part of American culture,” said Ahdout, who lives in Los Angeles. “I don’t want to necessarily fuel any type of stereotype.”

Ahdout made his acting debut four years ago in the acclaimed film, “House of Sand and Fog,” which was about an Iranian family in the United States, starring Oscar-winners Jennifer Connelly and Sir Ben Kingsley. In 2005, Ahdout also played the role of Ike opposite Forrest Whitaker in the independent film, “American Gun.”