Meet the Iranian American Jew Running for CA’s Democratic Party

Daniel Bral credits Jewish values with giving meaning to his pursuit of service.
December 25, 2020
Daniel Bral (Credit: Clifton Albright, Jr)

Daniel Bral, a 27-year-old Angeleno whose parents emigrated to the United States from Iran, isn’t content with being a stagnant “couch critic” during a time of both unrest and opportunity in the United States.

“I got sick and tired of seeing our elected officials display such a callous disregard for the needs and struggles of the people they claim to serve,” Bral said in an interview with the Journal. “I want to be in a position where I can make a tangible difference in other peoples’ lives and ensure that underrepresented communities — be it communities of color, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community — have a true champion in their corner.”

Bral is running for a delegate seat to the California Democratic Party for Assembly District 50, which includes Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Hollywood Hills West, Malibu, Mid-City, Miracle Mile, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood and West Los Angeles. Eligible voters must be registered Democrats residing in District 50 and will have until January 11 to register. All voting will be done by mail and ballots will be mailed to voters between January 6–18.  Ballots must be received by January 27.

“A delegate is an official member of the California Democratic Party who is responsible for drafting resolutions, endorsing local and statewide candidates and ultimately crafting the California Democratic Party’s platform,” Bral said. “It’s imperative that people vote because the California Democratic Party is the largest and most influential state party in the country. Where the California Democratic Party goes, the Democratic Party as a whole will follow.”

Bral is running as a member of the Grassroots Slate, which describes itself on its website as “a diverse and dynamic group of progressive activists committed to building the California Democratic Party from the bottom-up.” He joins 12 other candidates on the Slate, ranging from community organizers and entrepreneurs to journalists and longtime Democratic activists. The slate’s platform includes supporting an inclusive Democratic Party, promoting a Green New Deal and prioritizing universal healthcare.

As a delegate, he hopes to “meaningfully address homelessness, systemic racism and inequality, climate change, gun violence” as well as “promote a foreign policy that is centered on diplomacy and mutual respect and understanding that upholds democracy and human rights.”

Bral graduated Loyola Law School in May 2020, where he was a member of the Jewish Law Students Association. During law school, he served as an economic opportunity policy intern for Mayor Eric Garcetti, focusing primarily on homelessness initiatives and drafting the Right to Counsel motion, which offers free legal counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction. As part of his internship, Bral transformed a vacant downtown property into a shelter that now offers housing to over 40 women and children. This move was a part of Garcetti’s housing initiative known as A Bridge Home, which provides interim housing and support services for homeless populations. Bral also served as a law clerk and communications associate for Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.

Service has played an important role in Bral’s family history. In 1948, his paternal grandfather, Moossa Bral, became only the second Jewish member of the Iranian parliament, or majlis, at the age of 32. Around the same time, his maternal grandfather, then in his early twenties, gathered what little funds he had and left Iran to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

At the age of 16, Bral’s mother left Iran alone to study in the United States, a decision that was practically unheard of at the time. As a young Iranian woman in the United States in the early 1980s, she struggled to find a job and eventually decided to learn computer science. Bral’s father left Iran alone at the age of 18 to study in England. He immigrated to the United States in 1981.

Bral credits Jewish values with giving meaning to his pursuit of service. “Judaism is rife with life lessons, but the tenets that have most resonated with me are to lead a life of righteousness and to care for the stranger because we are all made in the image of God (“B’tselem Elohim”). To me, that means treating everyone with compassion and dignity without expecting anything in return. It means calibrating my moral compass to be guided by doing what is right, not what is easy or popular.

Daniel Bral credits Jewish values with giving meaning to his pursuit of service.

“And that,” he continued, “underscores the Jewish principle of caring for the stranger. I may not personally know the family seeking refuge in America, but I understand their desire. My parents — [and] Jews writ large, for that matter — were once considered strangers in a foreign land. My parents left their home country of Iran knowing that no matter what difficulties may lie ahead, they pale in comparison to the difficulties of the country they’ve left behind. So being Jewish is central to who I am and who I want to be.”

Bral acknowledged the challenges of support faced by Israel and the Jewish community on both sides of the political aisle. “On the one hand, some Republicans come to the table with a bad-faith political weaponization of Israel and have given [Benjamin] Netanyahu carte blanche to do as he pleases. On the other hand, a handful of Democrats and folks in progressive spaces oversimplify the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and almost reflexively place all blame on Israel’s lap. I hope to bring more nuance to the discussion.”

He has expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Deal under former President Barack Obama.

“I am an unabashed, unapologetic Israel supporter and Zionist,” said Bral, who completed a StandWithUs J.D. Fellowship, which empowers Los Angeles-based law students to become legal advocates for Israel and the Jewish community. As a part of his fellowship research project, Bral wrote an article that made the case for expanding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include religion as a protected class.

“I want to see Israel flourish and live peacefully now and forever. But I am not a blind supporter, and by that I mean I don’t think Israel’s actions are beyond reproach,” he said. “I’m a supporter of J Street, Bend the Arc and Progressive Zionists of California.”

In his bid for party delegate, Bral has received support from his former boss, Feuer, who recently issued a statement saying, “I’ve had the privilege to work alongside Daniel and seen firsthand his intellect, creativity, and deep commitment to making the world more fair and more just. He will be a strong, energetic voice for progressive, sustainable change.”

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer, speaker and activist.

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