December 11, 2019

‘One Wish’ creators making the world a better place

The concept of the viral YouTube video “One Wish for Iran, Love Israel” was simple: Ask folks on the streets of Jerusalem what they want the people of Iran to know in anticipation of Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration this past summer as the nation’s president.

Creator and Angeleno Joseph Shamash said the idea was “to show the Iranian people a different message than what they’re used to getting in the media from Israel, which is: We want to bomb you.”

In response, the video posted in early August by a collective of young filmmakers known as the One Wish Project has racked up more than 90,000 hits. 

And there’s the potential for more success: Shamash was just accepted Oct. 25 as a PresenTenseLA Fellow to take the One Wish Project and make it into an educational tool. PresenTenseLA is a social entrepreneurship incubator program of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles that provides business and venture development assistance.

Shamash identifies as a Persian Jew; his family hails from Isfahan, Iran, although they emigrated permanently in December 1978. Growing up in Dallas in the 1980s, though, Shamash had no interest in either facet of his identity. 

His family moved to Los Angeles when Joseph was 11, and in eighth grade he got himself kicked out of Hillel Hebrew Academy for lighting a fire behind a teacher’s turned back. 

“At that point, I didn’t want anything to do with Judaism,” he explains now. “My parents wanted me to go to [the Modern Orthodox high school] YULA, and I sabotaged my entrance exams.”

His collaborators’ stories are less dramatic, but they all follow a similar vein. Jeffrey Handel, One Wish’s producer and cinematographer, says his West Los Angeles childhood was “as unaffiliated and unreligious as one could be, with the exception of spending Shabbos dinner and the occasional seder with observant cousins.” Raphael Sisa, who serves as their producer, was raised in Brentwood by Turkish Jews, recent immigrants from Istanbul who attended High Holy Days services but didn’t insist on any kind of formal Jewish education for their two sons.