September 21, 2019

Letters to the Editor

Depression Among Persian-American Jews
Depression and drug addiction are chemical imbalances and mostly related to genetics (“Silent Pain,” Dec. 14). According to drugabuse.com, the rate of alcohol and drug abuse among millennials and Generation X tripled from 1990. Also, the depression rate, according to Forbes, increased up to to 45 percent among younger generations. More than 60 percent of college students are on Adderall or a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). The reason that these are mentioned is the unknown future for these kids: high competition; difficulty in finding the dream job or finding a job at all; not making enough money to live on their own; or coming from broken family (in general, constant stress), to name a few.

Depression and drug addictions are not only in the Persian-Jewish community, they’re everywhere. Do Iranian-Jewish families seek help? Yes, at a rate higher than American families. The No. 1 listeners of Farhang Holakouee, a famous psychologist in the Iranian community, are the Jews. The No. 1 clients of Iranian psychologists in drug-related and depression diseases are Jews. Persian Jews might not announce to the world that their kids go to psychiatric or psychologist, but they seek help.

This is within their right to privacy and considered confidential information. If the sick person seeks assistance, the recovery will be fast but when they don’t acknowledge the problem or cooperate, then they end up on the streets or in shelters.

You can inquire further by asking Iranian psychotherapists Shirin Nooravi and Foojan Zeine. Are depression and addiction the result of pushing kids to be perfect? Yes, to some extent but not entirely. Chinese parents are famous for pushing their kids to be perfect and achieve the highest goals. Is the rate of depression, suicide or addiction higher in their community? What about in the Latino community, in which being perfect is not normally a big expectation by the parents? According to reporter Tabby Refael, this latter community should have no problem.

Refael is right that sex, poverty, LGBT or depression and drug addiction are all taboos in the Persian-Jewish community, especially for those who have a daughter, but why? The Iranian-Jewish community is afraid of intermarriage. The confusion about those Refael mentioned and religion classifications are because of this fear. Persian Jews fear revealing that a non-Jew will marry their daughter or son.

Would you be happy if your son or daughter fell in love with someone who was addicted before or has a family history of depression running in their family? Also, whatever Iranian Jews do in the United States is copied from Americans, from lavish weddings, bar or bat mitzvahs, to funerals and excessive drinking of alcohol and drug use. Also, no worries! In less than 50 years, the Iranian-Jewish community will vanish, just like Iraqis and others who disappeared. So far, the Iranian-Jewish community is one of the strongest and most successful communities in the U.S.
Minoo Moghimi, Moghimi is an occupational therapist worked in alcohol and drug abuse adult health daycare centers. 

Tabby Refael’s excellent cover story sheds much-needed light on the pressures inherent in the Persian community to have the “perfect, over-achieving family” and the often-tragic consequences of those who don’t meet community expectations.

Tragically, this cultural phenomenon also extends to families who have children with developmental disabilities.

Twenty-five years ago, ETTA, a Southern California nonprofit that serves adults with special needs, recognized that something has to change. Under the direction of Manijeh Nehorai, who was a social worker in Iran and held high-level posts in the Iranian government before emigrating to the United States with her family, ETTA launched the Iranian-American Community Services Division to provide services to special needs members of the Iranian community and their families.

This division has been hugely successful in not only providing services, but in dispelling the negative Iranian community stigma of having a special-needs family member. It is through the hard work and dedication of people like Nehorai that Iranian families today hold their heads high and are proud of the joy and blessings that every family member brings.
Michael Held, Executive Director, ETTA

As a Persian Jew, I would like to thank the Journal for Tabby Refael’s cover story. Refael is open, honest and raw about some taboo issues in the Persian-Jewish community. It takes vision and courage to understand these shortcomings and to discuss them openly, in the hopes that we better tackle these challenges. This story not only benefits Persian Jews, but non-Persians as well in bringing some understanding to the dynamics of this community.

Kol ha-kavod to Refael and kudos to the Journal for bringing this issue to the forefront.
Angela Maddahi, Via email


Israel’s Worldwide Diplomatic Effort
David Suissa expresses the conventional wisdom when he writes that “the U.N. is a cesspool of anti-Israel sentiment, virtually immune to any activism.” (“A Shameful Jewish Silence at the U.N.,” Dec. 14).

In fact, Israeli diplomats are the activists. They know that the U.N. reflects the views of its separate member-states and has no identity apart from them. Lately, however, Israel has a worldwide diplomatic effort underway, led by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to win friends among U.N. members. A Journal article some weeks ago described this effort as yielding many successes with non-European countries.

Sometimes, as President Donald Trump reminds us, the best way to influence an organization is to engage its members individually.
Barry H. Steiner, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, CSULB


How Anti-Semitism Takes Root
Amanda Berman provides a timely warning from Britain and its experience of Jeremy Corbyn and rising anti-Semitism on the left as to what could happen here (“A Message to My Compatriots in the American Left From Across the Pond,” Nov. 5).

Berman observes how warnings regarding the rise of anti-Semitism on the left in Britain went unheeded with the result now that it is widespread and tolerated in the U.K.

Tragically, something similar seems to be happening here in the U.S., where, for example, among new legislators elected in the midterms are Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who calls Israel “racist” and supports its replacement with a single, Arab-dominated state; and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has labeled Israel an “apartheid” state, damned it as guilty of “evil” acts and who is the first open Congressional supporter of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Once, such extreme positions would have been news. Today, they are almost universally ignored. Thus, PJ Media’s David Steinberg has identified 105 news stories written in the immediate aftermath of Omar’s victory, not a single one of which even mentioned her extreme statements (or, for that matter, the abundant evidence of her having committed federal and state felonies).

Anti-Semitism flourishes where, among other things, the media normalizes anti-Semitism to the point of not even regarding it as worthy of mention, let alone investigation. Fighting the normalization of anti-Semitism is the enormous challenge that American Jews have before them.
Morton A. Klein, National President Zionist Organization of America