July 17, 2019

Delivering Kindness to Iranian Senior Center on Purim

2019 Maher Fellow Daniella Cohan helps prepare Purim baskets for residents of the Iranian Jewish Senior Center. Photo courtesy of 30 Years After

Candice Hakimianpour is looking forward to spending this Purim in the company of an older man.

For 29-year-old Hakimianpour, this Purim, she’ll forgo her usual Purim parties with fellow young professionals to spend her time with the septuagenarians and octogenarians at the Iranian Jewish Senior Center in Beverly Hills.

Hakimianpour is a member of a group of current and alumni members of 30 Years After’s Maher Fellowship program who will be delivering Purim baskets to center’s residents.

Established in 2014, the six-month fellowship is the nation’s only leadership program for young Iranian-American Jews. The program promotes leadership in American civic, political and Jewish life through bimonthly sessions that focus on topics ranging from the history of Persian Jewry to Israel advocacy and the imperative for philanthropy. This weekend, fellows are headed to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. 

All of the residents of the senior center fled Iran after the revolution in 1979. 

“I see this visit to the senior center as visiting a significant piece of our past,” Hakimianpour said. “We can learn from it, gain wisdom with each conversation, and shape our future by heeding their advice.” 

Kevin Delijani, 25, said, “I grew up as a Persian Jew in Los Angeles because the generations that came before me built a community here 40 years ago. Whether there is still a Persian-Jewish community here in 40 years depends on my generation, and there is no better way to learn how we can make it thrive than from the people who built it.” 

Daniella Cohan, 26, who helped make Purim baskets for the seniors several days before the event, said, “I’m grateful to be able to give back to those in the community who sacrificed so much to build better lives for our generation.” 

Ilana Yazdi, the senior center’s general manager, told the Journal that the Maher Fellows will be the first group of young professionals to visit the facility since the center’s founding in 2003. 

“This is so important,” she said. “For our seniors, they need this kind of attention, and youthful energy always uplifts and encourages them. The visitors can remind our residents of themselves and their children when they were young. And for the young people, when they visit here and see that they, too, will one day grow very old, they’ll be reminded to be a little kinder — both to themselves and to their parents.”

The organization 30 Years After plans to also visit the Iranian Jewish Senior Center next month to help residents welcome Shabbat with challah, grape juice, songs and stories. 

“Elie Wiesel once said that in Jewish history, there are no coincidences,” said 30 Years After President Sam Yebri. “That our community survived persecution in ancient Persia and again in modern Iran is no coincidence. Only by breaking bread with our elders can we find meaning and purpose in our survival.”


Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and former co-founder and executive director of 30 Years After. She currently serves as director of the Maher Fellowship.