Rabbi Yitzchok Baalhaness, Rav, Az Yashir Torah Center
Rabbi Eliezer Ben David, Rav and Dean of International Ohr Haemet Network
Signing of Resolution: (L-R Outer Circle): Rabbi Nouollah (LA) Rabbi Khakshur (Westwood) Rabbi Avraham Kohen (Great Neck) Rabbi Yossi Kohen (Ventura) Rabbi Davidi (LA) Rabbi Akhamzadeh (LA). By the signing table are Rabbi Hakakian and Rabbi Aryeh of Baltimore
Rabbi Michael Segankohanim, Rav of Kehilat Ahavat Shalom in LA
High res versions of the pictures above can be downloaded here or by clicking on the images.
The first Persian American Rabbinical Conference, a national gathering of Persian Rabbinic Leaders, was held from June 5-7 in Los Angeles. Rabbis from the major Persian Jewish communities in the United States attended the three-day conference to brainstorm about the ongoing challenges that confront Persian Jews in America. The event, organized and hosted by the Persian Rabbinical Council (PRC) of California, with the assistance of Agudath Israel of America, was a milestone for a community that rebuilt itself on foreign shores after being forced to flee Iran almost 40 years ago.
After the downfall of the Shah in 1979, the Jews of Iran saw the writing on the wall and knew enough to leave the country as soon as possible. Most of them settled in Los Angeles and New York. In the years since, the community has acclimated itself to a foreign country with a different language, lifestyle, customs and climate — not an easy transition. There was major concern that American culture would be a major driving force leading the community to disconnect from thousands of years of Jewish Persian continuity and assimilate.
“Instead,” said Rabbi Michael Segankohanim, Rav of Kehilat Ahavat Shalom in LA and Rabbinic Administrator of the PRC of California, “the Persian Jewish community has grown in vibrancy and religious commitment. There are now more than 25 Persian shuls in the greater Los Angeles area — all Orthodox.”
Added to that are the numerous religious schools founded and formulated to generate cultural continuity and educate their students in the customs of Persian Jewish tradition.
In response to this amazing growth and expansion, the PRC of California hosted this historic conference, with workshops and discussions designed to inspire and foster a closer connection between leaders of American Persian kehilos. One of the most important outcomes of the conference was a resolution adopted and signed by all Rabbonim that included a promise on the part of themselves and their kehilot to adhere to authentic Torah Judaism according to Mesorah, and a commitment to work together to prevent assimilation, working with the youth to elevate ideals of Torah in their communities.
Most of the attending Rabbanim were alumni of Yeshivas Ner Israel in Baltimore. Ner Israel and Rabbi Neuberger, ZT’L, played a great role in educating future Rabbanim of the Kehilla, thus ensuring continuity of Torah true Judaism within the Persian Jewish community. Another important factor in the successful transition of the community to the shores of America was Agudath Israel’s Iranian Rescue Committee, under the guidance of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Z’L, which helped thousands escape the Revolution and start new lives in the United States.
Sessions included discussions led by Rabbi Dr. David Fox, a highly respected forensic and clinical psychologist; international speaker Rabbi Zev Cohen, Rav of Congregation Adas Yeshurun in Chicago; and Rebbetzin Bella Gottesman, a top Mechaneches in Los Angeles, who ran sessions for the Rebbetzins.
Other speakers included Rabbi David Akhamzadeh of Beit Knesset Ohr HaEmet; Rabbi Yitzchok Baalhaness, Rav, Az Yashir Torah Center; Rabbi Eliyahu Simcha Bamberger as a representative of Agudath Israel of America; Rabbi Eliezer Ben David, Rav and Dean of International Ohr Haemet Network; Rabbi Shmuel Khoshkerman, Rav, Kehilat Sefaradim and Rosh Kollel Ner Hamizrach in Atlanta; Rabbi David Shofet of Nessah Synagogue; Rabbi Segankohanim, Rav of Kehilat Ahavat Shalom in LA; Rabbi Shmuel Soleimani, Rav, Persian Congregation and Kollel of Flatbush ; and Rabbi David Zargari, Dean, Tashbar Torat Chaim.
On Wednesday evening, the entire Persian community was invited to a lavish dinner held at the conference. This event offered an opportunity to meet, greet and hear divrei torah and encouragement from prominent leading Persian rabbis from around the world. They included Rabbi Ben David and Rabbi Baalhaness, who have influenced and inspired Torah learning and religious adherence in Persian communities worldwide.
Rabbi Segankohanim related that the conference was very successful and they have already received many emails from attendees expressing praise and thanks. Rabbi Nissim Davidi said, “Congratulations for a job well done and a mission accomplished.“ Rabbi Yehuda Boroosan of Atlanta called the event “incredible” and “remarkably inspiring.”
Rabbi Dovid Hekmat of Santa Monica wrote, “Yasher Koach to Rabbi Dovid Akhamzadeh and Rabbi Michael Segankohanim for an awesome, inspirational and historical conference.”
Rabbi Akhamzadeh, who was one of the conference organizers, summed it all up. “The conference set out to unite the rabbis from our various communities, to provide direction and assistance in their avodas hakodesh. It was an opportunity to be inspired and educated on ways to keep our community cohesive and Jewish. We have, baruch Hashem, witnessed a rebirth of the Persian Jewish Community. May it continue m’chayil el chayil.”