Persian Jewish refugees began streaming into the United States 40 years ago. Although Persian Jews had historically been very traditional religiously, some observers predicted that within a generation, these immigrants would assimilate almost completely into the broader American culture.
Instead, the Persian Jewish community has grown in vibrancy and religious commitment. In the greater Los Angeles area, there are now more than 25 Persian shuls — all Orthodox.
In recognition of the community’s successes and challenges, the Persian Rabbinical Council (PRC) based in California is hosting a conference of Persian Rabbis and educators from across the country, including greater New York, Atlanta, Baltimore and Dallas. The Persian American Rabbinical Conference (PARC) will meet for two days of workshops and discussions organized with the assistance of Agudath Israel of America. The central theme will be the preservation of Persian Jewish religious customs, building a sense of shared community among all Persian Jewish hubs, and combatting intermarriage. The conference will culminate with a community-wide banquet on Wednesday June 7, at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills, estimated to draw 300 people.
“This is a historic first,” said Rabbi Michael Segankohanim, Rabbinic Administrator of the PRC. “Never before have leaders of Persian American Jewry gathered together to discuss the issues that are particular to us. We look forward to learning from one another about ways to preserve our 2,600-year-old Persian Jewish customs, reaffirm our connection to the Land of Israel, and ‘best practices’ for outreach to the younger generation. We cannot escape the challenges of assimilation and other issues that affect any immigrant community.”
He continued, “When young Persians first arrived here, they saw all the different ‘flavors’ of Judaism and asked themselves, ‘Who should I be?’ Not surprisingly, more and more are choosing to remain loyal to our traditions. This conference will energize us with creative ideas to continue strengthening our remarkably dynamic Persian Jewish community.”
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