Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Iranian Revolution

Barbara Bensoussan

Rabbi David Shofet and Rabbi David Zargari put themselves in the midst of Persian ex-pats in Los Angeles, to ensure that the real wealth not be lost

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

 Mishpacha image

Persian Jews came to Los Angeles as impoverished refugees, yet many of them turned their luck around and remade the fortunes they’d enjoyed in Iran. But what would be with their spiritual riches? Rabbi David Shofet and Rabbi David Zagari may have communities of different styles, but both are ensuring that the real Persian wealth endures (Photos:Yossi Percia)

Come to Brooklyn’s Sephardic neighborhoods, and the majority population is Syrian. On Kings Highway, grocery stores stock tamarind sauce and pickled vegetables, Syrian cheese and zaatar pita, while the throaty consonants of Arabic mingle with Hebrew and English. But 3,000 miles west in Los Angeles, Persians dominate the Sephardi scene. Take a stroll down Pico Boulevard, and the customers are speaking Farsi. The shelves stock pomegranate syrup and chickpea flour, dill and barberries, cardamom and basmati rice.

The Persian conquest of Los Angeles began in the late 1970s, as Jews ran from the terrifying new Islamic regime. Rabbi David Shofet, son of the former Chief Rabbi of Tehran and scion of a long line of rabbanim, fled to Los Angeles in 1980. Finding many of his compatriots frequenting Reform temples, he set about organizing a minyan, and slowly began rebuilding the community they’d known back home. As his kehillah grew and prospered, they bought a building in upscale Beverly Hills and started a preschool and weekly beit medrash. Rabbi Shofet continues to lead his Nessah Israel congregation, which stands poised between the old world of traditional but westernized Iran and the myriad options of America.

Rabbi David Zargari came to Los Angeles 30 years ago to found a Torah community based in the more yeshivish Pico neighborhood. The son of a teacher, he started out life much like his traditional Persian friends, expecting to earn a college degree and follow a profession. He left Iran as a young man just after the 1967 Six Day War to study at Hebrew University, and thought he’d continue his studies in North America. Instead, he ended up under the wing of legendary Persian Jewish activist and Ner Israel president Rabbi Naftali Neuberger and Rosh Yeshivah Rav Yaakov Weinberg, and instead of becoming a businessman, became a talmid chacham. He wound up using his administrative skills to lead a kehillah and a school, and today, his Torat Hayim complex occupies three stories on South Robertson Boulevard.

Two rabbis, two very different neighborhoods… yet, regardless of the variances, they are still one community.

 

Transplanted from Tehran

Nessah Israel, with its expansive white buildings, Grecian columns, and manicured flower beds, has the stately grace of a Southern plantation. 

.

 

At one end, preschool children play in a yard; the offices are at the other end, almost a city block’s walk. I take a peek inside the shul — an enormous, majestic room with velvet theater-style seats surrounding a raised bimah, enclosed by mahogany railings and polished brass. 

The rabbi’s office is likewise spacious, but spare. A photo of Rabbi Shofet’s father hangs on the wall, along with a few other pictures of gedolim and art work. Rabbi Shofet seems far away behind his massive desk, distinguished-looking and serious, and a bit bemused that a chareidi magazine would be interested in him. But he receives us courteously and soon warms to the subject, evincing the occasional smile as he speaks about the history, strengths, and foibles of his community. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 713)

 

Related Stories

Switched onto Shabbos Mode

Margie Pensak

As engineering consultant to the Star-K, Jonah Ottensoser works with large manufacturers to create “...

Negotiator or Manipulator?

Elisheva Appel

How to help our children find the fine balance between coaxing and controlling

Over the Green Line

Shlomi Gil

A spate of arrests have involved young people from chareidi families being used by sophisticated han...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you