April 26, 2007

Persian Jews or Jewish Persians?

Beverly Hills has become increasingly Persian (Iranian immigrant) over the last 30 years (40% of public school students in this ritziest of all suburbs are Persians), while remaining highly Jewish. How? Because a large fraction of the Persian immigrants are Jews, which seems highly contradictory to most of us, but apparently doesn't to the Jewish Persians. I was talking recently to a witty man standing outside a snazzy Jewish wedding presided over by a rabbi. He had stepped out to calm his colicky infant daughter, and had lots of amusing jokes to make about "Persian weddings," which indeed do look a bit like that instantly-famous "South Park" parody of "300," in which the patrons of the Les Bos bar fight to defend their lesbian bar from being acquired and turned into a Persian nightclub by designer sunglasses-wearing Persians armed with gold curtain rods and other stuff "only a Persian would think was cool."

I was struck that they self-identified as Persians rather than Jews, even though there are lots of advantages in Southern California to being considered Jewish rather than Iranian.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Peter said...

I was struck that they self-identified as Persians rather than Jews, even though there are lots of advantages in Southern California to being considered Jewish rather than Iranian.

Can they qualify for affirmative action benefits if they identify as Iranian? That would be a strong incentive.

Dave said...

This isn't so surprising. Many cultural attributes Americans consider "Jewish" could be more accurately called "American Jewish". The typical Iranian (or Israeli, or Italian) Jew doesn't eat all the same foods, read the same periodicals, have the same sense of humor, etc. as the typical New York- or Los Angeles-raised Jew. The Iranian Jews clearly have more in common with their fellow Iranian Jews than they do with American Jews; hence, their identification as Iranian.

As just one example, I would bet that Iranian-American Jews tend to vote Republican (because many of them are small businessmen) versus 'regular' American Jews, three-fourths of whom vote Democratic.

joshrandall said...

Iranian Jews? Are these the smart Jews or the Not All That Smart Jews? I heard they put an Iranian Jew as mayor of Beverly Hills. While that job probably does not require a workingknowledge of brain surgery,it still is inter that an IJ is in such a plum position. Since theyre all so PC over there why dont they elect a black guy???

James B. Shearer said...

I read somewhere that Iranians don't like being called Persian. True or false?

SFG said...

Pffft. I had a good friend who was Persian Jewish. Reasonably smart guy. It was funny, though, he was only after Persian Jewish girls. (You see a similar pattern with Syrian Jews, from what I hear.)

I know plenty of Iranians who don't mind being called Persian, Jewish and otherwise. I think the Persian Jews actually like 'Persian' better because they can connect to the non-religious part of that heritage (remember, this is one of the oldest empires in the world.)

Also given American animus toward Iran, better to tell people you're Persian. Most Americans don't know enough about geography to make the connection.

Anonymous said...

My Persian friends have gone from "Persian" to "Iranian" over the last couple years I think because it's less racial that way, they realized not even a majority of Iran is Persian.

pytheasthegreek said...

True. The "American Jewish" attributes are those that developed during the 150 years that the US has had large Jewish populations of Central and Eastern European origin.
There have always been a small number of Southern European (Sephardi)Jews in this country, but they have been outnumbered by the Ashkenazim since Jews began leaving Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Russian Empire in the late 1800s. Mizrahi Jews have been coming to the US in small numbers since the early 1900s (they make up a very small percentage of American Jews versus a majority of Israeli and French Jews).
As for choice of Persian versus Iranian, I lived in a suburb of Portland, Oregon as a kid (Portland has a fairly large Iranian community) and the Iranians there preferred to be called Persian.

Grumpy Old Man said...

A friend of mine used to run a catering business. She said American Jews ate much more at weddings and parties than American Christians, but the biggest eaters of all were Iranian Jews. They even ate the ornamental kale.

I'll bet the Israelis have better human intelligence in Iran than the CIA does.

Anonymous said...

"I'll bet the Israelis have better human intelligence in Iran than the CIA does."

Wouldn't doubt it, especially since Israel has close relations with the Kurds (as fellow non-Arab Middleasterners) and there is a significant Kurdish minority in Iran.

joshrandall said...

The Israelis probably have better human intelligence in the United States than the CIA does! :0

Anonymous said...

"The Israelis probably have better human intelligence in the United States than the CIA does! :0"

Considering that the CIA isn't even responsible for domestic intelligence, I'm sure many foreign intelligence services have more human intel about what's going on in the United States.

Anonymous said...

All I know Steve is that I'm losing my country. By what right do these people move in ? I hardly even have a country anymore. What is a man without a country ? If you're a rootless cosmopolitan, I guess you don't care. But I remember. I once lived in a country, and it was it was a fine thing.

matt z said...

Ok steve, two things. One, there are tons of persians jews (one of them is an uncle of mine). Iran still has the largest jewish population in the middle east besides israel, and there's a large diaspora community that left after the Revolution.

Two - Socal, especially the ritziest towns and areas have TONS AND TONS of Persians. perians have lived in la la land for years, and are very wealthy and well connected. Thus, there isn't really any disadvantage to identifying oneself as persian in beverely hills...there are a lot of them

Gab said...

I live in L.A. and deal with Persian Jews on a daily basis. The reason why many of them consider themselves as Persian is because some Americans have labeled them that way and shown hostility toward them. American Jews in L.A. have not been as friendly to them either.

But for the most part, Persian Jews are very proud of their Jewish hertiage and are also quite Zionist. You should check out Karmel Melamed's blog on Persian Jews:


He's one of the few journalists out there covering Persian Jews exclusively and he gives real insights into their community in L.A.

Peace out,


shahshak said...

While the Jews lived in Iran for about 2500 years they identified themselves simply as Jews. When they emigrated or fled to non-Iranian areas they identified themselves as Jews of Iranian heritage (however you want to call them). How they label themselves is irrelevant because their greatest loyalty is to the greater Jewish community or Israel.

Iranian or Persian - While these terms have often been used interchangeably they are not the same. While every Persian is Iranian, not every Iranian is Persian. Persian is to Iranian as New Yorker is to American.
Since the Jews of Iran more closely relate themselves to the Persian culture as opposed to the Iranian nationality they will more often use the term Persian.

Anonymous said...

Well it's interesting to me that Jews are in my mind philanthropic; however Persian Jews are anything but. I am fundraising on behalf of the Beverly Hills schools and almost 90% of the list of families who have NOT contributed is Persian. How is this?

Anonymous said...

Persian Jews often donate exclusively to specific causes. You'll notice significantly large donations come out during synagogue or the High Holidays, and in support of the temple, or an Israel related cause. This also allows the opportunity to publically announce your charitability.

Anonymous said...

To the person who claimed that he is losing his country, I'm sure that's what the natives did when your ancestors stole this country from them! What goes around comes around!