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From the Shahs to Los Angeles

Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture

'Saba Soomekh

Publication Year: 2012

A fascinating look at the lives, culture, and religious and ritual observance of three generations of Iranian Jewish women in the United States. Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran’s Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that followed. Based on interviews with women raised during the constitutional monarchy of the earlier part of the twentieth century, those raised during the modernizing Pahlavi regime of mid-century, and those who have grown up in Los Angeles, the book presents an ethnographic portrait of what life was and is like for Iranian Jewish women. Featuring the voices of all generations, the book concentrates on religiosity and ritual observance, the relationship between men and women, and women’s self-concept as Iranian Jewish women. Mother-daughter relationships, double standards for sons and daughters, marriage customs, the appeal of American forms of Jewish practices, social customs and pressures, and the alternate attraction to and critique of materialism and attention to outward appearance are discussed by the author and through the voices of her informants.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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From The Shasto Los to Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture

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pp. iii-iii


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pp. v-v

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Chapter One: Women of Change

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pp. 1-16

Los Angeles is home to the largest concentration of Iranians outside of Iran.1 With the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the consequent fall of Mohammad Reza Shah and the Pahlavi dynasty, seventy thousand Iranian Jews fled the newly forming Islamic fundamentalist country and flocked to the United ...

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Chapter Two: The Generation of the Constitutional Monarchy

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pp. 17-48

An elderly Persian woman makes a dramatic gesture of opening her arms widely as the Torah is lifted out of the Ark. She then places her hands over her eyes, says a blessing, and kisses her hands. She most likely neither understands the prayer service nor the rabbi’s sermon, yet she will walk, get ...

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Chapter Three: All the Shah’s Women

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pp. 49-85

A middle-aged Iranian Jewish woman is gracefully socializing and greeting the seven hundred guests at her daughter’s wedding. She has spent the past year preparing for this event, while also planning the numerous parties that are thrown for the couple before the wedding. She has carefully picked every ...

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Chapter Four: Life in Los Angeles

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pp. 87-112

This chapter explores what life is like for second-generation Iranian Jewish women in Los Angeles, including how immigration forced many women to start working and contributing to the family income. Some of the women reveled in being working women, while others felt a great deal of ...

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Chapter Five: Jewish American and Persian

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pp. 113-165

A large house in Beverly Hills has turned into a nightclub, celebrating a graduation, an anniversary, a birthday, or no specific event at all. There is a large bar serving alcoholic drinks. The bartender is busy serving whiskey, vodka, tequila, and the latest “it” drink—one year it was apple martinis, ...

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Chapter Six: Conclusion

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pp. 167-189

This book has woven together women’s stories in order to tell a larger story of the collective history and experience of three generations of Iranian Jewish women. Through an ethnographic portrait of what life was like for Iranian Jewish women living in Iran and later in the United States, the book has explored the political and ...


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pp. 191-203


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pp. 205-209


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pp. 211-217


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pp. 219-224

E-ISBN-13: 9781438443850
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438443836

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 826660109
MUSE Marc Record: Download for From the Shahs to Los Angeles

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Subject Headings

  • Jewish women -- California -- Los Angeles -- Religious life.
  • Iranian Americans -- California -- Los Angeles -- Religious life.
  • Iranian Americans -- California -- Los Angeles -- Social life and customs.
  • Jewish women -- Iran -- Religious life.
  • Iran -- Politics and government -- 1979-1997.
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