Long-Silenced Iranian Jews Find Their Political Voice in America

March 3, 2008

Author: Rebecca Spence

Source: Haaretz/The Forward


When Beverly Hills' Iranian Jewish mayor, Jimmy Jamshid Delshad, ran for office in 2007, he faced an uphill battle. But contrary to conventional wisdom, his biggest challenge wasn't persuading skeptical non-Iranians to rally behind him.

Instead, Delshad's toughest fight was convincing his natural constituency - the city's roughly 8,000 Iranian-American Jews - simply to register to vote, let alone vote for him.

"I worked on the Persian vote four times harder than I worked to get the American vote," Delshad said in a recent interview in his office inside the Beverly Hills City Hall. "They wouldn't even register to vote. They would say, 'I don't want my name on anything.' They wanted to be under the radar." Iranian Jews, alienated from the political process in their home country and mistrustful of government - the result of living for centuries under a repressive, undemocratic regime - carried their skepticism with them to America. When Delshad campaigned for mayor, many still clung to their old attitudes.