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The exceptions
We Iranians do help each other and understand that a strong community helps all of us but the good ones do not brag


June 16, 2006

I am always interested in reading articles when someone takes up an issue, which not only interests me, but most often I address in the circles I travel.

Although Mr. Nouraeei's article "Take care of your own" has many valid points, as an Iranian I am offended that he is putting all of us in the same pool. That seems to be the norm every time I read an article about what is bad about "Iranians". Yes, I know that I have written about these issues as well but I am always fair enough to say what is good about us and point out the exceptions.

Let's examine some of his comments.

First of all not all Jews have money. Ironically, this morning coming from my Iranian dentist's office located in a beautiful shopping center in Palm Beach County where mega million dollar homes surround the area, I drove no more than 5 minutes east and sure enough the development well known in this area which only has Jewish residents was to my right.

These Jews are poor and uneducated (without college degrees) who had blue color jobs when they were young and retried in those jobs. Before, those miserable and frustrated readers who love to take out their frustration on me decide to bark, let me tell you how I know. In the 1980s I was sent to increase the revenue of a branch located in that neighborhood. Being a pretty and outspoken Iranian (in contrast to the quiet and barely audible person who ran the branch), I was quite the novelty who drew in the curious to see what an Iranian looked like in person!

My boss, who was a Jew himself, would make coffee and go into his office and shut the blinds. It only took me a day to find out why.

The people would come in from their daily walks in the neighborhood to see what bank was giving what for free and then come and get free coffee from our branch and ask if they could have a pen, or a blank envelope or rubber band! In that area at the time the commercial real estate space was cheap so there were many non-Jews who had opened businesses so I spent an hour everyday outside the branch talking to those people to bring in their accounts.

I was amazed at how the local businesses felt about these poor people. The tellers hated dealing with most of them because despite having only a few thousands dollars as their life savings, they acted as though they had millions. I really felt sorry for them and understood why they behaved like that. A few times they lied to me in order to get a free ride and not to pay for the bus but that was okay because I always feel sorry for the old people.

So Mr. Nouraee, you are wrong and not all Jews have money or are educated. You should see what some secular Americans have to say about this very "embarrassing" neighborhood as they call it. Let's face it, many Jews and non-Jews are extremely conscious about their money. So what if you see smart Russian Jews being assisted with resources and information? So they know how to get things that saves them money and they don't waste it.

On the other hand, there are fellows Iranians who charge to fill out a form for social services and let's not forget that some people from our background live for other Iranians so they will go into debt to have nice homes or cars and live extravagantly.

It hurts me enormously for you to say that we do not help our own. For your information this past week I asked a handful of my friends to donate money for a poor Iranian girl in Mahhad to have Scoliosis surgery (I gave the address and the doctors phone so they could help directly) but they all gave me the money. The least amount given was $100 and all of these people are middle-class hardworking Iranian who are successful but not extravagant and do not give a damn about designer things but understand their contribution makes a difference. I do this on regular basis and none of them have ever let me down. Well, these Iranians give unconditionally (not one of them is from an Iranian minority group).

Two weeks ago I sent e-mail to an Iranian friend who owns a very successful business with several branches and asked him to give someone a job and sure enough he did.

I can give you many examples of people like that who help other Iranians and are not jealous of other's successes. I know many Iranians are jealous of others but everyone I consider my friend, is happy to see successful Iranians. I always provide help and resources which I think will help a newcomer from pitfalls.

Los Angeles is another world. I have dealt with them on the phone and I was astonished at how backward some of the people were. But I have no doubt that there are some who are kind and will help unconditionally.

What you have stated about Iranians wearing designer clothes but not using soap is only true about a very small percentage. I attend larger events all the time and most often I am the one greeting people at the door. The last big event had about 300 something and I honestly had to hold my breath in only for one woman who is a beautiful lady with a good job and income and a very nice and educated husband. Her body odor was really offensive and later on another friends said the same thing. So from 300 having one smelling unpleasant is not a big deal.

By the way, you are correct about the Koreans because when I was in leasing and had to deal with their businesses, I was really surprised to see all the people they did business with from their bankers to insurance agents were Korean also.

I give my businesses to Iranians and have written about my experiences. For example, I was appalled by how unprofessional, cheap and nasty one Iranian business owner who sells entertainment stuff was but I am proud and extremely pleased to deal with another Iranian young man by the name of Ashkan whom I have never met but always answers my questions in extremely professional manner and places my orders and ships them with confirmations right away. Now, I would never recommend the nasty one but I recommend Askkan to my non-Iranian friends not only because he is Iranian but also because he is an honest and pleasant businessman.

It is easy to find faults with Iranians and god knows I could write a book but I always go back to the one rule which has sustained me in life and that is to concentrate on the good ones. They may be a few but a few are better than none.

Look, it is a well-known fact tat many nationalities take care of their own first. I worked in Miami for over a year. The Cubans help each other and give each other business. So do the Haitians and the Arabs.

We Iranians do help each other and understand that a strong community helps all of us but the good ones do not brag. Do you know that my friends often give me cash? That infuriates me because I have to deposit the money in my account, write a check and when the cancelled check comes back show it to them (which by the way, they rip it off without looking at the) because they do not want anyone to know they are generous. Well, if I do not tell you about these Iranian who are compassionate and wonderful (but like to remain anonymous), would you know they exist?

Many of us grew up being taught this:

To niki mikon o dar dejle andaz
ke izad dar biabanat dahad baz

[Do good deeds and throw them in the Euphrates river
So God will rewards you back in the desert]

In conclusion, do not let the bad attitude and the shortcomings of some "nouveau rich" in Los Angeles be the symbol of the rest of us Iranians who are hard working people and always take time to do good not only for our fellow Iranians but for other human beings as well.

Remember that giving and generous people will meet the same on the path in their quest of "ensanam arezoost", which is the ultimate goal.

For letters section
To Azam Nemati

Azam Nemati



Book of the day

Crowning Anguish
Taj al-Saltana, Memoirs of a Persian Princess 1884-1914
edited by Abbas Amanat

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