By Bianca Kermani
My family’s story is a bit different from the stories of most of the families in our community. Both of my parents were born in Iran. My father, Ben, came to the United States to study. My mom, Maryam, was forced to escape from Iran in when she was 16 years old. Still in high school, she immigrated to Israel all by herself. After a few years, my mom also moved to the U.S. for college. My parents both became doctors here, and they started our family in Las Vegas.
I am now 19, my sister Bailey is 16, and my brother Alex is 13. We grew up with a strong connection to our Judaism, to Israel, and to our Persian identity. Growing up, we went to a Jewish-Zionist school and would attend synagogue. At home we mostly spoke Persian, even though we all know Hebrew. Our parents would tell us stories about being discriminated against as Jews in Iran – we always understood that the threat of anti-Semitism is real. It’s easy to notice that my siblings and I have non-Jewish names. But we also understood the importance of being proud of our Jewish heritage.
My family’s involvement with the Israeli-American community and the Israeli-America Council (IAC) began with me, when I was in high-school. I participated in the Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) and it was there that I discovered the Israeli-American community in Las Vegas. The feeling of unity was instant. Through IAC Eitanim, I met Jewish American and Israeli-American teens, learned entrepreneurial and leadership skills, and improved my Hebrew. I was part of the first Las Vegas group for IAC Eitanim, which connected me with Israel through a new lens of innovation and entrepreneurship.
My whole family was inspired by my involvement, and they followed suit. My brother and sister joined IAC Eitanim as well, and my mom joined the IAC Gvanim leadership program. Today, she serves as an IAC Las Vegas council member. We all got to know the Israeli-American community and were welcomed into the IAC family.
I am now a student at UC San Diego, where I joined IAC Mishelanu, which has given me the opportunity to become part of a nationwide pro-Israel leadership network and bring the spirit of Israel to my campus.
The IAC has impacted every member of my family. In the past two years we went as a family to the IAC National Conference, an annual event that creates the spirit and energy of Israel. The IAC has become a second home for us in a very short time. We are so glad to be part of such a loving and caring community.
Although we are Persian Jews, and not Israeli, Israel always had a place of honor in my parents’ hearts. It has been important for them to pass on to us this deep dedication to the Jewish homeland. Our Persian roots are a significant part of our narrative and always will be. And we are proud to be able to celebrate our story as part of the larger story of the diverse and vibrant IAC family.