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Meet Tehran Von Ghasri, a Persian Jewish African-American comic



For an American Jewish comedian, Tehran Von Ghasri has an interesting story to tell, as his name suggests. The son of an Iranian-Jewish immigrant father and an African-American mother, Tehran’s heritage includes a mix of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Zoroastrian, and any part of that mix is fair game for Von Ghasri’s standup.

Yet despite Von Ghasri’s many identities, he has a strong sense of self. In our interview, he discusses how young Jews can also navigate through their own multiple identities and come out stronger.  

You juggle so many identities. You’re African-American, you’re Jewish, you’re Persian. How do you think of yourself on any given day?

I don’t think about it often because it’s just a natural part of who I am. Everyone else thinks about it way more than I do. I don’t realize that I’m black or Persian or Jewish or not. I just think of myself as a human being. My family’s mixed ethnicities and race and religion becomes a Venn diagram and I’m stuck in the middle. People often ask me things like, “What religion are you?” Very rarely do they ever ask me if I’m just a good person. There are times when it’s almost as if some people don’t see you as black enough. Some people don’t see you as Persian enough. Some people don’t see you as Jewish enough. And the only thing I simply remind myself is that I’m always enough because I’m just always me.

One other thing that you are is a comedian. But some comedians have found themselves in trouble recently because they perpetuate tropes or stereotypes. Does comedy really need to deal in stereotypes of Jews or African Americans? 

When the comedians that you’re mentioning get in trouble, it’s honestly not because they perpetuate stereotypes but because they reach for the low-hanging fruit. They use the stereotype in a very negative way. There’s a way to do comedy where you have fun with people. You don’t make fun of people. And there’s a big difference there. Maybe because I have such a unique, diverse background, when I say something, it comes from such a good place that people usually tend not to get offended. They understand I’m speaking about me. And I push the absurdity, so you realize how silly they often are. But pushing these stereotypes? That’s not funny anymore. Boxes are meant for things and not people. Let’s expand, let’s grow.

Let’s talk about one of your identities, which is African-American. There was a time when African Americans and Jews worked together in the struggle for civil rights. Are those days gone? Or is it just that some of the more divisive voices are finding a platform?

What we see is this loud minority who speaks up as if they’re speaking on behalf of everyone else. And it happens all the time. It’s usually the good people who just stay silent. We need to speak up; we need to show that the black and Jewish communities still very much work together. In the ’60s, Martin Luther King was standing side by side with a rabbi. That’s how it worked. Somewhere along the line, we were privileged enough to not think that anymore; we became a little bit divisive. I think future generations are going to be much different. I think that there’s a new generation coming up that’s realizing we all have way more in common.

What about the Jewish part of you? Where is that in your life?

It’s part of me in every way simply because it is a part of who I am. It’s a part of how I grew up. And that’s why it’s so hard to define. I didn’t see it as if it was something I was, for example, programmed to do or was being written into my life. It just became a blanket of things that were. But the biggest thing that my family taught me was respect. It was one of the things of being diverse, that they respected all the parts of me. And they didn’t define one as better or worse.

The Z3 conference is focused on creating a positive Jewish identity. In light of the current rise in antisemitism, how do we achieve this?

There are 15 million Jews in the entire world. Most people, when you go past New York or the West Coast, they haven’t even seen a Jewish person. So, it’s easy to point at the unknown boogeyman. I think that goes to education. When you know better, you do better. For example, Americans who have traveled outside of the United States have a tendency to be way less racist, way less antisemitic.

You have a strong sense of identity. But there are a lot of Jews on campus now who are dealing with issues like taking blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or assumptions about wealth. What’s your advice to Jewish kids in college?

My advice to all the kids in college is to be proud of who you are. Being proud and having pride are two different things. Pride is part of the fall. Having pride means I think I’m good, but you’re bad. But being proud means, “I think I’m good and you can be good as well.” Be proud of who you are, never hide that identity. The fact that this is happening in college institutions is even more sad because that’s where we’re supposed to be enlightened and learn. So, get out there and be part of the outreach. Get to know people, and that’s how we will grow and know the rest of the world. We will make it better. But don’t let the antisemitic bullies bully you. And there should be nothing anti-Palestinian about being pro-Israeli, and there should be nothing anti-Israeli about being pro-Palestinian. If anyone has a conversation with me where they hate the other in favor of one, then already we’ve started off on the wrong foot. 

What do you plan on talking about at the Z3 conference?

I’m going to be speaking on my personal experiences of intersectionality and how that plays into the history of Jews, especially Jewish people of color, and we have to remember how important a role we continue to play in the identity of Judaism and what it means for the diversity of Judaism. Because Jewish isn’t just a religion, it’s also an ethnicity and race. And that race, by the way, encompasses people of so many different shades and different looks and different ethnicities. Ultimately, we’re also going to be exploring how comedy plays a huge part in that. Who has taught us more about politics in the last twenty years other than comedians — whether it’s Jon Stewart or Trevor Noah? Who has made us think about race in different ways more than Dave Chappelle, for example, or Wanda Sykes? Who has been the face of Jewish identity more than Larry David? I just want people to realize that, honestly, we’re all in this together. That’s the biggest thing that we can push out no matter what your background is, what your religion is, whoever you are—we are all in this together.

The post Meet Tehran Von Ghasri, a Persian Jewish African-American comic appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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