eJP Interview Series

“Get Your Phil” with Sharon Nazarian

In today’s episode of “Get Your Phil,” eJP News Reporter Haley Cohen sat down with Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation President Sharon Nazarian, who told eJP that Oct. 7 has brought on a change in fundraising priorities for the foundation.

“As an Iranian American family, having emigrated to the United States in 1979 because of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Oct. 7 triggered all kinds of emotions,  insecurity and heartbreak,” Nazarian said.

“Our history of giving had been one that reflected the confidence that we felt as a Iranian American family, as a family who felt that our new homeland the U.S., and our spiritual homeland Israel, were both safe, secure, and therefore giving back to those communities had to be looking at the future, looking at investing in those societies and providing mechanisms to continue to better those societies. Education, arts, public policy, those were the areas that we always gave…Oct. 7 changed that, I would say, in the short term. We knew that this was a seismic change crisis in our community. We knew that we had to show up yet again, like so much of the history between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, we had to show up for [Israel.] And so for the first time, we gave to two causes that we had never given before— we specifically targeted trauma and mental health and we gave to hospitals. These were areas we had never supported before.”

The hour-long conversation touched on a variety of issues, including the increase of antisemitism on college campuses, specifically Nazarian’s experience piloting a new course at UCLA “The Globalization of Antisemitism: A Survey of Transnational Trends,” which she began teaching just three days before Hamas attacked Israel. Nazarian called the course a “wake-up call” about students today.

“It was very hard for them to hold the idea of the loss of life on the Palestinian civilian side alongside of what had happened on Oct. 7. It was very difficult for them to hold Palestinian victimhood and Jewish victimhood together,” she said. “There was a reluctance for their world views to be challenged. It was very hard for them to hear a world view that did not essentially align with theirs, even if they had to sit and disagree with me.”

Here is a recording of the conversation: