Woman Life Freedom

U.S. Jewish leaders launch new group to support protests against Iranian regime

Jewish Committee to Support ‘Woman Life Freedom’ will offer microgrants to help members of the Iranian diaspora

Several American Jewish leaders are launching a new organization in support of the ongoing protests in Iran, offering funding for different initiatives organized by members of the Iranian diaspora and by Iranian activists located outside the Islamic republic, leaders of the group revealed exclusively to eJewishPhilanthropy.

The Jewish Committee to Support ‘Woman Life Freedom’ in Iran (JCWLF) aims “to connect the American Jewish community with the Iranian diaspora” and to “help promote the Iranian people’s aspirations and demands of the international community” the organization said in a statement.

The JCWLF’s steering group is led by several heads of major Jewish groups, philanthropists, former elected officials, businesspeople, academics and activists, including American Jewish Committee CEO and former Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL); President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut; Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations CEO William Daroff; former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and his wife, Hadassah Lieberman; philanthropists James Tisch and Merryl Tisch; former ambassador Dennis Ross; Middle East Institute analyst Nazee Moinian; former ambassador and CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran Mark Wallace; policy director of UANI Jason Brodsky; attorney Tali Farhadian Weinstein; executive director of PaykanArtCar Hiva Feizi; president of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation Sharon Nazarian and others.

“The Iranian people have been energized by the support for their movement that is playing out in the streets of the world’s biggest cities and in the capitals of the world’s great democracies. The Iranian diaspora and the people of Iran should know that they are not alone, and that supporters from the Jewish community are inspired by their actions,” Nazarian said.

Iran has been rocked by regular protests for the past six months, which began after Jina “Mahsa” Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, was killed while in the custody of Iran’s morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab. Amini’s death sparked widespread demonstrations, some of the largest ever seen since the 1979 revolution, specifically against the mandatory hijab law but also more generally against the regime.

“We are witnessing what looks like the first revolution in modern times led by women and with women’s rights at its core,” Farhadian Weinstein said. “As a Jew, an Iranian, an American and a feminist, I am proud to join JCWLF and to support the people of Iran and they fight for dignity, equality and freedom.”

The new organization, which launched its website on Friday, takes its name from the slogan associated with these protests: “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

“The ethos represented by ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ are links in the chain of humanity which binds us all and specifically align with tikkun olam, the Judaic belief in one’s duty to heal the world. JCWLF is a reminder that we are all responsible for one another,” said Moinian.

“It’s important for the American Jewish community to support the Iranian people in this struggle,” Brodsky told eJP. “For many years we have focused on the threat from the Islamic Republic, but it’s also important to focus on the need to support the Iranian people and the Iranian diaspora.”

Brodsky, a prominent Iran analyst, said this support included both spiritual support as JCWLF looks to “connect every temple and synagogue in the U.S. in supporting this moment for the Iranian people” and also financial support in the form of microgrants.

Due to the international sanctions in place against Iran, the microgrants will go only to Iranian activists outside the country, not to groups operating in Iran, Brodsky clarified.

According to JCWLF, the members of the organization’s steering group have “personally pledged an initial round of funding and will be fundraising in their networks once the group is launched publicly.” The organization, which would not disclose its funding budget, will also solicit donations on its website and raise money with merchandise sales.

Asked if he was concerned that Iranian leaders would use the existence of this grant-making group to discredit the protests, Brodsky said this would happen whether or not JCWLF existed. “They’re going to blame Israel and the American Jewish community for everything anyway. It’s important to not let their talking points and their antisemitic rhetoric interrupt the momentum building around the world in support of the Iranian people,” he said.