Where are you from?

I am from a lot of places, multiple countries, cultures and languages. I was born in Tehran/Persia to a family that can trace its roots in Persia for at least 11 generations. We moved to Israel when I was 7 years old. Most of my parents’ family moved to Israel once the Jewish state declared its independence in May, 1948.

What was it like growing up?

Fortunately, I grew up in a warm and loving family with a very large extended family in Tehran/Persia. We celebrated Jewish holidays at my parents’ house with all of my uncles, cousins, and grandparents (over 50 people at least). However, at an early age I remember my Muslim classmates and teachers treating me as a Jewish kid – second class. I was never invited to birthday parties and no classmate was willing to come to my house. Teachers would single me out as a Jewish student. As a young child who was born and raised in a discriminating environment, sadly, I accepted it as the norm. My father talked about moving to Israel for over 7 years before he actually cut our strong roots from Iran and moved to Israel. I was 7 years old when we moved and I was very eager to finally be part of the Jewish state. However, I had no knowledge of the Hebrew language and culture so again, I was a minority. But after a short period of time I was able to speak the language fluently and gradually felt Israeli, making friends for life.

What brought you to Cleveland?

When I decided to move to the USA, I moved to Minnesota and graduated in computer science and engineering from Univ. of Minnesota. Once graduated, I wanted to move as far away from the harsh winter of Minnesota as possible. Luckily, I got a position at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, CA and had no intention of ever living in a place that gets snowy and below 32F again. I had never expected that my future husband would have been born and raised in Cleveland and would absolutely love Cleveland. He is its biggest advocate and can convince anyone that Cleveland is heaven on Earth. Therefore, in the end, I made my way to a place that has some serious lake effect snow and very long, cold winter days.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I thought of educational opportunities and personal growth. These thoughts never changed.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Moving to any new place away from family and friends is very difficult, especially during holidays. In particular, the challenge is finding a supportive community.

As an Israeli, I continuously face unbalanced news and feel the heavy responsibility of advocating for Israel.

I find that even after 20+ years in USA, I am still treated as an outsider. Most American are less in tune with different accents, so even if a person speaks the language very well, he/she still gets this puzzled expression on his/her face when a word is not accented ‘correctly.’

Moving to Cleveland and finding a high tech position was very frustrating and difficult. Still today, there are very few high tech companies and very few networking opportunities in this industry in Cleveland. I found my first job in Cleveland through my connections in Silicon Valley.

Clevelanders have very short memory of the winter season here. They never prepare you for the very long, harsh, and icy roads that are prone to accidents.

What is your occupation?

I worked as a computer engineer with an emphasis in numerical analysis, which was the more scientific end of computing. I worked at NASA Ames in California and later at NASA Glenn until I moved on to a full time lay leader in the Jewish Community.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

At first, it was very hard to break into the rooted Clevelanders’ community, especially as a professional and a recent married women. People were nice but most Clevelanders are born and raised here, and have established life-long friendships or have so much extended family here it seemed as though they didn’t feel the need to make any new friends. Only after having children did I start to feel more connected to Cleveland, and through them I was able to build amazing and supportive friendships and feel part of the community.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I continue celebrating Jewish holidays adding on my Persian/Israeli customs and traditions; hosting Shabbat dinners with family and friends with the traditional Israeli/Persian cuisine.

What do you love about Cleveland?

It is one of the best places in the USA to raise grounded, highly educated children committed to giving back to their communities and who have high values. Cleveland has wonderful parks, arts and culture, and it is very easy to get around.

What is the best thing about living in Cleveland?

Cleveland offers easy and affordable access to one of the best national and international arts and cultural programs, parks, sport teams, and great Jewish community.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

The sooner we include our immigrants and refugees into our communities, the sooner they can contribute to the economy, diversity, and growth of the city while advancing themselves.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

Any city in the USA will benefit from extended knowledge of other cultures, countries and languages in order to be more effective in transitioning new-comers to the existing communities. If the environment is built to give these new-comers more opportunities to succeed in the US, then they will be a great asset to our cities and our communities.