You are on page 1of 1

a Pakistani officer to help them get a

flight to Switzerland and then to Lisbon,

Portugalthe only country in Europe
at the time willing to admit refugees
without an entry visa. After arriving in
Lisbon, my grandparents, who spoke
neither Portuguese nor English, were
taken to a motel in a bad area of the city
by a taxi driver. They knew no one in
Portugal, had little money left, little food
and no hope. They called my mother,
who was in Los Angeles, to help them.
At the time, my parents had only been
Islamic tenants were planning to arrest
in the United States for three years after
my grandfather in order to seize his assets.
fleeing Iran. Our family had no contacts
My grandparents faced the problem of
in Portugal and knew no one who could
fleeing Iran, which had closed its borders
help my grandparents. My mother, who
during the Iran-Iraq war at that time.
was pregnant at the time, had no friends
However, a greater challenge was how
or contacts in the community and knew
to bring along my grandfathers 92-yearno immigration lawyers, yet she turned
parents turned to smugglers, who agreed
to get them out of Iran and into Pakistan
Temple Beth Am at the time and the very
By Karmel Melamed
warm Rabbi Pressman not only commoney to also smuggle out my greatforted my worried mother, but he made
:LWK WKH SDVVLQJ RI 5DEEL -DFRE grandmother, who was drugged during many important phone calls to Jewish
Pressman, my family and I were sadFRQWDFWV KH KDG LQ /LVERQ :LWK 5DEEL
dened and surprised to hear the news of trouble. And so their dangerous journey Pressmans phone calls, his Jewish conhis death. Although we had not had con- of escape from Iran began on February tacts in Lisbon quickly picked up my
tact with him in nearly 30 years, Rabbi 8, 1983, as they left behind everything grandparents from the motel and welPressman had a very special place in they owned
our hearts because of his very kind help except for
to our family during our desperate time a
of need. There are perhaps hundreds of h a n d b a g .
stories of different individuals Rabbi Overnight,
Pressman touched and aided during his my grandlifetime, but his remarkable actions in p a r e n t s
March 1983 saved the lives of my grand- had lost
parents and great-grandmother, who had t h e i r
IOHG ,UDQ VHHNLQJ IUHHGRP LQ WKH :HVW vast forHe did not seek fame, glory or any per- tune and
sonal gain for what he did for my family, could face
it was an unselfish act of kindness that immediate
saved lives and exemplified the true imprisonment or
essence of Rabbi Pressman.
The miraculous story of my grandpar- even exeents escape from Iran with the help of cution by
smugglers more than three decades ago the Islamic
is just one of the hundreds of thousands r e g i m e
of stories of Jews, Christians, Bahais ruling Iran if they were caught trying comed them into their small community
and others who fled Iran to escape per- WR IOHH ,UDQ LOOHJDOO\ :LWK WKH KHOS RI just in time for the Passover holiday.
secution from the radical Islamic regime opium smugglers, my grandparents, my Just when my parents had lost all hope
that had taken over the country in 1979. great-grandmother and a Bahai family of anyone helping my grandparents durMany Jews who fled Iran in the late were smuggled illegally in a dangerous ing their dire time of need, there was
1970s and 1980s left behind friends, journey out of Iran and into the Pakistani only one man, Rabbi Jacob Pressman,
family, millions of dollars worth of border town of Quetta through a moun- who was like an angel and did everybusinesses, properties and other assets. tainous dirt road.
thing in his power to save my grandparNot knowing anyone in Quetta, my
My maternal grandparents were among
ents. During subsequent meetings with
the thousands of Jews living in Iran who grandparents and great-grandmother my mother, Rabbi Pressman made more
feared for their lives because of their
phone calls to Lisbon, and with his direct
Jewish faith and were forced to escape Pakistan, where they were safeguard- help, as well as others in Lisbon, my
that regime. My grandfather, who was in ed for a few days at the home of a grandparents were eventually granted
his 50s at the time, and my grandmother, Pakistani Jewish family. Jews fleeing temporary entry visas to Italy as refugees
who was in her early 40s, saw their seem- Iran into Pakistan were hot com- fleeing Iran. Again, Rabbi Pressman coningly peaceful and very affluent lives in modity at that time because the Iranian tinued to make phone calls to his Jewish
Tehran overturned in January 1983 when regime had offered large rewards to any community contacts in Rome who aided
their friends urged them to leave the Pakistanis who would turn over escap- my grandparents as they sought asycountry, because some of their tenants HHV IURP ,UDQHVSHFLDOO\ -HZV :LWK lum in the United States. Eventually,
limited funds, my grandparents bribed
were Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
my grandparents and great-grandmother


were granted religious asylum and given

visas to come to the United States where
our family was reunited. Rabbi Pressman
never once sought praise from us, never
asked any questions, nor did he seek the
public limelight for his actions to help
our family. He did these actions out of
his compassionate heart and a desire to
help his fellow man. This was just the
type of remarkable man he was and we
knew this instantly because of his unconditional love for others.
Every year for the last 32 years as we
have gathered for the Passover meal at
my grandparents home, my emotional
mother has always recalled those painful
weeks and months at the office of Rabbi
Pressman. His warm heart and unselfish
support to her has been something our
entire family has always been grateful for
and never forgotten. In a time when many
Iranian immigrants living in Southern
California were hated, disrespected or
shunned by most Americans after the
Iran hostage crisis, Rabbi Pressman
acted in the complete opposite manner.
He lifted us up in our hour of trouble and
made us believe that America was truly
our new home and a place for hope after
fleeing the anti-Semitism and hatred of
the Islamic regime in Iran.
It should be noted that at the
time Rabbi Pressman helped
my grandparents, there were
no organized American or
European Jewish efforts to
support Jews fleeing Iran.
Subsequently the Hebrew
Immigrant Aid Society
(HIAS) created a program
for Iranian Jews fleeing Iran
and provided temporary
housing, food and support to
them in Vienna, Austria as
they sought immigration to
the U.S. or Israel.
Rabbi Jacob Pressmans
passing has left a void in
our hearts and in the hearts
of the entire community in Beverly Hills
and the Los Angeles area. His tremendous giving of time, energy and passion
for the betterment of Jew and non-Jew
alike in this community was something
mourn his passing with the Pressman
family, we thank god every day that
our paths crossed with Rabbi Pressman
because our family would not have been
the same without his help. His entire life
was dedicated to the betterment of society and his generosity of the heart continues to inspire us today to unselfishly help
others in need and seek to heal the world.

In a time when many Iranian

immigrants living in Southern California
were hated, disrespected or shunned by
most Americans after the Iran hostage
crisis, Rabbi [Jacob] Pressman acted in the
complete opposite manner. He lifted us up
in our hour of trouble and made us believe
that America was truly our new home.

sports cont. from page 5

5-0 the Normans have faced this season,
following South Pasadena, San Marino and
Oak Park.
El Segundo uses a pro-style offense. It

Page 6 Beverly Hills Weekly

Beverly Hills has lost 18 of its past 20

league games dating back to the start of the
Division poll released Monday.
Beverly Hills lost to the Eagles 50-0 last 2011 season, with both victories coming
season. The Normans are 0-10 in Ocean over Hawthorne.
The high school football website Calpreps
League play under Stansbury.

Karmel Melamed is an attorney and

an award-winning internationally published journalist based in Southern
projects a 42-6 El Segundo victory. It had
projected South Pasadena would defeat the
Normans 35-14.
- Sports by Steven Herbert