October 30, 2006

Sepharadi-Persian Night Promotes Cultural Unity

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Middle Eastern cultures united last Thursday at Sepharadi-Persian Night. Hosted by the Sepharadi and Mizrachi Association at Cornell (SMAC) and the

Iranian Student Organization (ISO), the fourth-annual event was intended to create a positive atmosphere on campus through cultural collaboration.
Trillium was decorated for the night with lights and colors, as traditional music played. The event began with ethnic food and a performance by the Persian Music Ensemble. A formal introduction was given by ISO president Kevin Boroumand ’08 and SMAC president Jared Hakimi ’07.

Boroumand discussed Iranian history, focusing on the climate and religions in Iran and famous Iranians, while Hakimi spoke on the history of Sepharadi and Mizrachi Jews, who hail from the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia. Both concluded that the Persian and Sepharadi and Mizrachi cultures have intersecting demographics and thus have many similarities.

“Persian time equals Sepharadi time, which equals standard time plus 30 minutes,” Hakimi joked.

The night progressed with Eslam Anthony Shams, an Iranian stand-up comedian. During his two acts, Shams poked fun of Middle Eastern religions.
“Roses are reddish, violets are bluish, if it weren’t for Jesus, we’d all be Jewish,” Shams said, drawing many laughs from the audience.
The Teszia Belly Dance Troupe and the Beketsev Israeli Dance Troupe presented another Middle Eastern view of the night.

Symbolically, an Iranian flag as well as an Israeli flag hung behind the stage, showing that Cornellians can come together regardless of politics.

“The overarching goal is to show how by working together, our groups and our cultures can make great contributions,” Boroumand said. “As soon as we put up the two flags- one of the state of Israel and the other of the Islamic Republic of Iran — we accomplished that goal and it is especially great since the event was such a huge success this year.”

Hakimi, who has been a part of the event for the past three years, said, “I want this symbol to keep happening. This is what the Cornell experience can and should be.”

This year’s event improved upon the past through a better collaboration between the two groups, and attendance by 20 trustees. The event attracted about 700 people.

Boroumand said, “One of the major accomplishments of this year was that ISO and SMAC really got together to plan the night and run the event. In those last two crunch weeks I saw a lot of friendships form between members of the two groups.”

Hakimi continued, “With strong will, anyone can come together to celebrate diversity. This is easy to say, but a lot different when you actually see and feel it. If we plant the seeds of tolerance, we can create something. That’s what events like this one have the power to do — change the status quo.”