Community Mourns Younes Nazarian

Philanthropist, businessman and community leader Younes Nazarian passed away at his home in Los Angeles on March 18. He was 91. Born in Tehran, Iran in 1931, Younes immigrated to Israel shortly after it achieved statehood. He returned to Iran in the early 1950s and proceeded to establish several businesses there with his brother. He fled Iran shortly before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, realizing the danger posed to Jews in his country of birth. Younes took his family first to Israel and then the United States, where he achieved tremendous success as a businessman, including as an early investor and member of the Board of Directors of Qualcomm, Inc. and as chairman of Nazarian Enterprises. 

Younes was one of the foremost leaders in the Persian Jewish communities in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. 

Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Lili Bosse, a close friend of the Nazarian family, described Younes as a “guardian angel on this earth.” 

She added, “He was the kindest, most humble, warm, open hearted man and had the most generous, loving soul of anyone I had ever had the honor to know and love. He truly was the purest human being that inspired goodness, honesty, and humanity when we all need true role models of pure kindess now more than ever. He touched thousands of lives and has a family that continues his legacy as they too, live with the same moral compass that made him so rare and special. “

Younes and his wife of more than six decades, Soraya, were devoted to educating others about Israel. The couple’s philanthropic endeavors were considerable, and included The Younes & Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation and The Ima Foundation in the US and Israel, respectively. Both are dedicated to promoting education. Other institutions bearing the Nazarian name include the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA, the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Performing Arts at CSUN and the Nazarian Pavilion in the historic Doheny Library at USC. 

In Israel, the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Library at Sapir College and the University of Haifa, the Haifa University Memorial Scholarship program, Bezalel Academy of the Arts, Israel’s National Library and The Hebrew University also benefitted from Nazarian’s considerable generosity. 

“Younes was a brilliant entrepreneur, a kind and generous person, a builder of bridges between people and nations, and a firm believer in the power of education to transform one’s life,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “

Younes served on the Board of Directors for the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, Iranian American Jewish Federation, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. He served as Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Governors for the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and previously as Chairman of the Haifa Foundation. He also served as Chairman of the Habib Levy Cultural and Educational Foundation and as a Member of the Board of Governors of the University of Haifa.  

Nazarian was honored with Israel’s Torch Lighting Ceremony on Mount Hertzl, a distinction usually reserved only for those born in Israel.

He is survived by his wife, Soraya; their four children David, Shula, Sharon and Sam, daughters-in-law Angella and Emina; sons-in-law Fernando and Matt; eleven grandchildren and one great-grandson.  

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