Younes Nazarian, philanthropist, businessman and community leader, dies at 91

Younes Nazarian, philanthropist, businessman and community leader died March 18, 2022 at his Los Angeles home, surrounded by his wife of 61 years, Soraya Sarah Nazarian, and family. He was 91 years old.

Younes Nazarian was born in Tehran, Iran on January 26, 1931 to Davud and Golbahar Nazarian. He had an older brother; Parviz Nazaryan.

Raised from humble beginnings by a single mother in the southern ghettos of Tehran, Younes emerged with important survival tools that deeply marked her identity and deepened her will to succeed and overcome life’s challenges. He was trained as a tooling and dyeing technician at the railway technical school in Iran, but he realized early on that as a Jew, his homeland of Iran was not was not the place where he could achieve his dreams.

With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Younes left for Israel in pursuit of the Zionist dream around the age of 17. In 1953, the Middle Eastern oil boom offered the Iranian economy new prospects for economic success. Younes returned to his birthplace. Within a few years, Younes co-founded and owned businesses with his brother in infrastructure, manufacturing and import-export of European heavy construction equipment in Iran.

In the months leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Younes realized that life in Iran would no longer be safe for Jews. He fled to Israel with his family. Once he realized he could never return to his homeland again, Younes felt it best to move his family to the United States, where he and Soraya could begin to rebuild.

Upon his arrival in the United States, his strong sense of entrepreneurship led him to become part owner of Stadco, a company manufacturing tools and dyes in the aerospace industry. He was also an early investor and served on the board of San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc., a leader in wireless telecommunications, R&D and the world’s largest fabless chip vendor. He was president of Nazarian Enterprises, which focuses on asset diversification across a variety of interests in the private, public and real estate markets. Key industries include aerospace, manufacturing and logistics, technology, hospitality, and alternative energy, among others.

In 2000, Younes and his wife established the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation in the United States and the Ima Foundation in Israel, named after his mother. The primary mission of both foundations is to promote education as the most important catalyst for closing socio-economic gaps. He was instrumental in building bridges between the Iranian community and the greater American community.

Younes was a key supporter of numerous charities in the United States and Israel. He served on the national board of directors of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and was chairman emeritus of their West Coast office in Los Angeles. He has served as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, the Iranian-American Jewish Federation and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. He was Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Governors of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and formerly Chairman of the Haifa Foundation. He was also president of the Habib Levy Cultural and Educational Foundation and a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Haifa, to name a few of his many endeavours.

The Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA teaches students about the history, culture, and society of Israel. In Los Angeles, Younes established the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Performing Arts at CSUN, the Nazarian Pavilion in the historic Doheny Library at USC, Beit Midrash at Milken Community High School, and supported the Hammer Museum. In Israel, Younes & Soraya Nazarian Library at Sapir College and University of Haifa, University of Haifa Memorial Scholarship Program, Bezalel Academy of Arts, National Library of Israel and Hebrew University are all examples of supporting education.

Younes has earned honorary doctorates from the University of Haifa and California State University at Northridge.

Younes received Israel’s highest honor at the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Hertzl, usually reserved for Israeli-born citizens, and also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2011.

Younes is survived by his wife, Soraya; four children David Nazarian, Shula Nazarian, Sharon Nazarian and Sam Nazarian; daughters-in-law Angella and Emina; sons-in-law Fernando and Matt; eleven grandchildren Ariel, Aaron, Phillip, Elan, Sarah, Eli, Layla, Adam, Ella, Mia, Sha; and great-grandson Lev.

His funeral service is scheduled for March 20, 2022 at Eden Memorial Park Cemetery at 2 p.m. The memorial service will be held on March 24, 2022 at the Sinai Temple, Main Shrine at 6:30 p.m. Proof of vaccination is required upon entry. Shivah will be held March 21-23 at Sinai Temple, Kohn Chapel at 5:45 p.m.

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