Meet Professor Saba Soomekh

Saba Soomekh
Professor Saba Soomekh was born in Tehran and raised in Los Angeles, California.  She teaches Religious Studies, Women’s Studies and Middle Eastern history courses. She teaches and writes extensively on World Religions, Women and Religion and the History of Modern Israel and Iran.  Professor Soomekh is the author of the book “From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture.”  Her book was awarded the Gold Medal in the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award in the Religion Category.  Dr. Soomekh is an Executive Board Member of Loyola Marymount University’s Jewish Studies Advisory Board and a member of the Iran Task Force for the American Jewish Committee. Besides giving numerous scholarly and public presentations on Iran, the Jewish community and women in the developing world, she is also a member of the city of Los Angeles’ Human Resource Commission where she is involved in interfaith and intercultural projects.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely and accomplished Professor Saba Soomekh:
When did you and your family move to the United States?
We moved in 1978.  I was only two years old so I have no memory of Iran.  It’s ironic that I write and teach about Iran, but I rely on my Iranian students, who can travel back and forth to Iran, to tell me what’s going on there.
What is your education and background?
I went to Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles until 8th grade then to Beverly Hills High School.  I attended UC Berkeley for my undergraduate studies in Religious studies. Afterwards I went to Harvard Divinity School, where I received my Master’s degree, followed by a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
How did you become interested about writing about Iran?
My PhD is in Religious Studies. Among the many topics that I focused on was women in the Middle East.  I realized that there is not much written about Iranian Jewish women and their perspective.  I was interested in learning about my grandmothers and great-grandmothers.  I feel that as immigrants who were rejected from their homeland after 2500 years, we were forgetting the stories that had been passed down to us.  So I began asking questions to learn about our history in order to pass down the stories.  I want my students to know about their history.
How do you manage your time between family and your career?
I’m not married yet, so it makes it easier.  However, I teach five classes and I do volunteer quite a bit. But I’ve learned to say no as a way of putting value on my own time.
What advice do you have for the younger generation?
My advice to young people is to pursue their dreams, work hard, and have faith in yourself.  When I was about to leave for college for UC Berkeley, I heard a lot of discouraging comments and advice.  But I had faith in what I wanted to do and faith in myself.  Having confidence in myself allows others to have confidence in me.
Professor Soomekh’s upcoming seminars will include the following topics: the Arab Spring, Middle Eastern literature and Religious Studies.
 
If you are interested in private group seminars with her contact Saba at:
Ssoomekh@yahoo.com
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