At the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, nearly 100,000 Jews were living in Iran; today, less than 9,000 remain. Roland Sabet left Iran in 1953 for New York, and his family members were among the tens of thousands that left Iran in the wake of the overthrow of the Shah. The imprint of his Persian Jewish heritage and his immigrant experience in the US is an indelible one, and mirrors the narrative of other Iranian Jewish refugees.
Rolen Sabet was born in Tehran in 1931 and, in a recent interview with Sephardi Voices, he recalls a childhood filled with rich Jewish experiences and relative liberty—laced with discrimination and anti-Semitism. Educational experiences were limited for Jews, and for all citizens, and harassment by Muslim neighbors was common. Two years after the reign of the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, ended in 1979, his parents and siblings joined him in New York.
Rolen’s son, Michael Sabet, is a former student of Professor Henry Green, Executive Director of Sephardi Voices. Years after they met in a University of Miami classroom, Michael reconnected with Dr. Green when he moved with his family to Miami. Michael began generously funding scholarships by University of Miami faculty to Israel in an awareness-raising program spearheaded by Professor Green. The inspiration it generated among participants was, in turn, an inspiration for the younger Sabet.
When Sephardi Voices launched in 2009, its mission immediately resonated with Michael Sabet, and he began generously funding a series of initiatives. He wanted his family’s story to be recorded and passed on to his children. For Michael, the narrative of the Jews of the Middle East, North Africa, and Iran is an untold story. Saving the legacy of the Sephardi Jews so that future generations would know about their rich history was a goal he shared with Professor Green. Michael continues to be a generous supporter of Sephardi Voices.
“The upcoming photography exhibition at the University of Miami gallery in Wynwood, is a tribute to the important work that Sephardi Voices is doing in the preservation of our Sephardi and Persian heritage.”