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May 31, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 31,2013 PAGE 13A By Sean Savage On May 21, Iran's Guard- ian Council released a list of "approved" candidates for the upcoming June 14 presidential election• As expected, the list of eight candidates included a number of hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah All Khamenei, crushing any hope that Iran's nextpresidentwould bring about new policies that Would end the nuclear standoff with the West, economic sanc- tions and domestic political repression. Nevertheless,' many in the West are interested in the upcoming election. The last election in 2009 launched major protests that became known as the "Green Revolution," after reformist candidate Mir Hos- sein Mousavi lost to incumbent MahmoudAhmadinejad. Many in Iran accused the Guardian Council, which is a constitu- tionally mandated 12-member council of Islamic jurists with wide ranging powers over the country, of rigging the elec- tion in favor of the hardliner, Ahmadinejad.Butdespiteweeks a renewe of protests, the government assoonaspossible.Government candidates.Ibelievethecountry "What surprised me was not continue to be stalled. The brutallyquashedtherevolution. • officials also advised that I stay issetforfurtherradicalism.The that he was disqualified--I was Iranian government will be With many of Iran's 2009 away from this campaign and next candidate will be more surprisedthathehadregistered more belligerent and will make opposition movement in jail or work for the future instead, right-wing than [Mahmoud] at all. In fact, I was shocked he no concessions on its nuclear underhousearrest, the current "Conservative fundamental- Ahmadinejad. registered. How can he, living program. line-up appears to signal that istshavetakenoverthecountry. "Of the eight selected, there in the country and being a "The economicpolicywillbe Iranwillcontinueitsmoveaway They don't want any moder- are no candidates for change. I founderofthesystem, knowing further closed offand isolation- from the West. ates or reformists to return to believe [top nuclear negotiator everybodyandeverythingabout ist. There will be more of this Dr. Hoo~hang Amirahmadi, power." Saeed] Jalili is slated for the the current regime, how can so-called'resistance'economy, who considered running on a Was there any support for presidency. I believe he is the he not figure out the negative which I hear about in Iran. It reformist platform for Iran's your candidacy? system's (Iran's religious es- environment? It is shocking." promotes self-sufficiency and presidency but decided not to "To my pleasant surprise, tablishment) favorite, unless Doestheresultofthelranian isolationism• All of this is not submit his candidacy, is now I saw and learned that my something happens of course, election make a difference for good news for Iran. launchinganewinitiativecalled campaign was very popular, Iran is always full of surprises, the United States and Israel? "But the good news is that "ACampaign for a Better Iran." especially with younger Irani- like we saw four years ago." "There is no difference be- theIranianpeoplewantchange. He spoke exclusively with JNS.. ans, there fromtheentiresocial What type of leader will tween all of [the candidates] on There is no way the regime can orgabout his recent experience andsatellitemediaattentionmy Jalili be? Israel. They are all on the same continue down this path. They in Iran, the presidential elec- campaigngot.Formanypeople, "He is an ultraconservative; page when it comes to Israel. Is- willeventuallyhavetogiveinto tion, and Iran's future, it was the only real campaign, he doesn't have the kind of raelandtheUnitedStatesarethe the people's demands. There is What happened and the Iranian people were mentality or heart to make onlytwounifyingfactorsamong nomorecapacityleftinthesoci- duringyourrecent visit to Iran really happy about it. changes. Ultimately though, the religious fundamentalists, ety to tolerate this oppression." to register as a presidential "There areseriousconcerns hisviewsdon'tmatter, heisvery The moment this animosity What is your next move to candidate? inIranaboutthedirectionofthe close to the Supreme Leader,~ disappears, they are going to helpbringaboutchangeinIran? Dr. HooshangAmirahmadi:country, but the environment and his views will reflect that destroy each other. The only "Basedonmydecisionfornot "I withdrew my name from was too hostile for me. [It was] of the Supreme Leaders. He is common ground conservatives submitting my candidacy, we candidacy;Ididnotwanttogive toochaoticformetohaveagood going to be tough on U.S.-Iran haveishatredtowardsIsraeland are launching the 'Campaign theGuardianCouncilthehonor campaign, oranycampaignfor relationsandespeciallynuclear the United States. for a Better Iran.' We willwork of disqualifying me. I felt the that matter." negotiations. He also personally WheredoyouseeIranheaded with the next government as situation was really dangerous Whatwill the election be like, has no idea how the economy in the future? well as civil society to promote over there; itwas very security- andwho do you thinkwillwin? runs, which is something Iran "There will be less democ- change and advocate for more oriented, alotofconfusionand Will there be another 'Green needs." racy, less social freedom, lotsof productive policies. We will frightened people. There was a Revolution'likewesawin20097 What do you think of the pressure on women, the youth hopefully grow into a political lot of pressure on me [by col- "The election will not be disqualification of former and minorities, party.Butforrightnow, wewant leagues, friends and family] to a popular election; there will president All Akbar Hashemi "Ialsothinkthenegotiations tohelppeopleonthegroundget withdrawandleavethecountry not be any enthusiasm for the Rafsanjani? between Iran and the U.S. will organized and change,things." By Rebecca Spence JOSHUA TREE, Calif. (JTA)--In 1968, only six years after founding the AEPi chapter at his Long Island University campus, Steven Silberfein took one of the thousand names of the Hindu god Vishnu and became Srid- har Silberfein. A year later, the one-time Jewish fraternity brother escorted the Hindu teacher Swami Satchidananda to the stage at Woodstock to deliver an invocation in front of 500,000 flower children. Surveying the crowd, Sil- berfein turned to the cotton- bearded swami and said, "Wouldn't it be nice to get hll these people chanting the names of God?" "Forty years later we did that at Bhakti Fest," said Silberfein, 73, referring to the Indian devotional music festival he founded in 2009. Mounted twice a year in Joshua Tree, Calif., and now once a year in Madison, Wis., Bhakti Fest has become a fixture of the West Coast fes- tival circuit. The May festival known as Shakti Fest, in honor of Hinduism's divine feminine force, brought more than 1,500 yogis to the Mojave Desert two weeks ago for three days of chanting, breathwork, yoga and a more-than-healthy dose of kale seaweed salad. As blissed-out Californians floated around sipping 6oco- nut water and Vitamineral Green superfood, Silberfein, who has turned the festival's operations over to his oldest daughter, Mukti Silberfein, schmoozed with artists with names like Durga Das and Arjun Baba. Attended to by a bevy of young female assistants, Silberfein could easily be mistaken for a celebrity guru, though that's exactly the impression he'd like to avoid. "I'm just a regular guy," said Silberfein, sitting in his air-conditioned RV. "I still bow down to the feet of people. I'm Rebecca Spence Sridhar Silberfein, raised in a Jewish family on Long Island, N.Y., is the founder of the Hindu yoga festival Bhakti Fest. still scrubbing floors." Jews have long turned to Eastern philosophy to plug holes in their spiritual lives. Jewish Buddhists, or Jew- Bus,-are perhaps the best- known example, brought to widespread attention in the best-selling "The Jew in the Lotus," Roger Kamenetz's 1994 account of a dialogue between rabbis and the Dalai Lama. Less attention has been • devoted to the phenomenon of Hin-Jews, who populate the ranks of America's yogic elite in disproportionately large numbers. In addition to Silberfein and Ram Dass, who experimented with LSD at Harvard with Timothy Leary and is now revered as a master spiritual teacher, the biggest Western stars of the Indian call-and-response style of chanting known as kirtan are both New York-born Jews. Silberfein credits his Aus- trian-Jewish mother with teaching him how to cook and clean, as well as the value of service. Growing up on New York's suburban Long Island, Silberfein's mother would take in Polish and Jamaican immigrant women and train them to clean houses, he recalled.• "It was a form of seva, of service," he said, "but she didn't equate that." To his mother's dismay, Sil- berfein tookthat service ethic and applied it to his gurus, or Hindu spiritual teachers. His firstwas Swami Muktananda, a charismatic teacher whom Silberfein met while studying with Rudi, a Brooklyn-born Jew who in the early 1960s taught a form of eye-gazing meditation out ofa storefront in Greenwich Village. Rudi, born Albert Rudolph, hung photographs of Indian saints on the walls, includ- ing one of Muktananda's guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. Silberfein said he first ac- quired shaktipat--the Hindu• concept of spiritual transmis- sion-by looking at Nity- ananda's photo. "I had an overwhelming feeling oflovewhen I saw these pictures," he said. In 1970, Muktananda asked Silberfein and Ram Dass, who would go on to publish the spiritual classic "Be Here Now," to organize his first U.S. tour. Like Silberfein, Ram Dass--born Richard Alpert--also is Jewish, which led Muktananda to wonder why everyone he designated to his inner circle turned out to be Jewish. !'Someone said, 'It's be- cause they're the smartest guys around, they're closely aligned with the Indian businessmen,' " Silberfein recalled. At the time, Silberfein was a successful real estate broker. In 1978, he founded Desert Essence cosmetics and introduced tea tree oil to the Western market. But Silberfein attributes the af- finity between Jews and Hindu teachers to something more numinous than the Jewish ability to negotiate• "We were dissatisfied with the traditional Judaism we Govinddas and Radha perform May 18 on the main stage Tree, Calif. Rebecca Spence of the Shakti Fest in Joshua were being presented with," Silberfein said. "We knew that the formless exists, that the form is not the real truth, but the Jews didn't feel that•" Since Muktananda's death in 1982, Silberfein has been most closely aligned with Amma, the Indian holy wom- an known for giving hugs to followers who line up by the thousands for her embrace. When Amma makes her yearly pilgrimage to Califor- nia, Silberfein drives her from San Ramon, the Bay Area town that serves as the center of her U.S. operations, to Los Angeles, where for many years he hosted her at his Center for Spiritual Studies in Topanga Canyon. Silberfein used to live in Topanga Canyon, a hippie enclave in the Santa Monica Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. But he gave up his seven-acre ranch there nearly a decade ago when a visiting spiritual teacher told him that the property's Vastu--the Hindu equivalent of feng shui--would never allow him ~o have a good relationship with a woman• Silberfein, who is unmar- ried, has had three wives and ass'! for having spent his life four children, the youngest driving gurus around and not being 14. getting enough sleep. "I thought, 'Why didn'tWhen Silberfein told her you tell me that before?' " he was going to see the Silberfein said. mother--by which he meant As Silberfein's mother lay Amma--she said, 'I'm your dying, she told him he'd evem mother. 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