Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Nowparvar.
Nicole, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
LA’s Jewish Iranian community is full of leaders, founders, creatives, and entrepreneurs. Our hospitality is unmatched, our wisdom is diverse and our cooking is unreal. Many of our families came to America from Iran with almost nothing and now we are amongst the most successful demographics in the world. Our community’s events consist of extravagant weddings, huge Shabbat dinners, and galas on fleek.
But there’s something missing. Are we really connecting or does it just look like we are? Are we fully ourselves with others or are we guarded? Are we picking goals that feel authentic and fulfilling or are we just doing what the community expects us to do?
I asked myself these very questions years ago when I was living in New York. Originally from LA, I moved to The Big Apple not only to receive my Masters in Social Work & become a licensed psychotherapist but for another reason. A secret reason.
I moved because I felt stuck in the judgment and expectations of the Jewish Iranian community and I needed to escape. I moved to break free. I was tired of the gossip, the superficial conversations, and the pressure to meet a very specific set of rules.
But when it was time to come back to LA, I was terrified. I felt like an outsider. I felt my community here wouldn’t accept all of me as I truly was such as my sense of independence, my opinions, and my newfound sassiness.
And I knew that I couldn’t go back to LA if I didn’t start to form a new relationship with it. I needed a community that was based on compassion, open-mindedness, courage and self-development.
Sure enough, within a few months of moving back, I met Dorsa Beroukhim Kay and Farah Shamolian and I realized I am not the only one who wants to see and be a change in this community. And soon realized many of us feel this way in our community here in LA.
We began six years ago in Dorsa’s dining room as a Jewish Iranian Women’s Empowerment organization with an email list of 60 women. We focused on putting on six intimate and meaningful events a year. We volunteered our time and were donation-based. Each event was and still is curated from start to finish with experiential activities and productive ways to address taboo topics such as women’s fertility, mental health, and healthy boundaries.
It wasn’t long before the men in our community started knocking on our doors, hungry for deeper connection and asking how they can attend one of our meaningful and rich events. With their support, men and women began to gather in our community. We built a programming board and I found myself in my life’s purpose as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Chaya Community- a sacred space for Jewish Iranians to experience meaningful connection and deepen their sense of self.
Today, we have successfully implemented over 300 events with a community of 7,000 Jewish Iranians both male and female ages 18-75.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The universe has constantly given us positive reinforcement about our mission. With events selling out faster than we can produce them, attendees expressing feelings of relief about the presence of our platform, and pure bliss at the closing of each gathering; it’s clear we are on the right path. Simultaneously, Chaya has been a huge mirror for us to begin to look at our own judgments, played-out stories, and an invitation to always deepen on our mission. On the flip side, our biggest struggle has been getting decisive about when to be exclusive and when to be inclusive. The goal of Chaya is for all Jewish Iranians to be able to remove their guards of shame and fear. We exercise four main values: Compassion (replacing judgment with curiosity), Open Minds (being open to chewing on new ideas), Courage (sharing about your own experiences), and Growth (striving to always be a better version of ourselves). On the same token, if an attendee uses violent communication or lacks the ability to take accountability for their unhealthy behavior; we reorient them to the intentions of the group. If they continue to show unwillingness to practice our core values, we prioritize the emotional safety of the community and do not ask these individuals to come back to future events. Setting these boundaries has been tough because we want everyone to enjoy what we are creating but also necessary for the well-being of our community.
Please tell us about Chaya Community.
Chaya Community is a sacred space for Jewish Iranians to experience meaningful connections and deepen their sense of self. We actualize this mission by curating over 40 intimate events a year and by being a trusted resource for our community to explore deep conversations about juicy topics such as: career, dating, and self-worth. Each event is facilitated by experts, professors, and counselors so our community can learn the skills necessary to communicate clearly about our needs and to create fulfilling relationships. Chaya celebrates diversity instead of shaming differences by having real conversations about which traditions to keep and which ones to let go of, taking only the best our culture has to offer and allowing it to enhance our lives even more. It challenges the stereotypes of what it means to be Jewish Iranian by highlighting empowered leaders, speakers, and bad-asses to act as models for our community.
While there are over 20 organizations in LA who’s mission for Jewish Iranians is politically, religiously, or matchmaking focused, what’s unique about Chaya is it invites us to take off the mask and explore each other’s values, beliefs, triggers, and passions.
As a result, lasting friendships are built, career networks are expanded, and people may even find their “soulmate”. These relationships are stronger because at Chaya we are showing up authentically, courageously, and compassionately- and as one of the leaders of this community, I couldn’t be more proud of us for this reason alone.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was celebrated at home and bullied at school. I felt I could be in self-expression in certain contexts and was very guarded in others. I thought I had to choose between being authentically me or fitting in. When it was time for high school, I abandoned myself; traded who I genuinely was for connection. And I think many of us struggle with this. It ultimately inspired me to have the vision for Chaya- a place where we can belong and expand all the dynamic parts of ourselves, together.
- Dinner With Strangers – intimate events where we hand pick 5 men and 5 women to dive into a controversial topic such as sex, tahroff, and gender roles with activities and discussion facilitated by an expert. Tickets are $42 per person
- Women on Purpose- for Jewish Iranian Women to connect to, enhance, and support one another’s purpose and career. A place to celebrate our successes and gracefully move through our challenges. Topics include (boundaries, work life balance, leadership and career transitions). Tickets are $26 per person
- Website: www.chayacommunity.com
- Phone: 310-927-1909
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @Chaya_Community
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChayaCommunity1/?ref=br_tf&epa=SEARCH_BOX