The stunning facility, named the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Day Care and Early Childhood Education Center, was dedicated last week in a festive and emotional ceremony attended by Soraya Nazarian and her daughter, Dr. Sharon Nazarian; WIZO President Esther Mor and Chairperson Anita Friedman, and dozens of friends of the Nazarian family and members of the WIZO community.
WIZO operates 183 day care centers throughout Israel, caring for 14,000 children ages 3 months to 3 years. The new Nazarian Center will have four classes, with more than 100 children. The demand for the new center is enormous, with a waiting list of 150 children for next year.
For the Nazarian family, WIZO's outstanding reputation for early childhood care was a central consideration in its philanthropic decision. "Reseach has shown that the investment in children between birth and five years old is critical, and that if you start that young, the rest of their lives will be a path to success," said Dr. Sharon Nazarian in her remarks at the ceremony. "This facility, and the staff and teachers who are so loving, are the insurance policy of the future of the State of Israel."
Dedication ceremony – Anita, Esther, Soraya, Sharon, and DCC teacher Ilana
WIZO Chairperson, Anita Friedman: "The partnership between the Nazarian family and WIZO, born of a love for Israel, its children, and a deep concern for its future, has given birth to this magnificent act of generosity, in support of this new center, which is all about our love for Israel, its children, and its future."
WIZO President Esther Mor agreed: "The Nazarian Family Foundation and WIZO share the belief that education is the most important catalyst for social change. By investing in young children, we are investing in Israel's future, as the toddlers in this wonderful center will one day be our nation's leaders, innovators and defenders."
The partnership between the Nazarian Foundation and WIZO is a culmination of a relationship going back to Israel's earliest days, in the 1950s, when the Nazarian family matriarch, Goldbahar Aviva Chachami Nazarian – know to everyone as Ima ("mother") -- volunteered in WIZO medical facilities after making aliya to Israel from Iran.
A passion for WIZO was passed on by Ima to her daughter-in-law Soraya, who became a founding member of WIZO Los Angeles after she and her husband Younes moved to the U.S. from Iran. For decades, she has been a generous supporter of WIZO's Sponsor a Child campaign, and remains an active member of WIZO LA till this day.
Sharon, Anita, Soraya, Esther – in front of the bronze relief of the image of the family matriarch
Soraya, who is a renowned sculptor, created and donated to WIZO a beautiful bronze relief of Ima's image. The sculpture, with an inscription telling the story of the family matriarch, now adorns the entrance to the building. The children of the day care center now have a second "Ima".
"The only thing missing from this joyous moment is the patron of the Nazarian family, Mr. Younes Nazarian," said Ms. Friedman. We had so hoped that he would be able to join us for this moment, so he could see with his own eyes the great value and beauty his generosity has made possible. He will always be a member of the WIZO family."
Younes and Soraya Nazarian are prominent members of the Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles, and are renowned for their years of philanthropic work for the community in diverse fields such as the arts, health and institutions of higher education, both in America and Israel.
"The Nazarian family's commitment to the advancement of Israeli society is expressed in three main ways – education, art, and medicine," said Esther Barak Landes, CEO of the Ima Foundation, the Israeli arm of the Nazarian Foundation. She added that a fourth goal, that will soon become the Foundation's main focus, is empowering women in society.
Photo credits: Kfir Sivan