NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Nazarian Enterprises; Qualcomm
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Education, Policy, Israel Advocacy, Arts
OVERVIEW: Younes Nazarian, his wife Soraya and family move their philanthropy through the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation. The foundation and its Israel-based sister outfit, the Ima Foundation, have been strong backers of a variety of Jewish causes in the U.S. and abroad. The Nazarians are major supporters of Friends of Israel Defense Forces. They also created the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. The foundation accepts letters of inquiry and grant proposals by invitation only.
BACKGROUND: Born in Iran, Younes Nazarian worked as a construction contractor. He moved his family to the U.S. by way of Israel during the impending Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s. He was an early investor in Qualcomm and served on the board of directors. He founded Nazarian Enterprises, which focuses on the diversification of assets across a variety of interests in the private, public and real estate markets.
EDUCATION: Last decade, the Nazarian Family Foundation gave a $5 million gift to UCLA to create the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, which promotes the study of the history, culture and society of Israel as a modern Jewish and democratic state." The family has continued to support UCLA through the years. The family foundation also created the Soraya Sarah Nazarian Program in Fine Arts, at American Jewish University. It's worth noting that Soraya has been taking sculpting classes at American Jewish University for decades and the arts are important to this family.
Other major philanthropic commitments include the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Younes and Soraya Library at the University of Haifa, the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Academic Library of the Ima Foundation at Sapir College, and The Technoda Dorset Science & Technology Center in Israel.
POLICY: Nazarian serves as an advisory board member of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy, and has helped fund the RAND Israel Project to explore energy alternatives. The family has also helped fund the RAND Policy and Public Safety Project in Israel, and the Middle East Media Research Institute, among others.
ARTS: The Nazarians have funded outfits like Beit Hatfutsot-Museum of the Jewish People, and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, the site of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Building.
ISRAEL ADVOCACY: Grantees include Friends of Israel Defense Forces; Hadassah, "a volunteer organization that inspires a passion for and commitment to its partnership with the land and people of Israel"; and WIZO, a provider of social welfare services in Israel. As well, the family's Ima Foundation is focused exclusively on Israel.
OTHER: The Nazarians gave at least $6 million to Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles last decade alone. They've also supported the Iranian Jewish Women's Organization, the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Sinai Temple, American Jewish Committee, among others. Los Angeles is an important site of philanthropy for this funder.
LOOKING FORWARD: Besides Nazarian and Soraya, their children also play an active role, particularly foundation president Sharon Nazarian, who's an adjunct professor at UCLA. One of the couple's sons, Sam Nazarian, meanwhile, is the CEO of prominent hospitality company SBE. There's plenty of money waiting in the wings here, and this active family's giving should be watched carefully, within Los Angeles and beyond.
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