My name is Jonathan Elist, and I’m the husband of Shirin Elist, son of Nancy and James Elist, and brother of Jasmine and Jordan Elist. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I am a proud Jewish-American of Persian heritage and a native of Los Angeles. I have the good fortune of having graduated from Harvard Westlake and Princeton, Stanford, and Harvard Universities. Professionally, I have spent most of my career in management consulting with a focus on healthcare and the public sector. These opportunities led me to many fascinating clients and destinations across the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and the U.S. I now lead a medical device start-up that has developed a unique, FDA-cleared implant that could dramatically improve the cross section of aesthetics and urology.
Having traveled around the world, I eventually began to deepen my roots in the community where I grew up. I married my beautiful wife Shirin in late 2015, I became a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and I began my involvement with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles initially through the Rautenberg New Leaders Project. I am also a co-chair of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation Iranian Young Leadership Initiative, which seeks to enhance the involvement of fellow Jews of Persian descent, and my wife and I are members of LA Couples. Each of these programs has touched a unique aspect of my life whether it is career success, the depth of my relationships, or building a greater appreciation of my various communities. I look forward to my continued and growing involvement with The Jewish Federation for many years to come.
What defines Jewish culture or tradition for you?
For me, Jewish tradition is defined by its contrasts. It is a distinct community that has its own set of norms. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition is also defined by the larger world context in which it exists. For example, many observant Jews follow several dietary restrictions that facilitate inward focus and community building. However, Jewish tradition also profoundly values tikkun olam, which covers a broad, global mandate. This contrast between deepening one’s roots whilst stretching one’s branches is what makes Jewish tradition beautiful, confusing, human, and divine.
You know you’re from / live in L.A. when…
Having access to some of the best culinary traditions from the world within blocks of each other seems normal.
What inspired you to get involved in Federation? So far, what is your favorite memory from your work with Federation?
I was driven by a desire to deepen my roots in the Jewish community where I grew up. My favorite memory was when our cohort with the New Leaders Project had an opportunity to lobby members of the California State Assembly and Senate on important issues facing the Jewish community such as ongoing support for Holocaust survivors.
Why is this Jewish community important? Why should others get involved?
One of the fundamental lessons I have learned in my relatively short time so far is the deep human desire for connection and community. The Jewish community is a very special one in that it has its own distinct traditions that have been refined over millennia. For me, the Jewish community and the values it represents allow me to feel supported with each step I take in my family life, my professional life, and my civic engagement. If other Jews seek this depth and support, I would suggest they begin by developing a more profound relationship with their own historic traditions.
Is there a Jewish tradition/ritual you think is nice/meaningful that you want to be doing now/still doing 10 years from now?
One of the most meaningful Jewish traditions is celebrating Shabbat. My wife and I enjoy Shabbat as a time to reconnect and further build our marriage foundation. I get her roses before Shabbat begins to show my appreciation for what she does, and she leads the lighting of the Shabbat candles. These small gestures remind us of what is important and help us unwind from the week.
Something you’re still working on?
I’m still working on my ability to compartmentalize different parts of my life, particularly my ability to separate seemingly all-encompassing aspects of my work from my priority of building my family unit every day.
Did you have a Bar Mitzvah?
Yes. My Bar Mitzvah theme was books. Not a genre of books, but rather all of the books.
The world could use a little more…
Thoughtful discourse. I enjoy getting to know those people around me and learning the unexpected aspects of their story. I aspire to make each conversation an opportunity for deeper understanding.
What’s your favorite place in L.A., and why?
My favorite place in L.A. is the Venice Canals. I had my first kiss with my wife there. It’s also a beautiful oasis of serenity in the city.
The Y&S Iranian Young Leadership Initiative at The Jewish Federation is committed to honoring and celebrating Iranian heritage and culture and engaging Iranian Jewish young adults with the Federation and the Jewish community at large. The vision for this Initiative includes one big inclusive Jewish community of Iranian Jewish young adults participating and leading across the greater community alongside Jews of all cultural backgrounds. This Initiative is in partnership with the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation and was launched in May 2017. To learn more, e-mail Nazarian@JewishLA.org.
LA Couples is an 18-month program for committed partners in their 20s and 30s interested in enriching their lives socially, educationally, and spiritually. Couples learn about the L.A. Jewish community, meet local leaders, and get introduced to the world of Jewish philanthropy. Perfect for pairs who are curious about their Jewish identities, eager to engage in discussions about Jewish issues, and passionate about supporting the local and global Jewish community. Attend exclusive events with premier educators and get the opportunity to meet and be mentored by some of the most influential leaders in the community. Next cohort applications will open in Fall of 2019, For more information contact LACouples@JewishLA.org.