Growing up in Iran, there were parts of Dr. Sima Goel’s childhood that were idyllic. She remembers making wine with her family, helping her mother and siblings prepare for Shabbat, and the large celebrations held in their garden.
As she got older, political unrest began to take its toll on Iran. At age 13, Goel was protesting in the streets against the Shah’s oppressive rule. After he fled the country, the new Ayatollah Khomeini regime took control and quickly proved to be much more oppressive and dangerous.
In 1979, the regime passed a law requiring every female to wear a hijab. The head-to-toe coverings were hot and hard to move in. Stories circulated of men on motorcycles who would throw acid on the face of anyone not wearing the hijab properly.
Life in Iran became harder and harder for Goel. She was blacklisted by her school and lost access to education, and eventually was forced to go into hiding. Goel’s mother, seeing that life was not going to get better for her daughter, encouraged her to flee and connected her with smugglers who could get her out of Iran.
It was a harrowing journey across the deserts of Iran and Pakistan, walking for miles through calf-high sand, hiding from thieves and rapists and constantly fearing for her life. She eventually made it to Canada, arriving penniless, unable to speak English or French and not knowing anyone other than her two sisters who had fled Iran with her.
Goel will share her incredible experiences at the Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy Annual Meeting, Wednesday, August 28, in the Jewish Community Campus Social Hall.
“Sima’s story is a powerful one, and very inspiring,” said Heidi Atlas, who is co-chairing the event along with Taly Friedman and Joyce Hess. “It will make you appreciate all the freedoms we often take for granted.”
“We’re so happy that Jewish Federation has the opportunity to bring the women in our community together to hear Sima’s message,” added Laurie Goldstein, Director of Women’s Philanthropy. “As Jewish women, we can all identify with her story of strength and resilience.”
While crossing the dessert, Goel promised herself that – if she survived – she would write her story. Her memoir, ‘Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran,’ was published in 2015.
Annual meeting attendees will receive a signed copy of the book and have the opportunity to get a personalized message from Goel after the program. In addition to her presentation, the evening includes a Vaad-supervised dessert reception and will honor incoming and outgoing Women’s Philanthropy board members.
The Women’s Philanthropy Annual Meeting takes place at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, August 28 in the Jewish Community Campus Social Hall. It is open to the entire Jewish community. Tickets are $36. To guarantee you receive your signed book at the event, please make your reservations as early as possible. Registration closes August 23. You can register at jewishkansascity.org/women19 or by calling 913.327.8107.