At L.A. cultural center, Middle East translates to coexistence, not conflict

By Anthony Weiss

LOS ANGELES (JTA) – It’s Friday night, and patrons are sitting and chatting over plates of tajine and hummus waiting for the evening’s main event, a stand-up comedy show.

It could be any nightspot in this city. But a closer look reveals a bolder agenda than just good food and entertainment.

The comedy show, part of a long-running series called “The Sultans of Satire,” features Muslim and Jewish comedians with roots in Iran, Afghanistan and Morocco. The room’s walls, meanwhile, display an art exhibition about the struggles of Native Americans, the Irish and Palestinians.

 Jordan Elgrably is the executive director of the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles. (Anthony Weiss/JTA)

Jordan Elgrably is the executive director of the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles. (Anthony Weiss/JTA)

Welcome to the Levantine Cultural Center, a nonprofit arts and culture hub whose modest home in a corner storefront on Pico Boulevard belies its grand ambition to bridge the fault lines of the contemporary Middle East.

Launched in 2001, the center aims to foster cultural understanding through concerts, language classes and discussion panels, serving quite literally as a space for common ground.

Read full story