Carmella Pardo was born to an Iraqi family in Bombay, India and returned to Basra, Iraq as a small child with her parents and brother. In 1948 her father Salim was arrested by the Iraqi authorities and charged with being a communist and Zionist. He was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years of hard labor in a desert prison. Upon Salim’s imprisonment, her parents agreed that her mother should escape to Israel with Carmella and her brother. For more information on Carmella’s mother, please visit her website,

Carmella later immigrated to the United States as a student where she received her BA from Fordham University and an MA and ABD in Islamic Studies. At NYU she taught biblical Hebrew and Arabic. After Israel’s 1973 Yom Kippur War she decided to do work on behalf of Israel. She was appointed Director of Program Development for the American Zionist Federation. Two years later in 1976 she became the organization’s National Executive Director.

In 1981 Carmella resigned her position with the American Zionist Federation to work in in Los Angeles as a management consultant for “Global Management Assistance.” Later she was a general contractor for 22 years.

Carmella is a past President of Kehillat Maarav and has been active with the JCRC, Bnai Brith, the LA- Tel Aviv partnership and the Family Readiness Committee for the assistance of families of mobilized US Military Reservists.

“The JIMENA event with Carmella Pardo at Chabad of USC showcased a speaker whose stories definitely made an impact and hit close to home. As a student whose family comes from a similar background and situation, getting to hear another immigrant’s story about her struggle to reach a place of religious freedom left a lasting impression. Carmella Pardo was engaging, telling stories of her past in a way in which students our age and from our background could understand and attempt to relate to. Hearing of our speaker’s time in Israel and success in education and profession after leaving Iraq was most inspiring, showing students that even in light of adversity, anything can be accomplished. Her story reminded me to appreciate where I come from, what I have, and the journey that lies before me in life.”
-Tanya Benham, USC Undergrad Student

“JIMENA’s Mizrahi Shabbat really opened my eyes to the life of Jews in the Middle East. Our speaker, Carmella Pardo, eloquently stated the facts and the audience was so moved by her experience; she had our undivided attention. Her history of hardship honestly made me take a minute for gratitude to God for my blessings.”
-Joseph Cohan, USC Undergrad Student

Join us as we secure the rights of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East