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Archive for February 2012


More than just a summer volunteer experience

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat spent several weeks with AAANY this summer as a volunteer, and ended up as youth community organizer, building community and immersing himself into the culture. He shares his experiences here:

After spending a month at an Arabic immersion program this summer, I was inspired not only to apply what I had learned, but also to continue to be immersed in Arabic upon my return to New York. With a little research I found the Arab American Association of New York, an organization located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, serving a predominantly Arab-American community. I soon found that language-learning was not going to be central to my volunteer work. While one side of the organization was dominated by social work, I joined a group of high school volunteers highly motivated to break down the racial boundaries that they observed between youth had in the neighborhood. While I can't say that goal was entirely accomplished, for the duration of my volunteer work I had the opportunity to facilitate activities and discussions about race and identity, in an attempt to understand the tensions within the community. We also had the opportunity to meet with a few organizations in order to better understand how to stimulate interest in community projects. During the period that I worked at the Arab American Association, we launched what is now an online youth-run editorial, as a platform for high school students to share their perspectives called TheAmplifYer. After my experience this summer, I was surprised by the confidence as well as the range of skills that I acquired. I hope that others actively seek out similar opportunities and can enjoy the same rewards that I did.    

Kitaab Club Showing Love

Hanging out with kids on Valentine’s Day can be a great way to get back to the true meaning of the holiday. That was certainly our experience this week in Kitaab Club, AAANY’s afterschool literacy class for kids ages 5 – 13. As part of our continuing lessons on “exploring identity,” we talked with our class about words associated with this day: love, heart, caring, holiday, happy, friends and so on. Our main focus of the day, however, was family. Not only did the class teach each other important vocabulary for talking about their families, but they also made beautiful cards for their moms and dads showing their love and appreciation for their parents. As kid designed and created own their cards, it was particularly heartening to see them helping each other with spelling. After a month of Kitaab Club, this lesson really showed the progress our talented kids have made already both in their language skills and their creative self-expression. Stay tuned for reports on our upcoming classes where we will be making family trees and other fun activities!

- Emma Alpert

Creating Love on Eid el Hub

This week, the students of AAANY’s ESL program got together during their winter break to celebrate Valentine’s Day with volunteer art therapist Julia Kristeller.  As plates of basbusa, baklava and chocolate went around, students wrote Valentine’s Day cards (in English!) for loved ones and chatted with friends from class. Advanced students helped others jot down holiday wishes, and mothers with young children supervised the artistic endeavors of their very enthusiastic toddlers.  Women left the holiday workshop relaxed and ready for the new term of English classes, which begins January 27 at 9:30 am.

And don't forget, February is Love Your AAANY Month! Please donate, by clicking this link. Any amount you give will be doubled!

By Katie McCulloch

Someone like you

Yes indeed. Ibrahim, we have been waiting for someone like you. Today, Sarah, Hebba and I were judging talent for the upcoming show that are hosting on April 4th. With his hands in his pockets, and his eyes closed, he sang his heart out and swept his way into being a serious contender in the competition.

Listen here: Someone Like You -- Exclusive on AAANY.

With 8 contestants heard, and more to come, we are looking forward to putting the talent together for this incredible show!

Thank you to all the organizers and the hard work they have put in.

And don't forget to Love Your AAANY. Seriously, click this link and donate $10. And then get your friend to donate $10. February is more than half over and this month we are trying to reach $15,000, which will be matched by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.
- Christophe Jospe

Art: Looking From the Inside Out

On Thursday, February 9th, I was finally going to visit the newly reopened wing of Islamic art at the Met!  Katie, AAANY’s amazing English Literacy Coordinator, had planned an excursion for all the ladies in literacy classes, and I was thrilled to be invited along.  As any devoted Middle Eastern History Major I was filled with anticipation to see those delicate hand-painted artifacts from Abbasid Baghdad, and the lavish chambers of the Ottoman Sultans. And of course I could not wait to lay my eyes on the beautiful calligraphy of Arabic and Persian texts from great cities like Cairo, Damascus and Isfahan. In college student vernacular, it was going to be a total geek-out sesh, just me and my history.

But when I met up with the group of excited women in the lobby of the Met I forgot all about the Abbasids. Being a part of a large group of Arab-American women and their children when they entered that exhibit, getting to see the look of excitement on their faces, and be in the middle of that first eruption of camera flashes was magnificent. One look at their faces as they walked into the exhibit and I could see the deep personal connection they felt with that art. One woman said she felt like she was back in her family’s home in Yemen, another lady I saw stood still in the middle of the hall looking around and smiling. I was not really able to pay much attention to the art itself because I was running around helping people turn their flashes off and trying to keep the group together, but everyone in our group was trying to lecture everyone else so I learned a great deal. I heard a teenage daughter explaining to her mother an intricacy of Islamic architecture that she had learned in school. I saw a young mother explaining to her three year-old where Mecca was on a map. I giggled while listening to a grandmother repeatedly telling her grown-up daughter how to important it was to teach her children about this history, and I saw another visitor to the exhibit asking one of the AAANY ladies about the meaning of an Arabic inscription.

If I had gone to see the exhibit by myself I am sure I would have enjoyed it and maybe even learned something. But I would have learned in a very impersonal way about things distant from myself. Reading about history and culture is not the same as being with people and sharing in their culture. Getting to spend a wonderful morning with these ladies and then ride the subway back with them to Brooklyn afterwards let me feel personally connected with the art I was looking at, and see it from the inside out, instead of from the outside in.

  By Megan Tribble

Who's behind the desk at AAANY?

There are many faces, many services, and many programs at the Arab American Association of New York. We are a staff of eight, three being part-time. But working with our family of volunteers, interns, and professionals, we are able to provide a service and an exponential capacity. So as a kick-off to our blog, let’s answer the question, who are some of the people who sitting behind the desks at AAANY beyond our staff?

Liz has been with us since December as a Learning Leader Volunteer, and she brings her expertise in helping students apply to college -- from how to fill out the FAFSA to think about choices of where to go --and is a great addition to the AAANY family. She’s here every Wednesday 3:30-6, taking walk-ins and scheduled appointments.

We are also thankful for pro bono legal assistance. Tahani will stay late with clients on Wednesday nights even after we put the gate down. As a Lawyer, she sees cases from racial profiling to immigration. She is also an activist for the Arab and Muslim community, helping and supporting the stop NYPD surveillance campaign. Feras, an immigration lawyer, also comes on Tuesdays.

Kathy Khatari, Elizabeth, and Mary are all representatives for the District Attorney’s office. Kathy is a staple of and strong advocate for the Arab, Muslim, and Brooklyn community. On Wednesdays, she and Elizabeth assist clients with legal concerns and provide sound advice. Mary comes on Friday, and adds to the dynamic wealth of experience these women have to offer.

Every day of the week there is a native Arabic speaker available for providing access to health insurance. Their compassion for helping people is great. Noha is with Americhoice on Mondays and Tuesdays. Zeinab is here on Wednesdays, seeing clients for Health Plus. Manal, also with Health Plus, comes on Thursdays and Fridays. Together they help over 100 clients a week.

And this is just a slice of what we do! One of many reasons why to support the Arab American Association of New York. With only 18 days left for the month of February -- also known as Love Your AAANY month -- where we have a challenge grant that matches every donation, now is the perfect time to give. It’s online, simple, and we’re far short from our $15000 goal. If not, spread the love by subscribing to this new blog with AAANY and sharing this.

  By Christophe Jospe

Linda Sarsour Honored By City & State News

Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, was honored by City & State News on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 at a reception held at Pace University's Schimmel Center. Linda was honored as one of 25 women who were recognized for their Above and Beyond work in 4 major areas: Organizing and Labor, Community and Non Profit, Media and Journalism and Business. Click Here to read more.