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Tag: Brooklyn

November 9, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Brooklynites Give Back!

Across the United States, people have been exposed to images depicting the utter destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy across the Eastern Seaboard last week.  For us here at AAANY, these images do not represent a sad but distant reality. The people suffering in the wake of the storm are our neighbors, friends, and family; we cannot ignore the enormity of this disaster. As such, AAANY and members of our community came together to aid the relief effort in New York City.


While our community in Bay Ridge was fortunately left relatively unscathed, entire neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey were totally devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and are still reeling in the storm’s aftermath. The superstorm displaced hundreds of people in New York, and left thousands more without electricity and heat, or access to medical care, clean water, food, and clothing.  In response to this tragedy, AAANY launched a massive food and clothing drive, and we were touched and humbled by the response. In typical fashion, the community rose to the occasion, generously donating boxes and boxes of non-perishable food items, blankets, essential supplies, warm clothing, and water, all of which were sorted, packed, and delivered by 20 amazingly dedicated staff members and volunteers here at AAANY.


We were able to bring about half of the donations we collected to Staten Island: the hardest hit of all the boroughs in New York City. Fatima Younis, one of AAANY’s first ever volunteers, reconnected with us, notifying us of the extensive damage in Staten Island. She initiated a substantial relief effort, collecting donations from her neighbors, and helping to deliver them to Staten Island in her car. Dr. Ahmed Jaber, the Board President of AAANY, and intern Tina Carter also loaded up as many goods as possible into their cars, transporting them to the storm-ravaged borough. While we were there, we worked with Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis so that we could expediently and effectively distribute aid. We also went door to door in Midland Beach, delivering hot pizza to those in need.


The rest of the donations we collected at AAANY were delivered, with the help of volunteer Dave Segal, to the emergency shelter at FDR High School on 20th Avenue in Brooklyn.


One of the most beautiful aspects of the entire effort was the coming together of people from outside our community and from across the country in the name of disaster relief. Said Durrah, a Maryland based Arab American comedian, sent in a huge contribution of boxes of essential supplies and food, and countless donations came to us from the greater Washington DC area.


Though there is much work yet to be done, we at AAANY are proud of and encouraged by the outpouring of generosity we have encountered across the city in our relief efforts. People came together regardless of religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, and transcended petty divisions in order to contribute to a greater good. We are confident that members of our community will continue to provide help and charity to those in need after this horrible storm, because we know that sustained solidarity and support are truly essential in hastening a total recovery for those affected by this unprecedented natural disaster. 

-Maya Shoukri

October 17, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY and the Candidates' Forum

On Thursday October 11, the Arab American Association of New York, in collaboration with Make the Road New York, held a Candidates’ Forum at which prospective politicians representing District 10 spoke and answered questions regarding their policies. Because AAANY partnered with several organizations to register over 2100 voters, it was necessary to proceed and educate potential voters about the candidates and their platforms, particularly regarding their stances on issues that are important to the Arab American community.

As a voter registration fellow, I was able to take on an important task at AAANY this summer: making sure we accomplished our goal of registering one thousand new voters in our community, one that has experienced many trials and tribulations. From police surveillance and harassment, tough immigration laws, unlawful persecution, protests around religious centers, and more, our community has faced the manifestations of xenophobia and Islamophobia in the post-9/11 era.

As one of the coordinators of our voter registration initiative, not only did I organize, but I had the opportunity to do some on the ground canvassing with our interns and volunteers. Together we traveled to different religious centers, college campuses, shopping centers, parks, and more, and met people of all different ages and backgrounds that make up the diverse fabric of the Arab community in South Brooklyn. Each individual I met while canvassing taught me something about our community: about our psychology, our desires, our needs, our reservations, and our frustrations.

Many political analysts and journalists have speculated about the role Arab American voters will play in the upcoming elections. Regardless of all of their “official” statistics, polls, and surveys, the conversations and stories that I heard while doing grassroots work better reflect our narrative than assumed facts and numbers. Their interests were reflected in our Candidates’ Forum, where local candidates such as Senator Marty Golden, Nicole Malliotakis, Andrew Goundardes, and more were questioned about relevant and pressing issues such as Stop and Frisk, the Dream Act, the practice of fracking, unemployment, and more. Our community was searching for a candidate who identified with our values, supported us, and would act as a leader in ridding the government of the corruption and insensitivity that has disheartened and frustrated us.

After a long and busy summer, we surpassed our goal of registering one thousand voters in our community; we, with the help of other members of our coalition, registered 2100 new voters in South Brooklyn. The process was truly encouraging, and I believe that our community is on a trajectory that will only bring about success. We are ready to stand up, we will not be silent, and we are moving to create change. This is our time to reclaim our history and our narrative, to unapologetically declare our presence, and to work together to build political power.

-Aber Kawas

Voter Registration Fellow

Kitaab Club Kicks Off!

The beginning of a new school year means the start of a new session of Kitaab Club, AAANY’s afterschool English literacy and homework class!

This year at Kitaab Club we have our largest ever group of students! 26 children, ages 5 to 13, join us twice a week to receive homework assistance and English language lessons.

Kitaab Club provides tailored academic assistance so that we can meet the needs of every individual student, regardless of subject matter. Our primary focus is enhancing literacy amongst students who are English Language Learners, offering additional English Language assistance in a venue that caters specifically to students struggling with literacy. As part of the Arab American Family Education Initiative (AAFEI), we also aim to serve as the link to foster communication between parents, teachers, and students. Our goal is for Kitaab Club students to achieve a level of English fluency and comfort with the school system that equals that of their peers and endows them with the same opportunities.

At the core of AAFEI are our bilingual high school volunteers who employ their Arabic fluency in order to give back to their community by acting as mentors and tutors to younger students in Kitaab Club.

The students in Kitaab Club represent a variety of different backgrounds, coming from Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Pakistan, and Spain. This provides an ideal learning opportunity for our students, exposing them to new cultures, and allowing them to develop a global perspective.

With the help of our capable and passionate full-time interns, Nashwa Lylah El-Sayed and Ania Ouldamara, and thanks to the inestimable efforts of our Youth Program Manager, Mohamad Ismail, we are able to cultivate an energetic, productive, and educational learning environment.

Kitaab Club meets at every Thursday and Friday from 3:30 to 5:30 pm at PS 170.

For more information, contact Mohamad Ismail at

-Maya Shoukri

AAANY provides free assistance with Deferred Action

Since August 15th, the Arab American Association of New York has been assisting eligible individuals with Deferred Action. Please tell anyone who is interested in this process and needs free legal assistance in this matter to come to our office Wednesdays 12-5 PM.

What is Deferred Action?
Deferred action is a kind of administrative relief from deportation that has been around a long time. (“Administrative” relief is relief that may be granted by DHS, without the person necessarily having to go to immigration court.) It allows a non-U.S. citizen to temporarily remain in the U.S. with legal immigration status. The person may also apply for an employment authorization document (a “work permit”) for the period during which he or she has deferred action status. Deferred action will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Even if you meet the requirements outlined below, DHS will still have to decide whether to grant you deferred action. A grant of deferred action is temporary and does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.

Deferred Action Criteria:

To be eligible for deferred action, you must:

1. Have come to the United States before your sixteenth birthday.
2. Have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and up to the present time.
3. Be present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for deferred action.
4. Not have lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012. This means you must have entered the U.S. without papers before June 15, 2012, or, if you entered lawfully, your lawful immigration status must have expired as of June 15, 2012.
5. Be at least 15 years old, if you have never been in deportation proceedings or your proceedings were terminated. If you are currently in deportation proceedings, have a voluntary departure order, or have a deportation order, and are not in immigration detention, you may apply for deferred action even if you are not yet 15 years old.
6. Be 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012 (a person who had not yet turned 31 on that date is also eligible).
7. Be “currently in school,” have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. armed forces. If you are enrolled in school on the date that you submit your deferred action application, that will be considered to “be in school.” The USCIS defines “currently in school” to include various types of programs such as certain education programs that Prepared by The New York Immigration Coalition 8/15/12 Page 2 assist students in obtaining a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent under State law or in passing a GED exam or other equivalent state-authorized exam. Note that not all GED programs will automatically qualify as meeting the “currently in school” requirement.
8. Have not been convicted of a felony offense. A felony is a federal, state, or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
9. Have not been convicted of a “significant misdemeanor” offense or three or more non-significant misdemeanor offenses.
10. Not pose a threat to national security or public safety (DHS is still defining what these terms mean but has indicated that they include gang membership, participation in criminal activities, or participation in activities that threaten the U.S.).
11. Pass a background check.

Building Community Power, One Vote at a Time

Arab society in the United States has regularly been labeled a “one-issue” voting bloc.  Unsurprisingly, this epithet comes from the familiar notion that when it comes to national politics our people formulate their electoral engagement—or lack thereof—purely according to issues of American foreign policy. During the past few months, AAA-NY has displayed its intention to bury that reputation, embarking on a voter registration project that aims to build community power by getting people in our neighborhood prepared vote on the local issues that matter.

The month of July proved to be a strong kick start, the Annual Arab American Bazaar being a primary point of success. On the 8th of July volunteers and canvassers managed to pull in over one hundred votes in just a few hours, proving that there are people in our community who do want to take part in the electoral process.

Whether or not Arabs are “one-issue” voters has arguably not stood the test of time. Like other recent immigrants to the United States, Arabs are often least likely to make it to the polls. In response to this reality AAA-NY has teamed up with other community organizations in Congressional District 13 to form the Verrazano Coalition. By collaborating with Make the Road Staten Island, Project Hospitality and El Centro, AAANY will be able to increase its capacity and effectiveness.

Voter registration canvassing teams have been hitting the streets of Bay Ridge with regularity. Youth energy has propelled these efforts, with our primary canvassing team being composed of keen and knowledgeable high school students. The evidence of their abilities can be found in the numerous videos and photos our Community Organizing Interns have taken and distributed through social media. Without their enthusiasm and commitment, our achievements thus far would be substantially more modest.

As a final part of our voter registration drive, look forward to our candidate’s forum on the 11th of October. People from the community will be able to directly address our representatives and understand their platforms and intentions. All in all, the entire project has been an illustration of this organization’s resourcefulness and tenacity.

And if you’re not registered to vote please come in today and ask to be registered. We’re all looking forward to seeing you at the polls!

Zayd Sifri, Voter Registration Fellow
May 21, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

It's My Park Clean Up

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The Arab American Association of New York brought out over 50 volunteers as part of the national Arab American service day. On Saturday, May 19th we collaborated with the Shore Rd. Parks Conservancy on their "It's my park day"It was a great opportunity to build community with other groups such as the Moroccan American House Association, and the First Church of the Brethren. Together we raked leaves, picked up trash, repainted benches, and enjoyed a beautiful Saturday outside. We are happy to provide substantive volunteer efforts and are particularly excited about upcoming  volunteer opportunities related to the upcoming electoral campaign. Thank you to everyone who came out to last week's park clean up. See pictures from Saturday here!      
April 24, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Youth Share Perspectives at Interfaith Event

Several youth from the Arab American Association of New York attended the annual interfaith event at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue on Sunday, April 22. Through different games, activities, discussions and of course dinner, youth from AAANY, Plymouth Church and the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue shared insight into their respective faiths and had a chance to learn about others.

Youth Advisory Council President Emen Tabit described the event as a great success. These types of events are important for her, “because if different points of view are never discussed then they are never understood. Things are never black and white. There is always a gray area. This event was excellent because we got to see all different faiths sitting down discussing what would be an otherwise heated issue harmoniously.” For the break-out sessions into, she and her cousin Naema became great ambassadors for their religion, fielding questions from how engagements and dating work in Islam to what’s it like as a Muslim facing constant bias in the media. Ahmed, another of our youth who attended the event shared that “my favorite part was when there were a lot of people from different religions explaining how religion in every day life affects them in different ways.” But at the end of the day, he was happy that the take home message was “friends have nothing to do with religion. If you are my friend, it doesn’t matter what religion you come from, it has nothing to do with it.” Indeed, by wearing his FC Barcalona T-shirt he had made new friends simply talking about soccer.

-Christophe Jospe
March 5, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

South Brooklyn Comes Through on Community Survey

  Thanks to some amazing hustle by our community, we have completed our survey collection for our Community Needs Assessment! This needs assessment is the first ever to be conducted in the Arab American community in New York City, and AAANY is proud to be working with New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. AAANY’s grassroots credibility and outreach, coupled with NYU Wagner’s technical skill, analysis, and dedication, are moving us forward in capturing demographic and needs data for the Arab American community.

Our high school students made the survey a competition among themselves, using a big poster to track how many surveys they had filled out with community members. Youth Community Organizer Kareem Meawad won, with 60 surveys – nice work, Kimo! We collected 415 surveys in total, in three weeks.

The surveys are currently being analyzed by our team at NYU Wagner, who will present a report of their findings in April 2012. They are running regressions to identify possible trends among the community, and to study what community members identify as their greatest needs. We look forward to this data on language access, experience with government offices, employment status, household size, and much more! Creating a clearer picture of the Arab American community will help AAANY and our partners do a better job of providing the services and programs our community needs to become independent, productive members of society.

-Jennie Goldstein


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