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METRO DETROIT CHALDEAN COMMUNITY VOL. 20 ISSUE VIII <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong><br />

Dreaming Big<br />



Featuring:<br />

Concept to Concrete: Thamer Hannona<br />

Unstoppable: Ella Lucia<br />

Chaldean Youth Camp and OLF

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| 1950 W Maple Rd. Troy, MI 48084<br />



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Getting You Back to You.<br />

it’s Why We Care.<br />

نعيدك الى ماكنت عليه<br />

هذا هو سبب اهتمامنا<br />

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Attorney at Law<br />

املحامي لورنس قاجي<br />

877-KAJY-CARES / kajylaw.com<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 3

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4 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

METRO DETROIT CHALDEAN COMMUNITY | <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | VOL. 20 ISSUE VIII<br />


18 Dreaming a Bigger Dream<br />

Thomas Denha profile<br />

By Dr. Adhid Miri<br />


20 From Concept to Concrete<br />

Thamer Hannona<br />

By Cal Abbo<br />

26 Reviving Voices of the Past<br />

AI and ancient languages<br />

By Christina Salem<br />

28 Annual Pilgrimage<br />

The trip to Carey Ohio<br />

By Weam Namou<br />


18<br />

30 Sharing the Chaldean Story<br />

The Najjars & StoryCorps<br />

By Cal Abbo<br />

32 Culture & History<br />

A look at education in Iraq<br />

By Dr. Adhid Miri<br />

6 From the Editor<br />

By Sarah Kittle<br />

8 Foundation Update<br />

Piston visit, Sue Katulla honored,<br />

Back-to-school event<br />

10 Noteworthy<br />

Omar Hakim, Javon David, Michael Sarafa<br />

12 Chaldean Digest<br />

World Youth Day, New pastoral<br />

center, Iran crackdown<br />

14 Religion<br />

Chaldean Youth Camp and OLF<br />

By Michael Antoon<br />

16 In Memoriam<br />

36 Sports<br />

Ella Lucia is unstoppable<br />

By Steve Stein<br />

38 Family Time<br />

Fall in Love with Autumn<br />

By Valene Ayar<br />

40 Life Skills<br />

Renting vs. Buying<br />

By Crystal Kassab Jabiro<br />

42 Arts & Entertainment<br />

Raad Hakeem: Music Man<br />

By Weam Namou<br />

46 Event<br />

Chaldean Cultural Center Tour<br />

Photos by Alex Lumelsky<br />

17 Obituaries<br />

Ghanem Azzow, Zuhair Antone,<br />

and Faisal Arabo<br />

30<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 5



Chaldean News, LLC<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

Martin Manna<br />



Sarah Kittle<br />


Cal Abbo<br />

Michael Antoon<br />

Valene Ayar<br />

Crystal Kassab Jabiro<br />

Dr. Adhid Miri<br />

Weam Namou<br />

Christina Salem<br />

Steve Stein<br />



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Weam Namou<br />

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Phone: (248) 851-8600<br />

Publication: The Chaldean News (P-6);<br />

Published monthly; Issue Date: September <strong>2023</strong><br />

Subscriptions: 12 months, $35.<br />

Publication Address:<br />

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Postmaster: Send address changes to<br />

“The Chaldean News 30095 Northwestern<br />

Hwy., Suite 101, Farmington Hills, MI 48334”<br />

Celebrating the Dreamers<br />

This month’s Chaldean News has so many<br />

inspiring and uplifting stories, beginning<br />

with our cover story. Thomas Denha was a<br />

man who dreamed big; he had dreams not only for<br />

himself and his family, but for the entire Chaldean<br />

community. He came to America at the tender age<br />

of 18 and yes, he took risks and learned along the<br />

way, but he kept in the forefront of his mind his<br />

vision for a better life. Thomas’ family and friends<br />

are understandably incredibly proud of his accomplishments,<br />

and we have the honor of sharing his<br />

story with our readers.<br />

Another dreamer whose story we are fortunate<br />

to share is Thamer Hannona. His name<br />

may look familiar to our readers, as we profiled<br />

his father Habib in the past. Thamer is a worldclass<br />

creative and his concepts drive the future<br />

of the automotive industry. His work unites the<br />

past and the future in some truly groundbreaking<br />

visions of cars to come. You’ve heard of<br />

self-driving cars, but did you know there were<br />

different levels of automation? Read Cal Abbo’s<br />

insightful article to learn more.<br />

News about artificial intelligence is trending<br />

right now, and we are pleased to bring you a story<br />

on how new technologies are helping to uncover the past. In<br />

her article on AI and ancient languages, Christina Salem tells<br />

the story of Matthew Nazari, a linguistics trailblazer who is<br />

using AI technology to decipher not only how the ancient Assyrian<br />

language looks and reads, but also how it sounds.<br />

Weam Namou pens a personal account of her pilgrimage to<br />

Carey, Ohio, for the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption<br />

of Mary. This annual trip is undertaken by many of the faithful<br />

– approximately 5,000 people each year. Weam talks about the<br />

pilgrimage itself and shares her knowledge of the origins of Our<br />

Lady of Consolation Church, where it all happens.<br />

As the Chaldean News grows, we are partnering with others<br />

to bring you more varied and rich coverage of the community<br />

at large. One of the ways we are doing that is through<br />

a grant from Michigan Humanities to tell ‘Great Michigan<br />


EDITOR<br />

IN CHIEF<br />

Stories.’ Our article on father-and-son team Nick and<br />

Randy Najjar and their field trip to Kalamazoo to record<br />

a conversation for NPR’s Story Corps series falls<br />

under that category. The event page in this issue also<br />

includes a local group’s introduction to the Chaldean<br />

Cultural Center, another part of the Chaldean story.<br />

As we get ready to send our kids back to school<br />

or maybe prepare ourselves for school, Dr. Adhid<br />

Miri schools us on what education looked like in<br />

Iraq in the beginning of the 20th century compared<br />

to what it looks like today. Education is so important<br />

to any culture, and we are no different.<br />

The Chaldean News is partnering with<br />

others to bring you more varied and rich<br />

coverage of the community at large. One<br />

of the ways we are doing that is through<br />

a grant from Michigan Humanities to tell<br />

‘Great Michigan Stories.’<br />

Other topics covered in September include the recognition<br />

of CCF staff and noteworthy community members,<br />

World Youth Day, a new pastoral center in Dohuk, and Chaldean<br />

Youth Camp. We also honor our dearly departed and<br />

share some life skills for new Americans.<br />

Valene Ayar helps us fall in love with Autumn, Steve<br />

Stein shares the story of unstoppable Ella Lucia, and Weam<br />

Namou interviews musician Raad Hakeem. Sit back with a<br />

nice cup of chai and settle in for a good read. We are happy<br />

to have you here.<br />

Sarah Kittle<br />

Editor in Chief<br />

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6 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


Join the<br />

Publishers Circle<br />

As the publication of record for Michigan’s<br />

Chaldean community, the mission of the<br />

Chaldean News is to preserve and archive<br />

Chaldean heritage and history, and to tell the<br />

ongoing story of Chaldean contributions to the<br />

communities in which we live and work — in Michigan<br />

and around the world.<br />

Since being acquired by the Chaldean Community<br />

Foundation in 2019, the Chaldean News has substantially<br />

increased its readership and social media following,<br />

introduced new digital and website content, and expanded<br />

storytelling with the help of small grant funding.<br />

The Publisher’s Circle initiative empowers community members<br />

to provide major support for the Chaldean News and its<br />

important mission. With the generous help of individuals and<br />

organizations, together, we can ensure that this vital resource<br />

continues to educate and connect the community, while<br />

evolving to meet the needs of future generations.<br />

The Chaldean News has ambitious plans which include<br />

launching a CN app and continuing to expand into new<br />

media such as radio and TV, all with the goal of preserving<br />

our culture and telling the story of our people. You<br />

can take part in helping to preserve your Chaldean<br />

heritage by joining the Publisher’s Circle today.<br />

Jibran “Jim” Manna<br />

Martin and Tamara Manna<br />

Sylvester and Rita Sandiha<br />

We are grateful for the generous and<br />

continuing support of our community.<br />

To learn more, visit chaldeannews.com<br />

or contact us at 248-851-8600<br />

Let’s grow the circle.<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 7


Sue Kattula<br />

Honored<br />

by Macomb<br />

County<br />

Earlier this month, Breaking<br />

Barriers Program Manager<br />

Sue Kattula was inducted into<br />

the Macomb Hall of Fame,<br />

which honors individuals and<br />

organizations that have made<br />

outstanding contributions<br />

to improving the economic,<br />

family, and community life<br />

of those that live in Macomb<br />

County.<br />

Detroit Pistons Star Visits CCF<br />

CCF’s summer basketball program participants were visited by the Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart. Stewart<br />

talked to the kids about goal setting and how to be successful in school and on the court. Participants<br />

also had the opportunity to ask questions and enjoy a game of “Lightning” with the NBA player.<br />

This summer, over thirty middle school boys did a deep dive into the game of basketball, learning<br />

basic skills and teamwork, and making new friends. We are grateful for the additional support<br />

of the Good Sports Foundation to outfit the boys and update the basketball equipment. For more<br />

information on next year’s program, call us at 586-722-7253.<br />

Isaiah Stewart<br />

pictured with CCF’s<br />

Youth Basketball<br />

Program participants<br />

Record Crowd for<br />

Back-to-School Events<br />

Nearly 400 attendees came to the Warren Consolidated Schools<br />

(WCS) Back-to-School event on August 10. The event provided<br />

free resources and the ability to ask questions of various staff<br />

members.<br />

WCS distributed 325 backpacks, and Stellantis’ Middle Eastern<br />

Employees Together (MEET) group also donated 100 bags of<br />

school supplies for the event.<br />

Another 280 attended the Utica Community Schools event on<br />

August 17. Despite the rainy conditions, many families came early<br />

to gain access to free district resources and receive backpacks<br />

and school supplies for children starting the school year.<br />

Upcoming Events<br />

September 11: ESL/GED and Early Childhood Classes Start<br />

September 22: 5th Annual Awards Gala<br />

September 27: Community Job Fair<br />

All smiles for the WCS and UCS students receiving backpacks<br />

and school supplies.<br />

Sue Kattula at the Macomb<br />

Hall of Fame Awards Dinner<br />

Kattula celebrates 12<br />

years of significant contributions<br />

to the Foundation,<br />

starting as a case worker in<br />

2011. With a passion for advocating<br />

on behalf of people<br />

with developmental disabilities,<br />

under Sue’s leadership,<br />

the Breaking Barriers program<br />

grew. With her unique<br />

vision, Sue filled in the gaps<br />

where services did not exist<br />

for adults arriving in the U.S.<br />

without knowledge of the<br />

language or the tools to navigate<br />

in their new country.<br />

The B.E.A.M. and H.E.A.L.<br />

projects serving those individuals<br />

who are blind or deaf<br />

were spearheaded by Sue to<br />

allow individuals to communicate,<br />

learn important life<br />

skills, find employment opportunities,<br />

and socialize.<br />

8 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>



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<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 9


Omar Hakim New Director of Education<br />

for Detroit Public TV<br />

The local PBS affiliate, Detroit Public TV (DPTV) has hired Omar Hakim as its new executive director<br />

of education. In his new role, Hakim will lead the day-to-day management and strategy of the<br />

education team, which includes DPTV’s work with parents and early childhood educators in the<br />

city of Detroit. The scope also includes the statewide Michigan Learning Channel (MLC), as well<br />

as its newly launched Future of Work educational initiative. In addition, Hakim will assume the<br />

philanthropic responsibility of working with the state government to seek out funding to maintain<br />

sustainable financial support for MLC.<br />

Prior to joining DPTV, Hakim served as an educator, curriculum and instructional leader, and<br />

building administrator in Troy and Birmingham Public Schools and with Detroit Country Day<br />

Schools (DCDS).<br />

Javon R. David named a ‘<strong>2023</strong><br />

Honoree for Influential Women of Law’<br />

by Michigan Lawyers Weekly<br />

Javon R. David, an attorney at Butzel, has been named as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Influential<br />

Women of Law” for <strong>2023</strong>. The awards program, previously known as “Women in the Law,” honors women<br />

attorneys and judges for their excellent work on behalf of the justice system, helping clients, commitment<br />

to their communities, and service to the profession.<br />

David is a member of Butzel’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Practice Group, one of the<br />

firm’s largest practice areas. She concentrates her practice in the areas of commercial litigation,<br />

media and entertainment law, and product liability. She has extensive litigation experience, and<br />

successfully handles matters from the onset of suit through trial.<br />

David serves on the Business Court and Counsel Committee for the Oakland County Bar<br />

Association and serves as Deputy General Counsel for the Michigan Press Association<br />

(MPA). She also serves on the Board of Governors for the Young Leaders Council and is<br />

an active member of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. Notably, she performs<br />

pro bono work for Avalon Healing Center, a Detroit-based non-profit which does<br />

important work to help survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking.<br />

Michael Sarafa Named as Counsel for Butzel<br />

With his 35 years in business, law, finance, and public affairs, Michael G. Sarafa has been named Counsel for<br />

Butzel. Helping clients navigate issues in the governmental sector as well as in the realm of outside counsel services,<br />

Michael has achieved an enviable reputation in legal and political circles in Michigan as a knowledgeable<br />

and trusted legal advisor. Now he practices law in the firm’s Troy location and in the<br />

Butzel offices in the State and US Capitols. Michael is a member of the Government Relations<br />

and Regulatory Specialty Team and General Counsel Services Practice Department.<br />

He began his career in the governmental arena as a legislative aide in the Michigan<br />

House of Representatives and later served as an executive assistant to Dennis<br />

Archer during his tenure as Mayor of Detroit. His experience includes assembling<br />

teams of finance, human resources, operations, marketing, and legal professionals.<br />

As CEO of Bank of Michigan, Michael successfully navigated the bank through<br />

the 2008-2010 real estate recession.<br />

As a community leader, Michael has served on numerous boards of directors<br />

and nonprofit organizations, including Bloomfield Brother Rice High School, Bank<br />

of Ann Arbor, Chaldean Community Foundation, Michigan Association of Beauty<br />

Professionals, and Supercuts Franchisee Association.<br />

10 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

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Young people flock together at the Parque Tejo in Lisbon for a vigil with Pope Francis,<br />

ahead of the 37th World Youth Day, Saturday, Aug. 5, <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

World Youth Day ‘Home’ event brings<br />

teens in communion with peers in Lisbon<br />

While an estimated 1.5 million young people<br />

gathered in Lisbon for World Youth Day with<br />

Pope Francis, another 62 gathered in metro<br />

Detroit with Archbishop Allen Vigneron. These<br />

youth were from 11 different parishes, and they<br />

came together at Our Lady of the Fields Camp<br />

in Brighton, staying there in solidarity with<br />

their counterparts in Spain.<br />

Archbishop Vigneron emphasized that message<br />

of unity in his homily during Mass, celebrated<br />

alongside Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat of<br />

the Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle,<br />

who owns and operates the camp.<br />

“By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are<br />

very much in communion with all the pilgrims<br />

gathered around our Holy Father the pope,<br />

in Lisbon,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “And<br />

so we are the recipients of graces poured out<br />

there, but also we ought to understand that<br />

they are blessed by our observance of World<br />

Youth Day. In fact, each of us is blessed by<br />

the observance of all of us. So whatever your<br />

own particular intentions or aspirations are,<br />

as you come to this pilgrimage, remember, be<br />

assured you are not alone.”<br />

– Detroitcatholic.com<br />



New pastoral center in<br />

Iraq is a sign of hope<br />

Nine years after ISIS invaded and forced Christians to flee from<br />

Iraq, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just helped complete<br />

a project. The large pastoral center, begun in 2019, will serve the<br />

1,450 Catholic families estimated to live in Dohuk. Most are Chaldean,<br />

but about 1/3 are estimated to be Syriac.<br />

The ground floor will be dedicated to activities of the diocese,<br />

including Radio Mary, a listening center, the Mother Teresa Fraternity<br />

for the Poor and Sick, archives, and even a museum. The<br />

first floor will house classrooms and the second floor will be a<br />

permanent residence for Bishop Azad Shaba and 11 priests.<br />

After a visit to Dohuk in March 2022, ACN approved a support<br />

package that allowed the local church to go ahead with construction.<br />

The completed pastoral center was inaugurated on July 8 by<br />

Bishop Shaba, who has led the diocese since 2021.<br />

– Churchinneed.org<br />

Group photo with Bishop Azad Shaba in front of the Papa<br />

Francisco Pastoral Center in Dohuk.<br />


In this photo taken Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010, Christians attend the Christmas Mass at the St. Grigor Armenian<br />

Catholic Church in Tehran, Iran. Iran’s recent crackdown demonstrates the limits of religious tolerance by Islamic<br />

leaders who often boast they provide room for other faiths.<br />

Iran arresting<br />

Christians<br />

in new<br />

crackdown<br />

Iranian authorities recently arrested dozens<br />

of Christians, mostly coverts from Islam but<br />

also some Assyrian Chaldeans who were<br />

baptized as children. Article 18, a human<br />

rights organization, reports that at least 69<br />

people were taken into custody. Asia News<br />

reports that after their arrest, people were<br />

forced to sign statements pledging to refrain<br />

from Christian activities or undergo Islamic<br />

re-education in order to be released.<br />

“Overall, there seems to be a renewed or<br />

more aggressive crackdown on groups the<br />

regime feels threatened by,” said Article 18<br />

director Mansour Borji.<br />

– Catholic World News<br />

12 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 13


Campers enjoy the<br />

many activities,<br />

including a ropes<br />

obstacle course.<br />

Chaldean Youth Camp<br />

& Our Lady of the Fields<br />


Chaldean Youth Camp, or CYC<br />

for short, is a summer camp<br />

program containing a variety<br />

of traditional camp activities such<br />

as sports, team building activities,<br />

art projects, campfires, and indoor<br />

games, while at the same time promoting<br />

the values and ideals of the<br />

Chaldean Catholic Church.<br />

The CYC was created in 2014 and<br />

is held annually at Our Lady of the<br />

Fields Camp & Retreat Center in Brighton<br />

(previously Camp Chaldean). A<br />

group of seminarians and volunteers<br />

pioneered this camp to bring our<br />

Chaldean youth together while making<br />

faith fun. In our rapidly evolving<br />

world, cultural heritage and identity<br />

play an essential role in connecting<br />

us to our roots. This camp serves as a<br />

beacon for Chaldean youth, providing<br />

them with an avenue to (most importantly)<br />

foster faith while also being<br />

connected to their culture.<br />

Our Lady of the Fields Camp has<br />

become a haven for our community<br />

to connect and unite. Bought in<br />

2007 from the City of Detroit, it was<br />

originally named “Camp Chaldean.”<br />

In 2010, construction began on the<br />

beautiful St. George Shrine, which<br />

was completed in 2012. The property<br />

and shrine, located around Euler<br />

Lake, was purchased and built with<br />

money donated from the Shamaya<br />

(Sam) Kassab Fund, the late father of<br />

Mary Ann Kassab Ayar.<br />

In 2014, Chaldean Youth Camp<br />

was officially in business, offering day<br />

and overnight sessions. Later in 2018,<br />

His Excellency Mar Francis Y. Kalabat<br />

renamed “Camp Chaldean,” giving it<br />

the new name Our Lady of the Fields<br />

Camp and Retreat Center (OLF). The<br />

Diocese also hired Mr. Michael Hickey<br />

to be the Executive Director of OLF.<br />

Under the great leadership of Mr.<br />

Hickey, 2019 saw the introduction of the<br />

high and low ropes course, and the gates<br />

of OLF were further opened beyond the<br />

Chaldean community. Through 2020<br />

and 2021 OLF continued to host Catholic<br />

youth groups and many schools from<br />

the Archdiocese of Detroit, as well as<br />

from the Diocese of Lansing.<br />

In 2022, OLF partnered with Damascus<br />

Mission to host over 1,200<br />

campers over 8 weeks, on a yearly basis.<br />

The diocese also purchased an additional<br />

54-acre parcel of property that<br />

will be used for future development.<br />

Today, in <strong>2023</strong>, the Camp has just<br />

about anything, and maybe more<br />

than you can even ask for. It features<br />

a renovated dining hall with a new<br />

deck overlooking the lake, renovated<br />

sleeping cabins with new bunk beds<br />

and showers, a high and low ropes<br />

course, kayaks and canoes, a beach,<br />

large sports fields, a rock-climbing<br />

wall and zip-line, GAGA pits, updated<br />

pontoons for lake cruises, an inflatable<br />

water activity course, basketball<br />

courts, bonfire pits, and much more!<br />

Many thanks for the camp’s successes<br />

are owed to Mr. Michael Hickey,<br />

the executive director. Mr. Hickey<br />

has been a theology teacher in the<br />

Archdiocese of Detroit for more than<br />

30 years. He has taught at St. Frances<br />

Cabrini High School, Brother<br />

Rice High School, U of D Jesuit High<br />

School, and is now the campus minister<br />

at Marian Catholic High School. He<br />

was also the previous executive director<br />

of Camp Sancta Maria, a Catholic<br />

summer camp in Gaylord, Michigan.<br />

Mr. Hickey, his wife, and five children<br />

wholeheartedly dedicate their time<br />

to the Camp and its mission of fun,<br />

faith, and fellowship. Our Lady of the<br />

Fields would surely not be the same<br />

without Mr. Hickey.<br />

With the support of OLF and Mr.<br />

Hickey, as well as the Chaldean Diocese,<br />

CYC’s committee has continued<br />

to nourish and inspire our future generations.<br />

With 5 different camps, 3 one<br />

day and 2 overnight, CYC continues<br />

to grow yearly. 1st and 2nd-grade students<br />

attend the Co-Ed Junior One Day<br />

Camp. 3rd to 6th graders attend the<br />

boy’s/girl’s one-day camps. Finally,<br />

7th to 10th graders attend the boys/<br />

girls overnight camps.<br />

With fully booked camps year after<br />

year, CYC also requires a strong base<br />

of volunteers. Many Chaldean young<br />

adults, including myself, give their<br />

time to CYC because of the fruit they<br />

know it bears.<br />

Many (again including myself)<br />

were campers in the past and their values<br />

were formed through this camp in<br />

their childhood.<br />

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said,<br />

“Let the little children come to me, and<br />

do not hinder them, for the kingdom of<br />

heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew<br />

19:14) This is what CYC is about,<br />

bringing the youth to God.<br />

“CYC provides a chance for our<br />

youth to connect with Christ, celebrate<br />

our culture, and simply have fun. All<br />

these aspects find their foundation in<br />

Jesus Christ,” says Chaldean seminarian<br />

Matthew Bakkal, who oversees the<br />

camp’s ministry program.<br />

From committees to volunteers to<br />

activities, all must reflect on Jesus. This<br />

camp is such a blessing to our Chaldean<br />

community for many reasons, but<br />

at the heart of all, it reflects on Jesus.<br />

The successes of both Our Lady of<br />

the Fields and Chaldean Youth Camp<br />

are ones that our community should<br />

take extreme pride in. OLF has become<br />

an esteemed retreat center, not just for<br />

those in the Chaldean community, and<br />

CYC has become a true part of our children’s<br />

formation.<br />

If you feel called to support the<br />

future of Our Lady of the Fields, as<br />

well as our future generations of<br />

Chaldean youth, visit olf.camp. Also,<br />

visit Chaldeanyouthcamp.com for<br />

sponsorship information, and stay<br />

tuned to the CYC Instagram page or<br />

website for registration information<br />

coming in 2024.<br />

14 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

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<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 15


Ibrahim Khamas<br />

Al Haddad<br />

Jul 1, 1940 –<br />

Jul 21, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Thamer Habeeb<br />

Jolagh<br />

Jul 1, 1961 –<br />

Jul 22, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Suad Tobia Talia<br />

Dec 14, 1931 –<br />

Jul 22, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Samantha “Sam”<br />

Matty<br />

May 16, 1989 –<br />

Jul 23, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Khalel Mikho<br />

Hirmuz Nazi<br />

Jul 1, 1951 –<br />

Jul 23, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Mansour Hermiz Osi<br />

Jul 1, 1925 –<br />

Jul 23, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Nibras Sada Isho<br />

Al Barwary<br />

Sep 18, 1982 –<br />

Jul 24, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Hameed (Adil)<br />

Shaker Hami<br />

Feb 21, 1955 –<br />

Jul 24, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Kamila Shamasha<br />

Kassab Nafso<br />

Jun 1, 1939 –<br />

Jul 24, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Sabah Yakou<br />

Jul 1, 1952 –<br />

Jul 24, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Mustafa<br />

Naeem-Tawfeeq Abid<br />

Dec 22, 1954 –<br />

Jul 25, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Noori Jarjis Cholagh<br />

Jul 1, 1939 –<br />

Jul 25, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Sukayna Hanna<br />

Haddad<br />

Jan 15, 1963 –<br />

Jul 25, <strong>2023</strong><br />

George Jarjis Dawaf<br />

Dec 20, 1936 –<br />

Jul 27, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Thair Joseph Shaba<br />

Jul 14, 1970 –<br />

Jul 27, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Lami Yousif Karrumi<br />

Mar 24, 1944 –<br />

Jul 29, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Bashir Hayaly<br />

Jul 1, 1934 –<br />

Jul 31, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Mike (Gulina)<br />

Naaoum Sesi<br />

Oct 25, 1934 –<br />

Jul 31, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Salem Tobia Shallal<br />

Jul 1, 1934 –<br />

Aug 1, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Badriyah Mansour<br />

Yousef<br />

Jul 1, 1932 – Aug 1,<br />

<strong>2023</strong><br />

Husni Hanna Zeer<br />

Apr 5, 1939 –<br />

Aug 2, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Steve (Zuhair)<br />

Suleiman Salem<br />

Sep 17, 1949 –<br />

Aug 4, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Shato Sheto<br />

Jul 1, 1930 –<br />

Aug 4, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Sabiha Tobia Matty<br />

Feb 20, 1941 –<br />

Aug 5, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Suad Elya<br />

Jul 5, 1934 –<br />

Aug 7, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Nagham Sabri Saffo<br />

Mar 16, 1973 –<br />

Aug 7, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Frank (Falah)<br />

Yousif Shafou<br />

Jul 1, 1953 –<br />

Aug 7, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Salem Daoud<br />

Hannosh<br />

Jun 14, 1957 –<br />

Aug 8, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Latifa Jajo<br />

Jul 1, 1947 –<br />

Aug 9, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Kheyri Sheena<br />

Jul 1, 1942 –<br />

Aug 9, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Nihad Matte<br />

Dawood Toshe<br />

Sep 5, 1970 –<br />

Aug 11, <strong>2023</strong><br />

John (Aswad) Akrawi<br />

Jul 13, 1963 –<br />

Aug 12, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Nargiz Elia Al Faris<br />

Jul 1, 1932 –<br />

Aug 13, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Nabil Shaker Dallo<br />

Sep 10, 1948 –<br />

Aug 13, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Faith Kinaya Gumma<br />

Jul 16, 1992 –<br />

Aug 13, <strong>2023</strong><br />

16 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


Ghanem Daoud Azzow<br />

Ghanem Daoud Azzow was born<br />

on June 20, 1940, to parents<br />

Daoud Hanna Azzow and Hasina<br />

Mansour Oram and passed away<br />

on July 27, <strong>2023</strong>. He is survived<br />

by his cherished wife Bassima<br />

Seman Azzow and beloved children<br />

Diana (Fouad) Haddad and<br />

May Azzow (Mother Nidhal George Herfi). Ghanem was<br />

preceded in death by his sibling Akram Azzow but is<br />

survived by siblings Sabah Azzow, Bassima Avenelle<br />

Azzow, Ramzi Hanna Azzow, Mahir Azzow, and Raad<br />

Azzow. He was a loving grandfather to Jordan Atkins,<br />

Kayla Haddad, and Frank Haddad.<br />

Zuhair Elias Antone<br />

Zuhair Elias Antone was born on July 16, 1936, in<br />

Baghdad, Iraq. At the age of 87, he passed away<br />

peacefully and comfortably at Ascension Providence<br />

Hospital in Novi, Michigan on Wednesday, August 16,<br />

<strong>2023</strong>, after bravely enduring a significant stroke two<br />

weeks prior.<br />

As the last surviving child of his parents, Elias<br />

and Hanniya Antone, Zuhair<br />

embraced his role within<br />

his family with grace and<br />

strength alongside his siblings<br />

Miriam (Hermez Atchu),<br />

Yousif (Nazhat), Alice (Shakir),<br />

Najiba, Peter (Najiba),<br />

Noori (Claire) and Adil (Ann).<br />

On September 4, 1966, he<br />

married the love of his life, Rosemary, beginning<br />

a partnership that would enrich their lives and the<br />

lives of those around them. Together, they raised<br />

four sons: Rick (deceased), Tony (Nermien), Jeff (Nikki),<br />

and Steve (Rachel), and shared the joy of eight<br />

cherished grandchildren: Joey, Grace, Luke, Jordan,<br />

Danny, Charlie, Hope, and Will. As we bid farewell<br />

to Zuhair Elias Antone, may his spirit rest in eternal<br />

peace, and may the memories of his love, kindness,<br />

laughter, and unwavering faith continue to shine<br />

brightly in our hearts.<br />

Faisal Michael Arabo<br />

Born in Iraq on April 7, 1930, Faisal Michael Arabo<br />

lived a storied life. At age 21 and with little more<br />

than $120 in his pocket, he<br />

boarded the T.S.S. Atlantic<br />

and began the 21 - day passage<br />

to New York in pursuit of the<br />

American Dream.<br />

From his 1970s radio program<br />

on Voice of America to his<br />

long-running Arabic news TV<br />

show “Arab Voice in Detroit”,<br />

Faisal dedicated his time to the education and entertainment<br />

of thousands of Arab Americans who<br />

longed to stay connected to their ethnic and cultural<br />

roots. He also represented the community through<br />

his political advocacy, chairing the End Sanctions<br />

Against Iraq committee in the 1990s and leading<br />

multiple missions to Iraq, documenting conditions<br />

in the country and raising awareness of the plight of<br />

Iraqi Christians.<br />

Cherished husband of Virjean Arabo, father to<br />

Farah, Fairuz, Firas, Fay and Flora, grandfather<br />

to Patrick, Thomas, Jack, Niko, Jensen, and Cosette,<br />

friend to many, and pioneer to our community,<br />

Faisal will long be remembered for the path<br />

he chartered for future generations of Iraqi immigrants.<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 17


Dreaming Bigger Dreams<br />

A profile of Thomas Denha<br />


In the early and mid-20th century,<br />

countless numbers of young Iraqi<br />

men were moving from villages to<br />

fill up major Iraqi cities like Baghdad,<br />

Mosul, and Basra. But a few visionaries,<br />

courageous young men, were<br />

more adventurous and turned their<br />

faces another way, journeying west to<br />

the United States of America. The late<br />

Thomas Denha was one of them.<br />

Early Life<br />

Denha, a Chaldean Christian, was<br />

born in the village of Telkeppe in<br />

Iraq in 1927. He spent most of his<br />

early life in Telkeppe with his parents<br />

Mansouri Denha and Jamila (Nafsu)<br />

Denha. Thomas is the second eldest<br />

of 6 siblings (Yousif, Sabri, Hanneh<br />

Semaan, Julie Hanna, Najeeba Yaldo,<br />

and Samira Kassab). He attended<br />

school in Mosul.<br />

Thomas’ father Mansouri and his<br />

brother Elias owned a tahini mill along<br />

with their extended family. They all<br />

worked in the fields and operated their<br />

own manufacturing business making<br />

tahini, a paste made from sesame<br />

seeds. The extended Denha family<br />

were (and still are) widely known as<br />

the original manufacturers of tahini<br />

in the region; they made a good living<br />

selling their brand name and premier<br />

product to other villages in the<br />

Nineveh Province and Duhok.<br />

Coming to America<br />

Dreaming bigger dreams, Thomas decided<br />

to venture to America when he<br />

was 18 years old. He arrived in New<br />

York Harbor shortly after the end of<br />

World War II. Upon his arrival in Michigan,<br />

he stayed one night with relatives<br />

in Detroit, in a small, noisy, and<br />

overcrowded house.<br />

Appreciative of the help but knowing<br />

he needed to strike out on his own,<br />

Thomas packed his suitcase and left,<br />

despite not knowing where to go or<br />

what to do. William Shakespeare once<br />

said, “The best things in life happen<br />

by chance,” and by chance, as Thomas<br />

was strolling the old streets of Detroit,<br />

Thomas Denha through the years.<br />

he spotted a party store with a familiar<br />

Chaldean face within.<br />

Thomas went in and greeted the<br />

man in Sureth, which put a smile on<br />

the face of the person who turned out<br />

to be the owner; he also was a Chaldean<br />

from the village of Telkeppe.<br />

Thomas told him, “I am new here. I<br />

just arrived from Iraq. I have no money,<br />

no place to live, and I need a job.”<br />

The man immediately embraced<br />

him and offered him accommodations<br />

and a job at his store. That wonderful<br />

welcoming man was Aziz Hesano. After<br />

a few months, Thomas moved to a<br />

rooming house with other Chaldean<br />

men like him who would become his<br />

lifelong friends —Najeeb Garmo, Louie<br />

Denha, and Buddy Atchoo, among<br />

others. They remained close friends<br />

throughout their lives.<br />

Building a Family<br />

The young bachelor Thomas was not<br />

used to the harsh, frigid winters of<br />

Michigan. In 1954, he decided to travel<br />

back to the warm weather of Iraq. It<br />

was that year that he married his wife,<br />

Virgine Nadhir, and they both made<br />

their way back to Michigan. At the time,<br />

there were about 150 Chaldeans in the<br />

metro Detroit area. The small Chaldean<br />

community was close knit and saw<br />

each other at church each Sunday, and<br />

of course, during community events,<br />

communions, and weddings.<br />

Thomas and Virgine started their<br />

life together in Highland Park but<br />

moved to Beverly Hills in response to<br />

the riots in Detroit. Theirs was a special<br />

marriage, anchored in faith, love<br />

and respect. Together, they raised five<br />

children: Roger, Cindy, Connie, Mark,<br />

and Kevin. Virgine still lives in the<br />

family home nearly 60 years later. She<br />

now has 3 daughters-in-law (Karen,<br />

Nesreen and Contessa Denha), a sonin-law<br />

(Jay Yasso), 12 grandchildren,<br />

and 8 great grandchildren.<br />

Even though Thomas himself did<br />

not complete high school, he understood<br />

the importance of education and<br />

acquiring new skills. He was adamant<br />

that his children receive a quality education<br />

and even encouraged his sons<br />

to go away to school—during a time<br />

when very few Chaldean children left<br />

home for school. As a result, all his<br />

children have degrees, careers, and<br />

successful businesses.<br />

The World of Business<br />

Like many other Iraqi immigrants during<br />

that time, Thomas started working<br />

for other Chaldeans at grocery stores in<br />

Detroit. Also, like many others, he eventually<br />

went on to own his own business.<br />

Stores Thomas owned include Food<br />

Time Market and Superland Market; he<br />

partnered in a Howard Johnsons restaurant<br />

with his good friend Gabe Esshaki.<br />

In 1975, he made the daring move to a<br />

growing suburb, Sterling Heights, to<br />

open Grape Vine Wine Shop.<br />

Denha saw the potential of the<br />

area and made note of the growing<br />

residential base. A few years later,<br />

he opened a second Grape Vine store<br />

two miles away; he later built a large<br />

shopping center at that same location.<br />

That location would later become<br />

the first home of the Chaldean<br />

Community Foundation.<br />

Thomas also took the bold risk of<br />

investing in land in California during<br />

a time when only a few other Chaldeans<br />

were doing so. In the late 1980s,<br />

Thomas, his son Mark, and his cousin<br />

Mike Denha purchased a large parcel<br />

of land in Temecula and worked<br />

tirelessly on meeting zoning requirements.<br />

That endeavor took close to<br />

a decade to complete, but that didn’t<br />

dampen Thomas’ spirits. He loved real<br />

estate and business and passed on this<br />

passion to his children.<br />

Despite his limited education,<br />

Thomas learned English and was an<br />

avid reader of business news, specifically<br />

the Wall Street Journal. He took<br />

educated risks in business and was<br />

fearless in doing so. He earned respect<br />

from all entities he interacted with.<br />

He was also very close to Chaldean<br />

investors, networking with many<br />

bankers, including Jewish lenders. He<br />

learned about real estate, and then became<br />

a commercial broker and started<br />

his own firm, Thomas Realty. In that<br />

capacity, he helped many newcomers<br />

to America find stores and become<br />

business owners themselves.<br />

Thomas was not only business<br />

smart, but more significantly, he was<br />

people smart. He had great intuition<br />

and the ability to “get it done,” no<br />

matter the task, with grit and determination.<br />

Helping others<br />

“My journey was not easy,” said Thomas<br />

in a previous interview. “America is<br />

the place to come to change your life….<br />

to start a new life.” He recalled, “I was<br />

the first one in my family to come to<br />

the United States. It took me three<br />

months to come to America.”<br />

In 1962, John F. Kennedy signed<br />

the Migration and Refugee Assis-<br />

18 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

Clockwise from top left: The Denha Family; Thomas and Virgine Denha Wedding, 1954; Thomas Denha with other Chaldean pioneers; Serving in Korea.<br />

tance Act, created to help foreigners<br />

who had fled from persecution in<br />

their home countries. This enabled<br />

Thomas to bring his two brothers<br />

and four sisters to America, as well<br />

as Virgine’s siblings.<br />

Thomas took the opportunity to<br />

help his brothers and sisters get established<br />

in the United States. He<br />

found stores for them to buy, secured<br />

loans, and provided guidance. He<br />

was overjoyed to be able to help his<br />

siblings and spent a lot of time with<br />

his brothers Sabri and Yousif.<br />

Thomas’s passion to help others<br />

didn’t stop with immediate family<br />

but extended to the entire Chaldean<br />

community. He was deeply involved<br />

with the Chaldean Iraqi American<br />

Association of Michigan (CIAAM)<br />

and was a constant presence when<br />

they were establishing Southfield<br />

Manor.<br />

Virgine Denha fondly recalled<br />

Thomas, his good friend Oraha<br />

Shouneyia, and others going from<br />

store to store asking Chaldean store<br />

owners to give donations to build the<br />

new cultural gathering spot.<br />

Denha also helped countless others<br />

he encountered in his daily life,<br />

many of whom weren’t related or<br />

even Chaldean. One former Detroit<br />

police officer who read Denha’s obituary<br />

in the newspaper in 2011 drove<br />

across town to tell Thomas’s family<br />

of how their husband and father<br />

helped him over 30 years earlier. He<br />

said, “I will never forget what Tom<br />

did for me.”<br />

Lasting legacy<br />

Thomas Denha’s story is not entirely<br />

unique in this country or within our<br />

great Chaldean community, but it is an<br />

evocative tale of a generation that has<br />

come and gone. A self-educated man<br />

with both street smarts and business<br />

smarts, Thomas was a risk taker without<br />

fear. Failure was never an option. He<br />

was a pure capitalist who loved America<br />

and all the opportunities it presented if<br />

one was willing to put in hard work and<br />

exhibit will and fortitude.<br />

Thomas Denha knew that Chaldeans<br />

would contribute in a huge fashion<br />

to the United States of America, as<br />

they have, and correctly believed that<br />

they would continue to make their new<br />

country richer, stronger, and better.<br />

Those who visit the Chaldean Community<br />

Foundation in Sterling Heights<br />

may recognize the name on a plaque<br />

in the middle of the center. Thomas<br />

A. Denha Main Street celebrates the<br />

legacy of a man who knew the value of<br />

family and community.<br />

This article was drafted to fill a lasting<br />

desire on the part of the community<br />

for what we call “Pioneer History.”<br />

To the families represented here,<br />

the value is inestimable. For the<br />

children and grandchildren, it is our<br />

hope that the character, courage,<br />

resolute endurance, and firmness<br />

of mind become an example for all.<br />

Contributions for this story were made<br />

by Virgine Denha, Kevin Denha, Connie<br />

Yasso, Malik Mary, Amira Samouna<br />

Mary, and Farouq Samouna.<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 19


From Concept<br />

to Concrete<br />

Thamer Hannona sculpts the future<br />


When ancient Mesopotamians<br />

carved their drawings<br />

into clay, constructed<br />

elaborate ziggurats and city gates,<br />

and designed practical and beautiful<br />

vases, their practice likely focused on<br />

their contemporaries. Thousands of<br />

year later, however, this act of creativity<br />

is kept alive by modern Chaldeans.<br />

The long thread of Chaldean artistry<br />

has found its way to Thamer<br />

Thamer Hannona<br />

Hannona. While he expresses himself<br />

through many different media and inspirations,<br />

his car designs garner national<br />

appeal and the attention of large<br />

companies.<br />

Thamer was born in Basra, Iraq in<br />

1979, but didn’t live there very long.<br />

Before he was two years old, a massive<br />

war broke out between Iran and<br />

Iraq that would last the better part of<br />

a decade. Basra’s location on the border<br />

with Iran made it an easy target.<br />

His family moved to Kuwait, but not<br />

before his home in Basra was hit by an<br />

Iranian airstrike.<br />

War followed the Hannona family<br />

to their new home. When he was<br />

11 years old, his birth country, Iraq,<br />

invaded Kuwait. During that time, his<br />

family moved back to Iraq, then to<br />

Jordan, and finally made it to San Diego,<br />

California. He lived there for a few<br />

years before moving to Michigan in the<br />

middle of high school.<br />

All of these transitions can be hard<br />

on some children, but Thamer seemed<br />

to flourish in spite of the change. By<br />

the time he moved to Michigan, he<br />

knew three languages fluently: Arabic,<br />

Chaldean, and English. Later, he<br />

would add a bit of Spanish and nearfluency<br />

in Brazilian Portuguese.<br />

Until high school, art for Thamer<br />

was mostly a recreational activity that<br />

he enjoyed for its own sake. Later in life,<br />

he realized his passion came in a large<br />

sense from watching his father, Habib<br />

Hannona, create his own artwork.<br />

Habib is a pioneer in the Chaldean<br />

community both in Iraq and Michigan.<br />

He is known as a jack-of-all-trades and<br />

has contributed to the world as an author,<br />

engineer, linguist, painter, poet,<br />

and much more. Perhaps most of all,<br />

Habib is famous for his historical work<br />

focusing on the history of Karamlesh,<br />

his home village, and his contributions<br />

to Chaldean history in general.<br />

But in his free time, Habib likes to<br />

relax by working on art, and that had<br />

a heavy influence on Thamer, who<br />

gained an interest in drawing cars. “I<br />

thought I would be an engineer like<br />

my dad,” he said. “I had a scholarship<br />

to go to other schools for that. But my<br />

heart wasn’t in it.”<br />

For many Chaldean students, this<br />

would be the end of the story. Their<br />

unique artistic contribution would remain<br />

a hobby and their talent would<br />

remain undeveloped. The pressure<br />

is on from their well-intentioned parents<br />

to join the professions or start a<br />

reliable business. But Thamer’s family<br />

was different, perhaps because his<br />

father experienced success in so many<br />

areas. Thus, his story continues.<br />

“At Warren Mott, in 1996, my teacher<br />

gave me a hall pass to go and visit<br />

College for Creative Studies,” Thamer<br />

noted. “It was the senior show for the<br />

car design students. All of their work, including<br />

scale models, were on display.”<br />

Thamer described this experience<br />

as a turning point in his own thinking,<br />

a realignment with what he considered<br />

possible. “It was like peeking into<br />

the future. I was instantly converted. It<br />

was love at first sight. That’s all I wanted<br />

to do since that moment,” he said.<br />

After he graduated high school,<br />

Thamer worked hard to put together<br />

HANNONA continued on page 22<br />

20 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>




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<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 21


Some of Thamer’s design sketches and the Chevy HHR, top right.<br />

HANNONA continued from page 20<br />

an art portfolio, which he had not<br />

much experience with before. He went<br />

to the admissions office and was eventually<br />

accepted. The program at CCS<br />

was intense and difficult, with many<br />

students dropping off in the middle<br />

because of the pressure or the cost.<br />

His first challenge was to pass his<br />

freshman year, which he said was a<br />

“tryout” for the real program, which,<br />

according to Thamer, ranks number 2<br />

in the nation.<br />

Thamer was behind his cohorts<br />

because he spent a semester getting<br />

caught up on other classes. Even as the<br />

dean told him he couldn’t make it into<br />

the program, he was accepted to the<br />

next three years of the car design program.<br />

Its exclusivity is justified by the<br />

lack of jobs available in that field. Only<br />

a few thousand people in the world get<br />

to design cars for a living.<br />

There were 20 students in the program<br />

to start, but that drops all the<br />

way down to single digits in some cases.<br />

“I used to pull all-nighters once or<br />

twice a week,” Thamer claimed. “They<br />

want to make sure you’re fueled by<br />

passion.”<br />

Thankfully, Thamer lived at home<br />

in Warren while he was studying. He<br />

claimed the entire basement as his<br />

workshop and had a scholarship to<br />

cover most of the costs; his parents<br />

picked up the remainder. At the end<br />

of his tenure, his story came full circle<br />

as he participated in the senior showcase,<br />

flaunting his car models. He<br />

made the list of almost all the companies<br />

that came to the show and had<br />

tons of offers from companies like Nissan,<br />

BMW, Ford, General Motors, and<br />

Chrysler. According to Thamer, GM<br />

was the most enthusiastic about him,<br />

and he saw a lot of growth opportunity<br />

in the company as they had many<br />

studios worldwide, so he took the job.<br />

That was 22 years ago.<br />

“When I come to Detroit on business,<br />

I don’t even get a hotel. I just stay with<br />

my parents,” he said. “That’s how close<br />

it is. It’s crazy how close my parents live<br />

to the headquarters, like less than a<br />

mile. It’s serendipity, I guess. There are<br />

not many places to work, so very few<br />

people are from here. The car design<br />

community is very international.”<br />

When Thamer designs a car, it takes<br />

about 2-4 years to reach production.<br />

His first design was one you’ll still see<br />

on the road today: the Chevrolet HHR,<br />

or “Heritage High Roof,” a retro-style<br />

five-passenger wagon modeled after<br />

the 1947-53 Chevy Suburban. The car<br />

has a classic feel with modern amenities.<br />

The HHR saw over 500,000 sales<br />

in its lifetime and, at its peak in 2008,<br />

ranked #36 in vehicle sales in the United<br />

States. Not bad for a first try.<br />

A large part of the car design business<br />

is patience and persistence.<br />

While Thamer finished this design<br />

before the end of 2003, it was still not<br />

produced and sold until 2005, and<br />

it didn’t gain serious traction until a<br />

year later. By then, he had moved onto<br />

bigger and better things. He was restationed<br />

in California at GM’s advance<br />

design center. “On the advance team,<br />

you work on things that are far term,<br />

the cars you’d see in showcases or<br />

auto shows,” Thamer said. Many of the<br />

projects he works on for the advance<br />

team are top-secret.<br />

This was a quick move for someone<br />

who only joined the company in 2001,<br />

but Thamer actively sought out traveling<br />

and new experiences. He was only<br />

there for two years when he made a<br />

bigger move to Brazil. By the time he<br />

got there, the HHR, his first official design,<br />

was in its first year of production.<br />

Thamer had long felt the pull of<br />

travel, and this experience helped<br />

scratch the itch. During the time he<br />

was there, Brazil was an emerging<br />

car market, and Thamer helped build<br />

GM’s design studio there with the<br />

ultimate goal of establishing a selfsustaining<br />

design community. “We<br />

had a low budget, so it’s a really different<br />

place than I was coming from,”<br />

he said. “We had to think more practically<br />

and cost-efficiently and in terms<br />

of production.” Often, Brazilian factories<br />

would receive leftover parts from<br />

Europe, which made for an interesting<br />

design challenge.<br />

During his stay, Thamer lived in<br />

Sao Paolo, which was the third biggest<br />

city in the Americas after New York and<br />

Los Angeles, and has now surpassed<br />

both. GM gave him a bulletproof car.<br />

The office was far from where he lived,<br />

and driving in Brazil was nothing like<br />

he’d ever seen. “It’s the most dangerous<br />

thing you can imagine,” he said.<br />

“There’s a bunch of tight corners and<br />

turns and it’s very fast. I had serious<br />

anxiety every time I had to drive.”<br />

Thamer loved the city culturally.<br />

“It was a big city, and there’s all these<br />

little pockets of beauty. You can drive<br />

about 60 miles to the beach too,” he<br />

said. “The food was the best part. Experiencing<br />

the barbecue for the first<br />

time was great, where they just bring<br />

you meat over and over.”<br />

HANNONA continued on page 24<br />

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<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 23


The Cadillac Halo Portfolio<br />

HANNONA continued from page 22<br />

One of Thamer’s own contributions<br />

to Brazilian culture was the<br />

hookah. “I brought my hookah to<br />

Brazil and my friends were really into<br />

it,” he said. “I actually made some of<br />

my best friends there, people who are<br />

now lifelong friends.”<br />

In 2007, Thamer officially moved<br />

to Los Angeles. One of his first projects<br />

was designing the famous Bumblebee<br />

Camaro in the fourth installment of<br />

Transformers movie franchise, called<br />

“Transformers: Age of Extinction.”<br />

The Camaros in past Transformers<br />

movies were facelifted Camaros that<br />

already existed, and the idea was to<br />

repeat that process. When Director Michael<br />

Bay was making the fourth movie,<br />

however, the sixth generation of<br />

Camaro was in development and still<br />

unavailable to the public, and Michael<br />

Bay wanted something new.<br />

The solution was a 1 of 1 Camaro<br />

that Thamer designed in consultation<br />

with Michael Bay. Besides that<br />

one vehicle, that car did not make it<br />

into production. “I worked with the<br />

production designer and Michael Bay<br />

hand-in-hand to make it,” Thamer<br />

said. When it came out, the movie was<br />

top-15 grossing all time and has generated<br />

over $1 billion in gross revenue.<br />

Now, Thamer leads a team of designers<br />

at GM. Because of his status<br />

on the advance team, most of his<br />

projects are secret and he isn’t able to<br />

talk about them in public. Recently,<br />

however, over the last few years one<br />

of his most compelling projects was<br />

released. Cadillac’s Halo Concept Portfolio<br />

certainly comes from the future.<br />

The automotive industry is in the<br />

middle of two specific transitions that<br />

offer new challenges and ideas for<br />

Thamer and his team. First, demand<br />

for and efficiency of electric cars is constantly<br />

increasing, making them better<br />

alternatives to gas cars. For many reasons,<br />

it’s clear that this is the way of<br />

the future. The resulting mechanical<br />

changes to vehicles, like the lack of a<br />

combustion engine and the inclusion<br />

of a large battery, means that car designers<br />

need to dream up new ideas.<br />

Just as well, autonomous driving is<br />

somewhere on the horizon, albeit a bit<br />

further away. The automotive industry<br />

currently has designated six levels of<br />

automation in vehicles. Most cars on the<br />

road function at level zero, where the<br />

operator is responsible for all braking,<br />

steering, and accelerating. Most new<br />

cars are level one, which means the car<br />

can apply brakes if you get too close to<br />

the car in front of you and aid with steering,<br />

like automatic lane assist.<br />

Level two allows the driver to realistically<br />

disengage from operating the<br />

vehicle for an extended period of time,<br />

but it’s not quite reliable enough for the<br />

driver to take their eyes off the road.<br />

Right now, this is the most advanced<br />

technology that is commercially available.<br />

Tesla Autopilot and Cadillac Super<br />

Cruise both qualify as level two.<br />

Levels three, four, and five describe<br />

high levels of automation that require<br />

almost no attention from the driver. At<br />

level five, which only exists conceptually,<br />

the car is not even equipped with<br />

any pedals, brakes, shifters, or steering<br />

wheels. These vehicles demand a<br />

complete interior redesign, since cars<br />

previously were designed around the<br />

necessity of pedals and a steering<br />

wheel. In addition, the passengers in a<br />

level five car now have to be occupied<br />

by something besides driving itself.<br />

This shift requires intense creativity<br />

on the part of Thamer and his designers.<br />

The Cadillac Halo Portfolio is<br />

meant to showcase the first conception<br />

of a true level 5 automation. It consists<br />

of three vehicles, two ground-based<br />

and one quadcopter, that serve fully<br />

different purposes. The vision is that<br />

these cars are subscription-based. As<br />

a subscriber, you can schedule or call<br />

a vehicle when you need it and it will<br />

arrive to deliver you where you need.<br />

The first vehicle, which looks<br />

like a massive drone, is called the<br />

PersonalSpace. “For high net-worth and<br />

busy people, time is the most valuable<br />

thing,” Thamer said. “You can do things<br />

in this vehicle without having to spend<br />

time driving. This will buy you time.” In<br />

addition, the three-dimensional nature<br />

of the quadcopter negates traffic and<br />

allows you to skip traffic altogether.<br />

The second vehicle reminds one of<br />

a large van, and it’s called the Social-<br />

Space. This is where you’d spend time<br />

with a large group of people. If you want<br />

to go out with friends, or if you have a<br />

business meeting, this is a great option.<br />

The interior of this space is designed in a<br />

style similar to a luxury limousine.<br />

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Thamer in one of his concept cars.<br />

The third vehicle looks the most<br />

like a normal car. It’s called the InnerSpace,<br />

and it features a two-seater,<br />

sort of like a loveseat. “It’s sleek and<br />

low,” Thamer said. “There’s all kinds<br />

of biometrics readings and aromatherapy.<br />

Something that can teach you,<br />

enlighten you, and enrich you. The<br />

big challenge now is considering what<br />

you’ll do while you aren’t driving.”<br />

The Halo designs are complex and<br />

forward-thinking. They require critical<br />

thinking and expertise that’s often<br />

underestimated. When Thamer started<br />

out, he loved to draw cars as a hobby,<br />

but that’s a far cry from designing<br />

them for actual production and commercial<br />

viability.<br />

“Creating something from scratch,<br />

only with your mind, there was nothing<br />

I’d done like that before,” Thamer<br />

said. “It’s hard to teach someone how<br />

to design. You can teach someone how<br />

to draw, but the creative part comes<br />

from you.”<br />

Thamer said he draws his ideas<br />

from many influences, and it’s hard<br />

to pinpoint a specific person or movement<br />

that shaped his thinking. He<br />

mentioned his high school and college<br />

teachers as well as a famous architect<br />

named Frank Lloyd Wright,<br />

who designed over 1,000 structures,<br />

including some houses in Bloomfield<br />

Hills. His most famous house is called<br />

Fallingwater, and he’s known for his<br />

organic style and holistic design. Even<br />

the furniture, according to Thamer,<br />

was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.<br />

“As a designer, you have to have a<br />

vision of how the whole thing fits together,<br />

even if you don’t have the expertise,”<br />

he said about Wright’s style<br />

and how he incorporates it into his own<br />

work. “In terms of car design, you’re<br />

trying to invent something new, so you<br />

can’t have too big of an inspiration.”<br />

Thamer likes ideas that push<br />

boundaries, challenge existing norms,<br />

and open creative space. He understands<br />

the close interaction between<br />

peoples’ tastes, or what’s popular in<br />

the market, with trying to improve designs<br />

and push them further. “If you<br />

go too far, the people may not be ready<br />

for you,” he said. There’s a sweet spot<br />

that pushes the crowd ahead while<br />

also honoring what they already love.<br />

Thamer still has dreams to pursue<br />

and not all of them have to do with his<br />

career. He enjoys spending time with<br />

his wife and kids, who have already<br />

become little artists themselves, especially<br />

taking them around the world<br />

to travel. Since he became a design<br />

team leader instead of a traditional<br />

designer, he took up cooking to spend<br />

some of his creative passion that he<br />

was bottling up.<br />

“Just get good at something and<br />

practice it a lot,” Thamer said. In his<br />

own industry, there’s a lot of technology<br />

that can help a new designer cut<br />

corners, but he suggests avoiding that<br />

instinct. Embrace it, but make sure<br />

you do the groundwork, like sketching<br />

and ideation. This is a good lesson for<br />

any industry, most of which are being<br />

heavily disrupted by new technologies<br />

as we speak.<br />

For younger people, according to<br />

Thamer, now is the time to take risks.<br />

“You have to dictate trends rather than<br />

be dictated by it. When you’re younger,<br />

you should take more risks because<br />

time is on your side, whether it’s investments,<br />

traveling, or living somewhere<br />

new.”<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 25


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01101100 01100001 01101110 01100111 01110101 01100001 01100111 01100101 01110011<br />

Reviving Voices of the Past<br />

AI’s journey into ancient languages and culture<br />


In a remarkable convergence of artificial<br />

intelligence (AI) and linguistic<br />

passion, the enigmatic beauty of ancient<br />

languages and cultural identities<br />

is emerging from the shadows. For one<br />

individual, this fusion is more than an<br />

academic pursuit; it’s a personal odyssey<br />

fueled by a deep desire to reconnect<br />

with his roots and amplify the<br />

voices of silenced cultures.<br />

Meet Matthew Nazari, a trailblazer<br />

whose journey through linguistics<br />

and technology has paved the way<br />

for AI’s transformative role in understanding<br />

ancient languages. From his<br />

upbringing in a household resonating<br />

with the sound of Assyrian, one of the<br />

world’s most ancient languages, to his<br />

endeavors at prestigious institutions,<br />

Nazari’s voyage has been one of rediscovery<br />

and empowerment.<br />

Nazari’s fascination with languages<br />

was ignited at home, where<br />

Assyrian was spoken around him. As<br />

he recalls, “I remember my uncles<br />

proclaiming that Assyrian was the oldest<br />

language, the language that Jesus<br />

spoke—the first language ever!” This<br />

assertion left an indelible mark on his<br />

young mind. Living in California exposed<br />

him to an array of languages,<br />

stirring an obsession to understand<br />

how languages shape identities.<br />

Arriving at Harvard to study computer<br />

science and linguistics, Nazari<br />

delved into learning coursework and<br />

research. The fusion of his linguistic<br />

heritage and technical expertise was<br />

inevitable. Yet, it wasn’t until he grappled<br />

with a recurring thought—how<br />

could he use his skills to contribute<br />

to the revival of Assyrian—that a new<br />

path emerged.<br />

Nazari’s journey soon transcended<br />

his personal quest. He envisioned leveraging<br />

AI to decipher, document,<br />

and understand ancient languages in<br />

ways that not only advanced linguistic<br />

research but also upheld the cultural<br />

tapestry they represent. Through AIpowered<br />

transcription platforms like<br />

Transkribus, Nazari witnessed scripts<br />

spring to life that had baffled generations.<br />

He shared, “These technologies<br />

are more than tools; they are vessels<br />

through which languages emerge from<br />

the depths of history.” As a comprehensive<br />

platform, Transkribus recognizes,<br />

transcribes, and can search<br />

historical documents from any time,<br />

place, or language.<br />

Integrating AI into the study of ancient<br />

languages presented challenges.<br />

Nazari confronted the task of creating<br />

training data for AI models. This<br />

choice involved orthographical representation—deciding<br />

how to transcribe<br />

the language. Here, the specter of colonialism<br />

loomed. The literary standard<br />

for Assyrian, developed by 19th-century<br />

British and American missionaries,<br />

did not capture the essence of the spoken<br />

language.<br />

With Nazari’s connection to the Assyrian<br />

identity, he sought to project the<br />

unbiased originality of the language<br />

he grew up with. Nazari’s conviction<br />

lay in authentic language documentation<br />

that resonated with the hearts of<br />

Assyrian speakers.<br />

He encountered hurdles in acquiring<br />

unbiased data. An old newspaper<br />

in the literary standard turned out to<br />

be the work of a British author, not an<br />

Assyrian. Nazari’s focus shifted to linguistic<br />

documentation—transcribed<br />

folktales and historical accounts that<br />

truly reflected the language. Here, AI<br />

speech recognition proved invaluable,<br />

speeding up a process that traditionally<br />

demanded considerable time and<br />

expertise.<br />

Nazari’s journey has led him to<br />

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reflect on the broader implications of<br />

AI in cultural and linguistic contexts.<br />

He expressed concern about AI’s potential<br />

to homogenize cultural diversity.<br />

“AI can inadvertently expedite<br />

the suppression of rich cultural tapestries,”<br />

he mused. His engagement<br />

with researchers who prioritize cultural<br />

identity preservation has fueled<br />

his resolve to ensure AI’s ethical and<br />

beneficial application.<br />

As he delved deeper into AI’s potential,<br />

Nazari found himself pondering<br />

the intersection of identity and<br />

technology. He questioned how AI’s<br />

influence on language reclamation<br />

could shape the self-perception of<br />

communities. “We need to be mindful<br />

of the narratives AI can construct,” he<br />

emphasized, “and ensure they reflect<br />

the authentic essence of these cultures.”<br />

As AI’s capabilities expand, the<br />

possibilities for language reclamation<br />

and cultural revitalization continue to<br />

multiply. Beyond mere technological<br />

tools, AI storytellers and language tutors<br />

may emerge, sparking newfound<br />

connections between generations and<br />

cultures.<br />

Among Nazari, two remarkable<br />

individuals stand as torchbearers of<br />

ancient voices brought into the digital<br />

age. Hailing from Germany, a group<br />

of passionate humans have unveiled<br />

“syriac.io,” an early iteration of a<br />

translator that breathes life into diverse<br />

Aramaic dialects encompassing<br />

both written and spoken realms.<br />

Meanwhile, across the ocean in<br />

Chicago, Annette David, a visionary<br />

at Google is at the forefront of a transformative<br />

journey in association with<br />

William Merza and Immanuel Odisho.<br />

With Google Translate as their canvas,<br />

they champion the resurgence of the<br />

Assyrian language with the collaboration<br />

of tradition and technology. These<br />

modern-day language revivalists exemplify<br />

the harmonious convergence<br />

of heritage and innovation, sparking<br />

a renaissance of communication that<br />

will echo across time.<br />

Nazari’s experience underscores<br />

the importance of collaboration, humility,<br />

and sensitivity when bridging<br />

technology and culture. His journey<br />

remains a testament to the profound<br />

impact AI can have on preserving languages<br />

and identities, illuminating the<br />

intricate threads that weave our collective<br />

human heritage.<br />

In the resonant cadence of AI and<br />

ancient languages, Nazari’s quest to<br />

empower silenced voices is forging a<br />

path toward a future where the symphony<br />

of human diversity harmonizes<br />

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just a tool—it’s a bridge connecting the<br />

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AI becomes a co-author of history,<br />

crafting narratives that honor the past<br />

while shaping the narratives of generations<br />

yet to come.<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 27


An Annual Pilgrimage<br />

Our Lady of Consolation draws loyal followers<br />


For nearly half a century, Chaldeans<br />

have been visiting the<br />

Basilica and National Shrine of<br />

Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.<br />

It is the site of an annual pilgrimage of<br />

Roman Catholics, primarily Iraqi Christians,<br />

to mark the Feast of the Assumption<br />

of Mary, celebrated August 14, on<br />

the Eve of the Assumption.<br />

On that day, several buses drop off<br />

pilgrims near the information center.<br />

Hundreds of families fill a five-acre<br />

plot with tents, recreational vehicles,<br />

Middle Eastern food, music, and dancing.<br />

Some families camp in the area for<br />

days, others spend the night at nearby<br />

hotels, and many drive to the site for<br />

only a day.<br />

Approximately 5,000 visitors come<br />

every year. This year, the streets were<br />

a little quieter than usual due to the<br />

ongoing rain. Families huddled inside<br />

canopy tents or beneath canopied<br />

buildings. Campgrounds were<br />

filled with large mud puddles. Yet the<br />

weather did not prevent campers from<br />

barbecuing or gathering around campfires.<br />

The townspeople were also out<br />

and about. A mother and daughter sat<br />

on their porch passing out free bottled<br />

water and cookies.<br />

Mass was held at various hours.<br />

Chaldean Masses were held at 12:30pm<br />

with Father Stephen Kallabat and<br />

at 5pm with Father Sameem Balius.<br />

At 9pm the Vigil Mass was celebrated<br />

with a candlelight procession to<br />

Shrine Park.<br />

For over 150 years, the church has<br />

been a place of special importance,<br />

providing peace, warmth, and a consoling<br />

presence for believers. Yet few<br />

are aware of its history. Construction<br />

for the church—the first church in<br />

Carey—began in 1868. It was founded<br />

by people of Luxembourger heritage<br />

under the inspiration of an immigrant<br />

priest from the homeland. Luxembourg<br />

is one of the smallest countries<br />

in Europe and its people had for centuries<br />

fostered a deep devotion to the<br />

Mother of God.<br />

While Father Aloys Fish was the<br />

first Conventual Franciscan to serve at<br />

the shrine, Father Joseph Peter Golden<br />

is considered the shrine’s “father.” He<br />

refused any salary from the congregation<br />

until the church building was<br />

finished. He and the people of Carey<br />

did all the work themselves, save plastering<br />

the wall. Once the church was<br />

completed, he encouraged the congregation<br />

in Carey to direct their prayers<br />

to Mary, the Mother of God, under the<br />

title of Our Lady of Consolation.<br />

Father Golden later arranged for<br />

a statue to be made in Luxembourg,<br />

requesting that it would be as close<br />

a replica of the ancient image in the<br />

Cathedral as possible. At the end of<br />

March 1875, community member Nicholas<br />

Warnament brought this statue<br />

from Luxembourg to Carey; it was<br />

made of oak and could be dressed.<br />

Overjoyed, the parish asked Father<br />

Golden if they could carry the statue<br />

in procession from Frenchtown to the<br />

church in Carey.<br />

Father Golden hesitated for some<br />

time. He feared a public expression<br />

might offend and anger the rather large<br />

Protestant population of Carey. He consulted<br />

several priests in nearby parishes,<br />

and they encouraged him to have<br />

the procession. So, he went ahead.<br />

On May 24, 1875, the statue was<br />

carried in procession from the Church<br />

of St. Nicholas to the church in Carey.<br />

As the procession marched, a severe<br />

storm raged in the entire area. The<br />

story is that although people could see<br />

the rain pouring down on all sides of<br />

them for the entire seven-mile walk,<br />

not a drop touched the statue of Our<br />

Lady of Consolation, nor was anyone<br />

in the procession rained on. This was<br />

considered the first sign of an intercession<br />

of the Blessed Virgin for all<br />

who would come to pray in this little<br />

church.<br />

The procession later moved to the<br />

Shrine Park altar where, in 1956, a 12-<br />

foot, 2-ton bronze statue of Our Lady of<br />

Consolation was placed on top of the<br />

dome of the altar, some 45 feet above<br />

the ground. The statue was made in<br />

Milan, Italy.<br />

What began as an act of faith of<br />

an immigrant community connecting<br />

with their homeland has grown into<br />

a place where people of many ethnic<br />

and cultural backgrounds have come<br />

for pilgrimage. In Father Aloys Fish’s<br />

time, shrine manuals and devotional<br />

materials were printed in Hungarian,<br />

Polish, Slovak, Slovenian, and Italian.<br />

The Lebanese presence and the great<br />

crowds of Chaldean pilgrims have added<br />

their own traditions and cultural<br />

richness to the devotional life of the<br />

shrine over the years. So have Filipino,<br />

Hispanic, Albanian, Vietnamese, and<br />

African American pilgrims.<br />

“This is my first year at the shrine<br />

and the first time I’ve interacted with<br />

Chaldeans,” said Friar Maximilian.<br />

“The only thing I knew about them before<br />

is that their liturgy is in Aramaic.<br />

I’ve had a good experience interacting<br />

with them. They are a kind and faithfilled<br />

people.”<br />

The shrine complex includes the<br />

basilica, the original 1875 wooden parish<br />

church, the parish school, a rectory<br />

housing the pastor and other<br />

Franciscan priests, a provincial house<br />

which houses Franciscan friars, a convent<br />

for resident and visiting nuns,<br />

a retreat center providing lodgings<br />

for lay and religious pilgrims, a gift<br />

shop, and a cafeteria.<br />

Friar Steven, who has served for<br />

some 40 years, was first introduced<br />

to Chaldeans when they started coming<br />

on pilgrimages. He learned more<br />

about them over the years, especially<br />

by interacting with one Chaldean family<br />

who became friends. They bought a<br />

house around the corner of the church<br />

where every year, the half-dozen siblings<br />

come for two weeks.<br />

Friar Steven often goes into the<br />

camps and talks to people. “Sometimes<br />

there’s a language barrier,” he<br />

said, “but I honor their special relationship<br />

to this place which I myself<br />

have.”<br />

28 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>




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<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong><br />


<strong>2023</strong> NEWS 29



STORY<br />

Sharing the Chaldean Story<br />

Nick and Randy Najjar contribute to the traveling StoryCorps series<br />


The Chaldean News sponsored<br />

a trip to Kalamazoo last month<br />

for a father-son duo, Nick and<br />

Randy Najjar, to share their story with<br />

a program called StoryCorps, which<br />

aims to “illuminate the humanity and<br />

possibility in us all – one story at a<br />

time.”<br />

The criteria are slim and anything<br />

but exclusive. One only needs to have<br />

a story to tell and a partner to do it<br />

with to qualify. StoryCorps travels the<br />

nation in search of stories like the ones<br />

this Chaldean pair had to share. Story-<br />

Corps has a unique format which involves<br />

the two participants interviewing<br />

one another, which leads to deep<br />

and meaningful conversations.<br />

Since 2003, the program has recorded<br />

more than 640,000 conversations.<br />

Each of these is collected in the<br />

Library of Congress and preserved for<br />

future generations. Select stories are<br />

broadcast on National Public Radio<br />

(NPR), made into animated shorts, or<br />

published as a book collection. This<br />

opportunity gave the Najjars a chance<br />

to shed light on Chaldeans and our<br />

culture, if their story is selected for<br />

further promotion.<br />

Nick has a great story to tell on his<br />

own, but it was improved by the conversation<br />

with his son, Randy, who<br />

gave an important perspective. Nick is<br />

deeply involved with his community<br />

and conducts most of his business in<br />

real estate. He has, however, been involved<br />

in other things in the geopolitical<br />

sphere.<br />

Nick and Randy had a heart-toheart<br />

conversation. They discussed<br />

how Nick grew up in Iraq, where their<br />

family name comes from, and Nick’s<br />

journey to the United States. He lived<br />

in Greece for three years, a large part of<br />

it separated from his family, who still<br />

lived in Iraq. He sent money to them<br />

there.<br />

Once he got to the United States,<br />

Nick went to work in a liquor store —<br />

17 hours a day, 7 days a week for an entire<br />

year. His request for a day off was<br />

From left: Nick and Randy Najjar, with StoryCorps moderator, Francesca.<br />

met with discontent. “If you take a day<br />

off, don’t come back to work here,” his<br />

boss replied.<br />

Nick eventually bought his own<br />

store, which he sold in 1994 to venture<br />

into real estate. He continued working<br />

long hours to earn money for his wife<br />

and kids. Randy explained that, as a<br />

kid, this made him feel sad. He would<br />

see other friends’ parents who were<br />

well-established in this country spend<br />

more time with their kids.<br />

For his first six months in real estate,<br />

Nick didn’t sell one house and<br />

almost quit the real estate business.<br />

“I almost quit a day before Easter, but<br />

I didn’t. After Easter, things opened<br />

up, maybe because I prayed about it,”<br />

Nick said. “God told me this was my<br />

destiny.”<br />

“As I got older, I realized it was a<br />

different kind of love,” Randy said.<br />

“Time is one way to show your love.<br />

But you show it by supporting and<br />


STORY<br />

providing for the family, creating a life<br />

where we moved out of a small house<br />

into a decent area. One of your goals<br />

was for me to go to college, too, and<br />

you helped me pay for it.”<br />

Randy has a similar work ethic<br />

to his father. About 10 years ago, he<br />

founded Sapphire Homes, which<br />

builds luxury houses and landscaping.<br />

The company provides everything<br />

from architecture and interior design<br />

to realty. Nick recognized his son’s<br />

work ethic, but also noted his head<br />

start over his father.<br />

“Now I have a two-year-old son,”<br />

Randy said. “I told my wife, when<br />

summer comes, I don’t like to work on<br />

the weekends because I want to spend<br />

time with my family. Thankfully this<br />

summer finally I’ve been able to take<br />

some time off.”<br />

Now, Randy and Nick spend a<br />

lot more time together, and they can<br />

spend it discussing business. “One of<br />

This report is made possible in part by a grant<br />

from Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the<br />

National Endowment for the Humanities.<br />

the reasons I wanted to do this recording<br />

is because I’m trying to learn from<br />

your mistakes and your successes in<br />

the past,” Randy said.<br />

Nick lived through The Great Recession<br />

as a realtor, which was not easy<br />

for anyone in the housing industry. In<br />

2008, Nick got the opportunity to join<br />

the U.S. military in Iraq as a media analyst<br />

and translator for about one year,<br />

followed by another year in the States.<br />

This was Nick’s first trip back to Iraq<br />

since he left in 1980.<br />

“I was 48 years old, and I left everything<br />

behind me,” Nick said about<br />

going to Iraq with the military. “The<br />

main reason was financial. The second<br />

reason was to pay back what the U.S.<br />

gave me in opportunity. If I had to do<br />

it again today, I would. I’m proud I had<br />

that experience.”<br />

This left Randy and the family in<br />

a lurch. As a young adult, he “picked<br />

up the pieces” of his father’s business<br />

and managed it while he was gone. He<br />

was thrown in the deep end but clearly<br />

was a quick learner, judging by his<br />

business success today.<br />

Nick actively encourages his family<br />

to enlist in the army because he considers<br />

it honorable and understands<br />

that Americans respect their veterans.<br />

For Nick, his service propelled a candidacy<br />

for the Michigan House of Representatives<br />

in 2012, which he lost in the<br />

Democratic primary.<br />

Nick expressed his joy and pride<br />

for his son Randy. “Thank God you’re<br />

successful in your business, and I’m<br />

very, very proud of you,” Nick said.<br />

“For every dad, this is his proudest<br />

moment. To have his kids succeed and<br />

become better than him.”<br />

Nick imparted wisdom he received<br />

from his own father. “Whenever you’re<br />

dealing with the public, treat the people<br />

the same way you want to be treated.<br />

Respect people the way you want<br />

to be respected. Don’t let fame or money<br />

allow you to drift away from this,”<br />

he said. That’s great advice given with<br />

love.<br />

30 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


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<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 31


Instruction in Iraq<br />

A story of schools<br />


Schools tell us a great deal about<br />

our history. Within them, we<br />

celebrate memories, principals,<br />

teachers, students, parents, friends, uniforms,<br />

events, and the building itself.<br />

Once upon a time, Iraq had a wellfunctioning<br />

British-style education<br />

system, consisting of primary and secondary<br />

schools and eight tertiary institutions,<br />

including a well-regarded<br />

medical school in Baghdad and one of<br />

the oldest Islamic universities on Earth,<br />

Mustansiriya University, dating from<br />

the year 1233. Seriously damaged during<br />

military occupations and by rioting<br />

students in 2007, the university suffered<br />

trauma from which it is still recovering.<br />

In the 1970s, Iraq had one of the<br />

finest education systems in the world,<br />

approaching 100% literacy; however,<br />

a sequence of wars and sanctions left<br />

it severely damaged. Since 2003, 84%<br />

of the infrastructure in Iraqi higher education<br />

institutions have been burnt,<br />

looted, or damaged in some form.<br />

War, political instability, deteriorating<br />

safety conditions, and a lack of<br />

high-quality study options in Iraq have<br />

been student challenges over the past<br />

decades. Assassinations and the ongoing<br />

militia threats have affected hundreds<br />

of Iraqi teachers and academics<br />

and represent the sad situation in Iraq.<br />

There is also conflict between fundamentalist<br />

religion and the concept of<br />

free and open education for all. While<br />

this continues, children suffer. The situation<br />

is particularly depressing among<br />

primary school-age girls in poor areas.<br />

Iraq’s educational system is in<br />

ruins and in need of reconstruction.<br />

Among the many challenges facing<br />

the citizens are the creation of a new<br />

education system.<br />

History<br />

During the royal period of Iraqi history,<br />

education led to significant developments<br />

and new horizons opened in<br />

terms of primary, secondary, and preparatory<br />

schools, female schools, Jewish<br />

schools, Christian schools, private<br />

as well as foreign schools, and special<br />

Students, teachers, director, and founder of the American Elementary School in old Baghdad. Seated in the middle is<br />

the first principal of the school, Yousif Mary (Miri), and on his right, the founder of the American School for Boys, Rev.<br />

Calvin Staudt, PhD.<br />

schools for craftsmanship.<br />

The Carmelite Catholic Mission was<br />

active in Baghdad in the early eighteenth<br />

century, and they established a<br />

small religious school attached to the<br />

Latin Church in 1721. Its founder was<br />

the French priest, Emmanuel Baillet.<br />

The school taught the principles of<br />

reading and writing along with morals,<br />

discipline, religious education,<br />

and church rites. It eventually separated<br />

from the church, and in 1737,<br />

began working according to “modern”<br />

European education systems under<br />

the name Saint Joseph School. It introduced<br />

to the school curriculum modern<br />

sciences and the languages Arabic,<br />

French and a little Turkish.<br />

In 1859, it became St. Joseph High<br />

School. It had 20% non-Christian students<br />

— children from affluent families<br />

who enrolled to learn English and<br />

French. The Iraqi government seized<br />

the school when nationalizing private<br />

schools after the Baath coup in<br />

1968 and the name was changed to Al-<br />

Makasib School.<br />

The Ottomans rulers of Iraq gave<br />

Christian and Jews a freedom to start<br />

private schools if they were supervised<br />

by the local education management<br />

authority. Between 1805 and<br />

1879, there were 24 Christian schools<br />

throughout Iraq.<br />

In 1850, two Jesuits were sent from<br />

Beirut to Baghdad to determine if the<br />

time was right for a Jesuit mission<br />

there. Their caravan was robbed on<br />

the way to and from Baghdad; consequently,<br />

they decided that the time for<br />

a mission there had not yet arrived.<br />

Considered one of the earliest Jewish<br />

schools in Iraq, The Alliance was<br />

founded in 1864 and funded by Barron<br />

Rothchild. Its student body was made<br />

of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youth,<br />

and classes focused on teaching Jewish<br />

religious texts with specific focus on the<br />

Talmud and the Torah. It taught English<br />

and French as secondary languages in<br />

addition to Arabic, Hebrew, history,<br />

geography, sciences, chemistry, and<br />

biology. In the first semester of its first<br />

year (1864-1865) it had 43 students; by<br />

midterm the number jumped to 75.<br />

In 1873, the first batch of the French<br />

Dominican Sisters of the Presentation<br />

came to the city of Mosul and opened<br />

an elementary school for girls. In 1880,<br />

they came to Baghdad and founded<br />

the first monastery in the old Christian<br />

district neighborhood, Aqd al-Nasara.<br />

They opened the Central School, then<br />

another school in the eastern gate (Bab<br />

Al-Shargey) area, and another in the<br />

eastern Karrada (Karrada Al-Sharqiya).<br />

32 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

In addition, the establishment and<br />

twenty-year operation of a school for<br />

Jewish girls in Ottoman Baghdad at<br />

the turn of the twentieth century was<br />

an amazing adventure. The fact adds<br />

depth and texture to our understanding<br />

of the modernizing transformation<br />

in education that took place on a global<br />

scale between 1890 and 1930 in Iraq.<br />

In 1920, the Chaldean community<br />

opened Al-Tahira (“The Immaculate”)<br />

school for boys in Baghdad. Christian<br />

schools’ buildings were usually attached<br />

to one of the old churches.<br />

In 1924, an adventurous young<br />

couple accepted a commission to open<br />

an American school for boys in Baghdad.<br />

Setting foot on Iraqi soil the very<br />

day that the Constituent Assembly<br />

convened in Baghdad to frame a constitution<br />

for the new nation, Ida Staudt<br />

and her husband Calvin witnessed the<br />

birth of this fledgling country.<br />

For the next twenty-three years,<br />

they taught hundreds of young boys<br />

whose ethnicity, religious background,<br />

and economic status were as<br />

varied as the region itself. Cultivating<br />

strong bonds with their students<br />

and their families, the Staudts were<br />

welcomed into their lives and homes,<br />

ranging from the royal palace to refugee<br />

huts and Bedouin tents.<br />

The School of the Presentation Sisters<br />

in the heart of Baghdad’s Tahrir<br />

Square (Eastern Gate) was established<br />

in 1925 when King Faisal I donated a<br />

piece of land to a group of French nuns<br />

in exchange for their efforts in combating<br />

the plague that was spreading in<br />

Baghdad. It was called Progressive Sisters<br />

School until 1964 when the government<br />

nationalized the private schools<br />

and changed the name of the school to<br />

Al-Aqidah Secondary School for Girls.<br />

The Shamash Jewish High School<br />

in Baghdad, an all-boys school, was<br />

founded in 1928. It was like an oasis<br />

in the desert; it was funded by the<br />

Shamash family of Manchester, England<br />

who donated the building and<br />

with it 17 stores, a pharmacy, and a<br />

guest house/hotel for travelers. The<br />

curriculum included Turkish and other<br />

foreign languages with an emphasis<br />

on English. It was governed by its<br />

own committee which was headed by<br />

Shlomo Saleh Shamash.<br />

In the beginning, this school was<br />

also an elementary and middle school<br />

but in 1942, the elementary classes<br />

From top: Al-Tahira Primary School in Baghdad (est. 1920) students and teaching staff; Al-Tahira staff c. 1957 (middle<br />

pictures); Basrah Chaldean School Communion celebration with nuns and clergy.<br />

concluded and in 1949 the middle<br />

school closed. The students transferred<br />

to Frank Iny School, leaving<br />

only the high school.<br />

Although many Jewish schools had<br />

once operated in Iraq, often with the<br />

support of the local Jewish community,<br />

Iraqi government, or international<br />

Jewish organizations in Paris and London,<br />

these schools began to close in<br />

the 1940s. The Frank Iny School was<br />

the last Jewish school in Baghdad, but<br />

eventually closed in 1973 as most of<br />

the remaining Jews fled the country.<br />

Baghdad College<br />

In 1932, the same year that Iraq gained<br />

its independence, four Jesuits from<br />

the United States arrived in Baghdad<br />

and established Baghdad College High<br />

School. During its first two years, the<br />

school rented two houses in the center<br />

of Baghdad near the river. Not particularly<br />

well-constructed, the classroom<br />

floors were of rough, uneven brick.<br />

One historical description labeled it<br />

“too small, the light not so good, windows<br />

and doors were ill fitting and<br />

when a dust storm came up, the atmosphere<br />

was not pleasant.”<br />

In its first year, 375 boys applied<br />

and 120 were accepted, dropping to<br />

107 by the year’s end. Students ranged<br />

from 13 to 20 years old; the average<br />

student was about 15. In the begin-<br />

EDUCATION continued on page 34<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 33


EDUCATION continued from page 33<br />

ning, there were nine faculty for the<br />

107 students, including four Jesuits<br />

and five Iraqis. Over the years, Baghdad<br />

College grew to include over 1,000<br />

students and a faculty of 33 Jesuits<br />

and 31 Iraqi laymen. The growth was<br />

not easy or painless. The centuries of<br />

antagonism between Islam and Christianity<br />

and the long hostility between<br />

East and West left scars on the Iraqis.<br />

From the early days, Baghdad College<br />

followed Iraqi school programs<br />

and the Jesuits avoided bringing<br />

American curriculum to Iraq. They did<br />

offer their students a distinct advantage<br />

– bilingualism in Arabic and English.<br />

For many students, this was the<br />

first time they saw real blackboards,<br />

history maps, hygiene charts, projectors,<br />

movie machines, and individual<br />

armchair seats. In the eyes of their Jesuit<br />

teachers, the boys completely won<br />

their hearts.<br />

Students learned science and<br />

mathematics in English and Arabic.<br />

They were prepared to take the final<br />

government exams in Arabic and<br />

to pursue further scientific study at<br />

Baghdad University in English. Several<br />

were judged competent by the<br />

government to study abroad in the U.S.<br />

and Great Britain.<br />

During the four decades following<br />

independence, both the Jesuit mission<br />

and the country matured. In just<br />

37 years, Iraq’s population expanded<br />

from 3.5 million to 8.5 million while the<br />

Jesuit population grew from four to 61.<br />

Iraq’s secondary school grew in enrollment<br />

from 2,076 Iraqi students in three<br />

schools to 270,000 in 840 schools while<br />

the enrollment in the Jesuit schools<br />

increased from 120 students in a few<br />

rented houses to 1,100 students in nine<br />

buildings at Baghdad College.<br />

In 1952, a university named Al-Hikma<br />

(“wisdom”) was established by the<br />

Jesuits.<br />

Revolution<br />

Iraq’s public and private education<br />

started shifting after the 1958 coup<br />

that overthrew the constitutional, prowestern<br />

monarchy. It has been in decline<br />

ever since, with competing philosophies<br />

about testing and methods<br />

falling in and out of favor. Meanwhile,<br />

the Jesuit education of 1932-1958 and<br />

during the turbulent years 1959-1968<br />

maintained its consistent stance based<br />

on faith and integrity, educational rigor,<br />

and character building.<br />

The revolution of 1958 and each<br />

succeeding revolution was a crisis of<br />

sorts. For a time, it seemed that the Jesuits<br />

would weather this crisis as they<br />

had previously. School and work went<br />

Clockwise from<br />

top of page:<br />

St. Joseph students,<br />

clergy, nuns and staff<br />

at a Communion event<br />

in Baghdad; Armenian<br />

United School in<br />

Baghdad; Sixth grade<br />

graduation certificate for<br />

Olivia Yousif Yacoub from<br />

Frank Iny Jewish School<br />

dated 1970; Young Iraqi<br />

students in Bartella,<br />

Nineveh Province.<br />

on for another year until a new revolution<br />

brought to power a socialist government<br />

more interested in controlling<br />

all private education.<br />

The government decreed that it<br />

would administer AI-Hikma while the<br />

Jesuits continued to teach. The Jesuits<br />

accepted the proposal and attempted<br />

to work in the new framework for a<br />

few months until an extremist element<br />

in the government decreed their expulsion<br />

from Iraq in November 1968.<br />

A year later the American Jesuits at<br />

Baghdad College were ordered to leave<br />

by the same group.<br />

Current Status<br />

Education in Iraq is highly centralized,<br />

and state controlled. The state fully finances<br />

all aspects of public education<br />

such as supplying books, teaching<br />

aids and free student residences.<br />

Arabic is used as the primary language<br />

of instruction at all institutions,<br />

although Kurdish is taught in Kurdish<br />

areas. Pre-school education lasts for<br />

a duration of two years and is open<br />

to children at four years old; primary<br />

education is six years in duration and<br />

EDUCATION continued on page 45<br />

34 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

WE ARE<br />

HIRING<br />

Do you possess a passion for bettering the lives of others?<br />

Join our ever expanding team!<br />

Administrative Support Clerk • Behavioral Health Therapist<br />

Case Worker • Citizenship Instructor • Data Entry Clerk<br />

Early Childhood Aide • Early Childhood Instructor • Facilities/Transportation<br />

Advocacy<br />

Acculturation<br />

Community Development<br />

Cultural Preservation<br />

For More Information<br />

HR@chaldeanfoundation.org<br />

586-722-7253<br />

www.chaldeanfoundation.org/careers<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 35

SPORTS<br />


Left: Ella (left) is on the run during a<br />

2022 state semifinal girls lacrosse game<br />

at Brighton High School.<br />


Above: Ella plays ‘keep away’ with the<br />

puck while playing for the Little Caesars<br />

AAA 16U girls hockey team during a<br />

2022 tournament in Pittsburgh.<br />

Unstoppable<br />

Ella Lucia is headed to Harvard<br />


Ella Lucia is a teenage wonder woman.<br />

She’s a star girls hockey player and an<br />

outstanding student who has made a verbal<br />

commitment to take her hockey skills and academic<br />

acumen to Harvard University,<br />

a prestigious Ivy League college.<br />

Lucia announced July 31 that she<br />

has “committed to the admissions<br />

process” at Harvard. That’s Harvardspeak<br />

for she will play hockey at the<br />

Division I level for the Crimson. The<br />

17-year-old Bloomfield Hills High<br />

School senior also is an All-American<br />

high school girls’ lacrosse player.<br />

Her statistics in the two sports are<br />

mind-blowing. She’s a center in hockey<br />

and an attacking midfielder in lacrosse. Ella Lucia<br />

Last season with the Little Caesars<br />

AAA 16U girls’ hockey team, she had 32<br />

goals and 92 assists for 124 points in 66 games. Not bad<br />

for someone who was a figure skater from ages 4 to 9<br />

before beginning her hockey journey at age 10.<br />

AAA is the highest level of girls’ junior hockey.<br />

Lucia had 125 goals and 59 assists in 23 games for 186<br />

points this past spring for the Bloomfield Hills girls’<br />

lacrosse team. She was named an All-American, and<br />

reached high school career milestones of 200 goals,<br />

100 assists, 100 groundballs, and 200 draw controls<br />

last season. She also was named a Division 1 First-<br />

Team All-State player as a sophomore and junior.<br />

So why continue her hockey career rather than<br />

her lacrosse career in college?<br />

“I’ve played lacrosse longer, but hockey is our family’s<br />

sport (her sister, brother, father and<br />

cousins either play or have played), and<br />

hockey is more physical, more of a contact<br />

sport than lacrosse,” she said.<br />

“But I love playing lacrosse, too. It’s<br />

fun and I’ve met a lot of people. Plus, It’s<br />

a great outlet and a perfect break from<br />

hockey. I’ve seen some of my hockey<br />

friends who played in the spring get<br />

burned out,” Lucia went on to say.<br />

Tom Forgione coached Lucia the<br />

past two seasons on the Little Caesars<br />

AAA 16U team and will coach her<br />

again this season on the Little Caesars<br />

19U team, so he knows what makes<br />

her tick as a hockey player.<br />

“No. 1, she’s fiercely competitive,” said Coach<br />

Forgione. “And she plays well on both sides of the ice.<br />

She’s strong offensively and defensively. That’s rare.”<br />

On top of that, Forgione said, Lucia is a leader<br />

who leads by example. She was the team captain last<br />

year and will be an assistant captain this season —<br />

the only one of the younger players on the team to<br />

earn that role.<br />

In the midst of all the time Lucia devotes to sports,<br />


she has a 4.1 grade-point average at Bloomfield Hills.<br />

How has she done it?<br />

“There’s no time for procrastination,” she said, giving<br />

emphasis to each word. “I’m always setting aside<br />

time for schoolwork and I’m on top of things at school.<br />

When there’s time at school to do homework, I use it.”<br />

Forgione said he isn’t surprised that Lucia excels<br />

in the classroom. “That’s a testament to her parents.<br />

She was raised the right way,” Forgione said.<br />

Academics is what drew Lucia to Harvard. And<br />

hockey, of course. Plus, she said she and her parents<br />

“fell in love with Boston” during a trip to visit the<br />

university. Cambridge, where Harvard is located, is a<br />

Boston suburb. Positive impressions of the Harvard<br />

campus and women’s hockey coaching staff sealed<br />

the deal for Lucia.<br />

“Ella will do well playing in college. She’s so versatile.<br />

She’ll fit in wherever she’s needed,” Forgione said.<br />

“I’m happy for Ella. This couldn’t happen to a better kid.<br />

All her hard work and dedication are paying off.”<br />

The youngest of three children in the Lucia family,<br />

Ella is following in the athletic footsteps of her older<br />

siblings, while simultaneously reaching for the stars.<br />

Her sister Olivia, 20, played high school girls hockey at<br />

Bloomfield Hills. A goalie, she was named Miss Michigan<br />

Hockey in her senior year. She’s now a senior at<br />

Michigan State University in a pre-law curriculum.<br />

Her brother Kyle, 18, is a sophomore at Michigan<br />

State playing for the MSU club hockey team and<br />

studying construction management. Ella said her<br />

sister and brother have taught her important lessons<br />

about life balance, which is especially important<br />

with all her time commitments.<br />

“They’ve shown me how to manage my time so<br />

I can have a social life, hang out with my friends,<br />

and go to family gatherings,” she said. The siblings’<br />

parents are Ken and Karen Lucia. The family lives in<br />

Bloomfield Hills.<br />

36 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

ARE<br />

YOU<br />

HIRING?<br />

JOIN US<br />

2ND ANNUAL<br />


JOB FAIR<br />

Wednesday, September, 27, <strong>2023</strong> 3:00 P. M . -6:00 P. M .<br />

The Chaldean Community Foundation (CCF) invites you to participate in our 2nd Annual<br />

Community Job Fair <strong>2023</strong>. Our job fair will enable you, the employer, to meet and<br />

conduct on-the-spot interviews with New Americans and the greater community. It is an<br />

excellent opportunity to promote open positions and network with other businesses and<br />

organizations. We look forward to seeing you!<br />

Please register by scaning the<br />

QR code below.<br />

Employers will receive:<br />

• Table and two chairs for setup.<br />

• Light refreshments and snacks.<br />

* Space is limited. Registration is available on a first come,<br />

first served basis.<br />

$150 Registration fee<br />

For more info contact Elias at Elias.Kattoula@chaldeanfoundation.org or call 586-722-7253.<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

Wireless Vision Gymnasium<br />

3601 15 Mile Rd.<br />

Sterling Heights, MI, 48310<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 37


Chaldean News is proud to present the first-ever Chaldeans<br />

Rising: Young Writers Challenge, a writing competition<br />

that invites bright young minds between the ages 14-25 to<br />

write a unique essay about their perspective on the Chaldean<br />

community and share their visionary ideas for the future.<br />

Through this competition, we aim to inspire imagination, spur<br />

critical thinking, and create unity within our community.<br />





RISING<br />

Young writers<br />

challenge<br />

WIN<br />

$100!<br />

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can<br />

increase your risk for cavities. Try to limit<br />

how much pop, juice, fruit drinks, sweetened<br />

teas, or sports drinks you have. Instead, try<br />

different types of fruit in your water for a<br />

smile-friendly drink.<br />

Delta Dental of Michigan<br />

Scan the QR code to<br />

watch our oral health<br />

video series.<br />

$500!<br />

I<br />

Fall in Love<br />

with Autumn<br />


don’t know about you, but I can’t help<br />

but notice that the spirit of autumn<br />

and all-things-Halloween seems to<br />

come earlier and earlier every year. As a<br />

lover of fall, I couldn’t be more excited.<br />

And as we head into September, our<br />

minds have undoubtedly switched from<br />

splash pads and family road trips to<br />

school and extracurricular activities. But<br />

just because the kiddos are going back<br />

to school, it does not mean the fun has<br />

to stop. There are tons of ways to keep<br />

your family bonded and enjoy shared<br />

experiences even in the colder seasons.<br />

Below are just a few of my favorites.<br />

Metro Detroit Hayride<br />

This fall, why not elaborate on the<br />

typical “cider mill” family excursion<br />

and make it cider/donuts AND a family<br />

hayride? You can enjoy all your favorite<br />

autumn treats while taking a scenic<br />

ride and enjoy the weather and pretty<br />

colors. You can even do a haunted hayride<br />

for Halloween!<br />

Plenty of places offer hayrides including:<br />

Three Cedars Farm and Cider Mill<br />

(7897 Six Mile Road in Northville); Upland<br />

Hills Farm (481 Lake George Road in<br />

Oxford); and Heritage Park (24725 Farmington<br />

Road in Farmington Hills).<br />

These are just a few. A quick Google<br />

search will find even more.<br />

Visit Canterbury Village<br />

I discovered Canterbury Village last February<br />

for a Harry Potter event and let me<br />

tell you, it did NOT disappoint. Located<br />

in Lake Orion, Canterbury Village hosts<br />

fun activities and events year-round.<br />

In the fall they offer a Canterbury Village<br />

Ghost Walk every Friday and Saturday<br />

during the month of September. Although<br />

it sounds spooky, it is great fun<br />

for kids (and adults) of all ages. Don’t<br />

just take my word for it; visit their website<br />

at www.canterburyvillage.com and<br />

check it out yourself (along with many<br />

other awesome things to do).<br />

Cedar Point “HalloWeekends”<br />

You cannot call yourself a Michigan resident<br />

if you have never at least heard of<br />

Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends. But just<br />

in case you haven’t, here’s the lowdown.<br />

Every year, for as long as I can remember,<br />

Cedar Point — located in Sandusky,<br />

Ohio — transforms their legendary<br />

amusement park into a Fall/Halloween<br />

wonderland for everyone to enjoy.<br />

In addition to more than 70 rides<br />

and 17 roller coasters, you will also<br />

find monsters and ghouls galore (oh<br />

my!) roaming the park between September<br />

15 - October 30 (on weekends),<br />

plus haunted houses and many other<br />

spooktacular sites.<br />

Pack up the family car and make a<br />

day of it!<br />

Long Family Orchard<br />

Visiting the apple orchard has always<br />

been one of the region’s fall favorite<br />

activities and the Long Family Orchard<br />

(1540 East Commerce Rd. Commerce)<br />

is a great place to experience the fun.<br />

There’s nothing like picking your own<br />

apples right off the trees and enjoying<br />

the scenic nature.<br />

In addition to an apple orchard, this<br />

beautiful farm is also home to a corn<br />

maze, pumpkin patch, tractor rides,<br />

a children’s play area, and even adorable<br />

farm animals. And of course, it<br />

wouldn’t be an apple orchard without<br />

everyone’s favorite - cider and donuts!<br />

Fall Color Tour<br />

One of the great things our unique<br />

state offers is the fall color – our many<br />

trees become a beautiful tapestry in<br />

autumn. The Tunnel of Trees is one of<br />

northern Michigan’s not-so-best-kept<br />

secrets, and fall is the best time for<br />

short road trips.<br />

You can find the <strong>2023</strong> fall color map<br />

on michigan.org.<br />

Bright clear skies and temperate<br />

weather make autumn in Michigan<br />

a pure pleasure. Winter with snowstorms<br />

and frigid temperatures will be<br />

here before you know it. Get out there<br />

with your family and enjoy the weather<br />

while you can!<br />

38 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


LIGHT<br />


Therapy can be a big step toward being the healthiest<br />

version of yourself and living the best life possible—our<br />

professional therapists are here for you to access.<br />

Through therapy, you can change self-destructive<br />

behaviors and habits, resolve painful feelings,<br />

improve your relationships, and share your feelings<br />

and experiences. Individuals often seek therapy for help<br />

with issues that may be hard to face alone.<br />

In therapy your therapist will help you to establish person<br />

centered goals and determine the steps you will take to<br />

reach those goals. Your relationship with your therapist<br />

is confidential and our common therapeutic goal for those<br />

we engage is to inspire healthy change to improve quality<br />

of life — no matter the challenge.<br />

We invite you seek out the Light of Project Light! Serving<br />

individuals ages 13 years and up. Please call to request a<br />

Project Light Intake at (586) 722-7253.<br />

For Your Best Health.<br />

CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY: The CCF and Project Light is committed to your privacy and confidentiality and are sensitive to the stigma and stress that come with seeking<br />

mental health support. Therefore, all counseling records are kept strictly confidential. Information is not shared without client’s written consent. Exceptions to confidentiality are<br />

rare and include persons who threaten safety of themselves others or in circumstances of a court order.<br />




3601 15 MILE ROAD, STERLING HEIGHTS, MI 48310 | (586) 722-7253<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 39


Renting vs. Buying<br />

Questions for newcomers seeking housing<br />


Homeownership is the ultimate<br />

American dream. Finding a<br />

place to live is one of the most<br />

important steps in establishing a new<br />

life in the United States. Some people<br />

are fortunate enough to live safely with<br />

family members while some must try<br />

to live comfortably on their own. Language<br />

barriers, financial uncertainty,<br />

and credit obstacles can be cumbersome.<br />

Educating yourself will make<br />

the process less stressful.<br />

First and foremost, know that your<br />

immigration status cannot lawfully<br />

keep you from purchasing or renting<br />

a home. The Fair Housing Act protects<br />

you from discrimination based<br />

on race, national origin, and religion,<br />

among other things. However, a landlord<br />

can ask about your residency<br />

status if he/she asks every other applicant<br />

the same questions. This helps<br />

the landlord to comply with state and<br />

federal laws, and it helps you as the<br />

renter obtain resources necessary to<br />

maintain living there.<br />

Tenants’ rights<br />

In Michigan, for example, it is unlawful<br />

for a landlord to void a lease agreement<br />

if the property becomes uninhabitable.<br />

You have the right to terminate<br />

your contract – unless it is your fault<br />

and you have received money from insurance.<br />

Also, landlords cannot just<br />

increase your rent when they feel like<br />

it, even if you violated a part of your<br />

contract – unless you have given them<br />

written consent. They also cannot use<br />

your personal property as a security deposit.<br />

Landlords can, however, terminate<br />

your contract if you are involved in<br />

domestic abuse or sexual assault.<br />

As a tenant, you have the right to<br />

terminate a lease if, after 13 months,<br />

you or a loved one are unable to live<br />

independently. This is a good provision<br />

for the elderly or for people who<br />

are suddenly incapacitated. Know also<br />

that the security deposit should not<br />

exceed 1.5 times the rent. That means<br />

if rent is $1200 a month, then the security<br />

deposit should not be more<br />

than $1800. If a landlord requests<br />

more than that, he/she is in violation<br />

of state law. As a newcomer, it may be<br />

necessary to have a co-signer who will<br />

be responsible for making the rent if<br />

you fail to do so.<br />

It is important to fully understand<br />

any legal documents you sign. If your<br />

English language and reading skills<br />

are still developing, take someone who<br />

is fluent with you to look for a place to<br />

live or seek a realtor who speaks Sureth<br />

or Arabic. They can translate the expectations<br />

for you, and you can decide<br />

whether or not you agree with them.<br />

The contract is not just for you but for<br />

the landlord as you both have responsibilities<br />

to each other. A written contract<br />

is always better than an oral agreement.<br />

Know your rights and know the<br />

landlord’s too to avoid any conflicts.<br />

You must think about what makes<br />

better sense for you and your family.<br />

While many immigrants come to<br />

America with all their life’s savings,<br />

many arrive with very little money.<br />

Depending on home values, it may<br />

be better to rent because you will not<br />

have the burden of maintenance when<br />

an appliance or something even more<br />

expensive like plumbing breaks down.<br />

That is typically taken care of by the<br />

landlord. Also, the flexibility of leaving<br />

when your lease ends will make<br />

moving more convenient.<br />

Immigrants and refugees are available<br />

to get rent assistance in Michigan<br />

for up to 12 months. This program<br />

helps take the burden off people who<br />

are resettling and seeking to build a<br />

new life here.<br />

Buying a home<br />

Obtaining a mortgage is not easy for a<br />

newcomer (even those with cash down<br />

payments), but it is not impossible.<br />

You can apply for special loans, like<br />

an FHA loan, but without established<br />

credit scores, mortgage rates will be<br />

higher, and you will likely need a cosigner.<br />

Certainly, there are benefits to<br />

purchasing a home, and the greatest<br />

opportunity is that of building equity.<br />

You can also take mortgage interest<br />

deductions on your taxes. Plus, you<br />

can truly make the home yours by customizing<br />

it to your style.<br />

But there is also a downside. Just<br />

as a house can increase in value, it<br />

can also decrease. And it costs more<br />

Before you rent or<br />

buy, ask yourself:<br />

• Is this a neighborhood my family<br />

and I could survive and thrive in?<br />

• Are there English language<br />

learning support programs at<br />

school for my kids?<br />

• Should I build a life and career<br />

here and then buy a house?<br />

• Can I put half of my income<br />

aside for rent and other necessary<br />

expenses?<br />

• Can I let go of wants and focus<br />

on needs for the short-term?<br />

If you cannot definitively answer<br />

all these questions, you should<br />

rethink your priorities before you<br />

enter into a lease or purchase<br />

agreement.<br />

to own a home than to rent. Homeowners<br />

spend an average of approximately<br />

$3,000 a year on maintenance<br />

alone!<br />

With nearly 30 years of experience,<br />

real estate agent Riyadh Ronnie<br />

Mansour has assisted numerous<br />

first-time homebuyers. He claims that<br />

a very small number of those were recently<br />

arrived immigrants with a lot of<br />

money. Mostly, the newcomers just try<br />

to get by and adjust to being in a new<br />

environment.<br />

“Buying a house comes with a lot<br />

of obligations and expenses,” Mansour<br />

said. “You have to consider how many<br />

people are in the family and how many<br />

of them can work to pay for these expenses.<br />

You have to be ready for that.”<br />

Mansour advises that newcomers<br />

gain employment, become taxpayers,<br />

and establish credit to prepare<br />

themselves for homeownership. They<br />

should have some stability before purchasing<br />

a house.<br />

“This is how you show you are a<br />

good citizen and a good American,” he<br />

added.<br />

For more information, you can go to<br />

https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/<br />

assistance-programs/cash/refugee/<br />

refugee-assistance-services. Riyadh<br />

Ronnie Mansour with Century 21 can be<br />

reached at 586-321-0700 and is fluent in<br />

Sureth and Arabic as well as English.<br />

40 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>



3601 15 MILE RD., STERLING HEIGHTS, MI 48310<br />

Breaking Barriers provides services and advocacy to those with developmental and/or intellectual<br />

disabilities, older adults, and respite to caregivers.<br />


helps better equip those with visual impairments to live independent lives.<br />


LANGUAGE, LIFE SKILLS) PROJECT – helps better equip those with<br />

hearing impairments to live independent lives.<br />


supports the family caregiver in care provision and stress reduction.<br />

BB ACADEMY – Adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities gather to<br />

participate in group activities, meet new friends, learn new skills and have fun while their<br />

unpaid family caregivers enjoy some well-deserved respite time.<br />

RECREATIONAL FAMILY RESPITE – Year-round themed gatherings<br />

for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families.<br />

Families enjoy a safe and familiar place to meet, break bread and to socialize.<br />

SUPERCUTS BARBER SHOP – Licensed cosmetologists provide complimentary<br />

salon services for individuals with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities by appointment.<br />

M.O.B. – Matter of Balance is an evidence based cognitive restructuring group class<br />

for older adults with mobility challenges to reduce the risk of Falling.<br />

BINGOCIZE- Older adults meet and enjoy group Bingo and light exercise to<br />

socialize and improve their overall health.<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 41



STORY<br />

Raad Hakeem: Music Man<br />


Born in Alqosh, Iraq, Raad Hakeem,<br />

32, has been playing the<br />

tamboura since the age of eleven.<br />

Known in Turkish as saz, the tamboura<br />

is a musical stringed instrument<br />

with a long neck and round body. It belongs<br />

to the lute family and is known<br />

for its rich, resonant sound. It is commonly<br />

used in Indian classical music,<br />

although it has found its way into various<br />

genres of world music and fusion<br />

styles due to its unique tone and versatile<br />

nature.<br />

Hakeem was taught how to play<br />

this instrument by his paternal uncle.<br />

“Whenever he left to serve in the army, I<br />

would use his instruments,” remembers<br />

Hakeem. “I practiced a lot during school<br />

breaks. The hardest thing was trying to<br />

find time to play and study too.”<br />

His father also dabbled with various<br />

musical instruments, so music<br />

was in the family genes. But only in<br />

Hakeem’s case did this aptitude turn<br />

from hobby into a full-time career.<br />

Early on, Hakeem’s talents gained<br />

recognition from the neighborhood.<br />

His family had a store in town where<br />

he’d sit and play the tamboura. People<br />

stopped to listen and enjoy his music.<br />

“Our house was on the way to the<br />

monastery,” he said, “so people who<br />

passed through would come over and<br />

insist that I play something.” Over<br />

time, they asked him, “Why don’t you<br />

get on TV and radio stations so the<br />

world can hear what you play?”<br />

At age sixteen, he began doing interviews<br />

for different channels. Locals<br />

invited him to play at gatherings. Little<br />

by little, he started performing with<br />

bands, and nowadays, he mostly does<br />

solo shows.<br />

Because of the dire situation there,<br />

Hakeem left Iraq in 2011. He lived in<br />

Lebanon where every day after work, he<br />

continued to play with the musical instruments<br />

he brought from Iraq. “During<br />

that time, I learned a lot of famous Arabic<br />

songs by the legendary Abdel Halim<br />

Hafez and Fairuz,” recalls Hakeem.<br />

These practices led him to create<br />

his own rhythms that combined Arabic,<br />

Iraqi, Turkish, Chaldean, Assyrian,<br />

Lebanese, and Egyptian music. “I took a<br />

Upcoming Shows<br />

Raad Hakeem will be one of the artists featured in the West Bloomfield “Meet<br />

Your Neighbors” event on Thursday, September 28. A multicultural experience,<br />

the event runs from 4-7 PM at the Connect Senior Center located at 33230 West<br />

14 Mile Road. All ages are welcome, and light refreshments will be provided.<br />

The Chaldean News will have a booth at the event, participating as part of the<br />

Great Michigan Stories Project.<br />

Raad will also be at the Chaldean Cultural Center’s Founders Gala on Friday,<br />

October 20 from 6-11 PM at Shenandoah Country Club. Tickets and sponsorship<br />

information are available on the Center’s website at chaldeanculturalcenter.org/<br />

event/<strong>2023</strong>-founders-gala.<br />

Raad Hakeem will be a featured performer<br />

as part of CN’s Chaldean Story series at<br />

West Bloomfield’s “Meet Your Neighbors”<br />

on Thursday, September 28.<br />


STORY<br />

This report is made possible in part by a grant<br />

from Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the<br />

National Endowment for the Humanities.<br />

chance with this kind of music and people<br />

liked it,” he said. “That inclusivity is<br />

what makes my style unique. It reaches<br />

various cultures and ethnicities who are<br />

at the same event. I haven’t seen anyone<br />

else do what I do in this way.”<br />

Hakeem arrived in the United<br />

States in August 2013. He was in his<br />

early twenties and realized that people<br />

here didn’t know the quality of his<br />

music. “It took a while for them to understand<br />

and have confidence in my<br />

work,” he said. “Since 2021, I’ve been<br />

doing this full-time.”<br />

Hakeem visited Iraq in 2022 for six<br />

days, going to Duhok, Erbil, and Alqosh.<br />

“I can’t describe the feeling of going<br />

back to your hometown and seeing the<br />

people that you love,” he said. “It was<br />

great, and the people were great.”<br />

He performed at a couple of parties,<br />

for no charge. He did so out of<br />

love for the community and because<br />

many could not afford to pay. They<br />

lived under difficult circumstances,<br />

though they try not to show it. “These<br />

are my people and I wanted to make<br />

them happy,” he said.<br />

He noticed big changes since he<br />

left, such as social media. “Nowadays<br />

everyone has a phone and can watch<br />

online the entertainers and musicians<br />

that they like,” he said.<br />

Hakeem credits his musical success<br />

to his ambitious attitude, persistence,<br />

and the support of people. He listened<br />

to his audience and created tunes that<br />

resonated with them. They therefore<br />

appreciated his work and booked him<br />

regularly until he became so in demand,<br />

he saw that he could make playing<br />

the tamboura a full-time career.<br />

In the future, Hakeem would like<br />

to reach composers in the Arab World<br />

and work with them. This would<br />

broaden his audience and give him a<br />

global presence.<br />

He’s happy to help other artists<br />

grow in their fields, but only if they’re<br />

ambitious. “If they don’t have ambition,<br />

then they’re wasting my time,”<br />

said Hakeem. “You must have the will<br />

to pursue your dreams,” he went on.<br />

“When you love your work, you will<br />

always succeed. By loving it, you are<br />

giving it value, and in return people<br />

will give it value. You must hold on to<br />

the work and take it seriously.”<br />

Contact Raad Hakeem at (586) 277-9691<br />

or by email at raadhakeem@gmail.com.<br />

42 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

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EDUCATION continued from page 34<br />

is compulsory through age 11. Secondary<br />

education in Iraq is six years in<br />

duration and completed in two stages:<br />

Intermediate and Preparatory.<br />

Even though it is now gone, ISIS<br />

damaged the Iraqi education system<br />

severely. One out of every five schools<br />

in Iraq were put out of use. The terrorist<br />

group really hurt the country’s education,<br />

by closing some schools and<br />

using others as a place to radicalize<br />

children. Parents were forced to send<br />

their children to these schools under<br />

the threat of death.<br />

Even after ISIS was expelled, many<br />

children were out of school for two years,<br />

because of the closure of many schools.<br />

This meant the loss of two school years<br />

and the need to catch up educationally.<br />

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government<br />

does not dedicate enough budget<br />

for the education of the country’s<br />

youth. Most of the Iraqi government’s<br />

budget is spent on religious institutions<br />

and the military.<br />

Even if the situation is quite dire<br />

when it comes to education in Iraq, international<br />

organizations have not left the<br />

country without help. For example, UNI-<br />

CEF has made tons of improvements,<br />

building new schools and fixing existing<br />

water systems in addition to training<br />

more than 50,000 teachers and supplying<br />

children with school materials. UNI-<br />

CEF has helped around nearly 700,000<br />

children access education in Iraq.<br />

U.N. statistics indicate that the average<br />

Iraqi boy over 15 has less than 5<br />

years of schooling and nearly half of<br />

Iraqi girls have none. Bombing, looting,<br />

and burning (including the education<br />

ministry headquarters) in 2003<br />

administered the coup de grace to the<br />

old system—and created a golden opportunity<br />

to build a new one.<br />

The fight for education is far from<br />

over in Iraq, and children continue<br />

to search for glimmers of hope. Children’s<br />

education is key to the rebuilding<br />

of society in Iraq and mandatory<br />

for the troubled nation to achieve a<br />

sustainable peace.<br />

Educating children is the best hope<br />

for the future of Iraq. Let’s hope that this<br />

will happen in the years to come.<br />

Sources: Christians in Iraq by Saad<br />

Salloum, Jews of Iraq by Yacoub<br />

Yousif Goriya, A journey in the<br />

History of Iraqi Jews by Yousif Rizq<br />

Alla Ghanima, Articles by: Jonathan<br />

Sciarcon, Dr. Aziz Asaad, Karam Jasim<br />

Mohammed, Ukrainian National<br />

University, Jassim Mohammed<br />

Rajab, Fadi Salam Iliya, CRS, Majid<br />

Khadduri, Billy Briggs, UNICEF.<br />

<strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 45

EVENT<br />

1<br />

2<br />

3<br />

4<br />

West Bloomfield Group<br />

Tours the Chaldean<br />

Cultural Center<br />


A<br />

group from the Jewish community and West<br />

Bloomfield leadership visited the Chaldean<br />

Cultural Center inside Shenandoah Country<br />

Club on Saturday, August 5. This was the first of a series<br />

of events for the year-long Chaldean Story project,<br />

made possible with support from Michigan Humanities<br />

Grants. Guests enjoyed a guided tour of the museum<br />

with a history lesson by Executive Director, Weam<br />

Namou. The event, coordinated by Sharkey Haddad<br />

of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, included<br />

a luncheon and discussion. Sharkey is one of<br />

the project advisors for the Chaldean Story initiative.<br />

1. Event participants pose in front<br />

of the Chaldean Cultural Center.<br />

2. Judy Jonna leads a tour.<br />

3. Weam Namou explains some<br />

of the displays in the Center.<br />

4. Nick Najjar provides a<br />

first-hand account of current<br />

conditions in Northern Iraq.<br />

5. Sharkey Haddad gives an<br />

impassioned presentation.<br />

6. Dr. Adhid Miri leads a discussion<br />

during the post-tour luncheon.<br />

5 6<br />


STORY<br />

This report is made possible in part by a grant<br />

from Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the<br />

National Endowment for the Humanities.<br />

46 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>SEPTEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


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