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METRO DETROIT CHALDEAN COMMUNITY VOL. 20 ISSUE X <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong><br />

Tragedy<br />

in Bakhdida<br />



Featuring:<br />

Origins of Language<br />

Why Language Matters<br />

Thank You For Your Service

248-643-6600<br />

|<br />

www.lincolnoftroy.com<br />

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



Curated Collection of Interior Themes<br />

Exclusive Premium Materials<br />

Service Pick up and Delivery<br />

CONTACT:<br />



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248-530-4710<br />


America’s largest arab<br />

and Chaldean law firm.<br />

أكبر مكتب محاماة عربي وكلداني في<br />

الواليات المتحدة االمريكية<br />

مكتب المحامي قاجي<br />

اتصل بنا على رقم<br />

877-525-9227<br />

Getting You Back to You.<br />

it’s Why We Care.<br />

نعيدك الى ماكنت عليه<br />

هذا هو سبب اهتمامنا<br />

Lawrence Kajy<br />

Attorney at Law<br />

املحامي لورنس قاجي<br />

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

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

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

METRO DETROIT CHALDEAN COMMUNITY | <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | VOL. 20 ISSUE X<br />


22 Tragedy in Bakhdida<br />

Wedding fire raises questions<br />

By Christina Salem<br />


24 Why Language Matters<br />

What Sureth means to Chaldeans<br />

By Cal Abbo<br />

26 Origins of Language<br />

Exploring cuneiform<br />

By Dr. Adhid Miri<br />

28 Thank You for Your Service<br />

Honoring Chaldean American veterans<br />

By Sarah Kittle<br />

22<br />

32 Spicing Up Michigan<br />

How Chaldean cuisine became<br />

mainstream<br />

By Cal Abbo<br />


6 From the Editor<br />

Loss, Sacrifice, and Rediscovering Culture<br />

By Sarah Kittle<br />

8 Guest Column<br />

A Note About Support<br />

By Mike Sarafa<br />

10 Foundation Update<br />

Job Fair, Civics Bee<br />

21 Obituary<br />

Prof. Malik Yousif Mary<br />

44 Life Skills<br />

Buying Insurance as an Immigrant<br />

By Paul Natinsky<br />

46 Arts and Entertainment<br />

Sam Sako<br />

By Weam Namou<br />

38 Culture & History<br />

First Tango with Mango: Amba<br />

By Dr. Adhid Miri<br />

42 Celebrating 20 Years<br />

Chaldean Cultural Center Gala<br />

By Weam Namou<br />

12 Noteworthy<br />

Genevieve Kashat returns, Crain’s 40<br />

Under 40<br />

48 Family Time<br />

Beyond the Turkey<br />

By Valene Ayar<br />

14 Chaldean Digest<br />

Cardinal Sako visits Pope<br />

16 Religion<br />

Meet Fr. John “Junior” Jwad<br />

By Michael Antoon<br />

20 In Memoriam<br />

50 Sports<br />

Chaldeans and Golf<br />

By Mikey Lossia<br />

52 Events<br />

Chaldean Chamber’s Business Luncheon<br />

Photos by Dany Ashaka<br />

28<br />

<strong>NOVEMBER</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 />

Sarah Kittle<br />

Mikey Lossia<br />

Dr. Adhid Miri<br />

Weam Namou<br />

Paul Natinsky<br />

Christina Salem<br />

Mike Sarafa<br />



Alex Lumelsky with SKY Creative<br />


Zina Lumelsky with SKY Creative<br />


Dany Ashaka<br />

Stephen Attisha<br />

SALES<br />

Interlink Media<br />

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Sana Navarrette<br />

Subscriptions: $35 per year<br />


Story ideas: edit@chaldeannews.com<br />

Advertisements: ads@chaldeannews.com<br />

Subscription and all other inquiries:<br />

info@chaldeannews.com<br />

Chaldean News<br />

30095 Northwestern Hwy, Suite 101<br />

Farmington Hills, MI 48334<br />

www.chaldeannews.com<br />

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

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

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

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

Publication Address:<br />

30095 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 101,<br />

Farmington Hills, MI 48334;<br />

Permit to mail at periodicals postage rates<br />

is on file at Farmington Hills Post Office<br />

Postmaster: Send address changes to<br />

“The Chaldean News 30095 Northwestern<br />

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

Loss, Sacrifice, and Rediscovering Culture<br />

We chose our cover carefully to convey<br />

the great sorrow and anguish felt after<br />

a recent tragic fire in the Nineveh Plain<br />

province of Iraq. It was the happiest of occasions,<br />

a wedding between two lovers, a marriage of families,<br />

which turned into one of the most heartbreaking<br />

events a family can endure.<br />

The story made headlines internationally, in<br />

part because of the “blame game” that started almost<br />

immediately among Iraqi officials and others<br />

involved, and in part because this tiny community<br />

has been beleaguered by tragedy for decades and<br />

has endured. Other recent events in the Middle East have<br />

overshadowed this story, so we wanted to remind you that the<br />

people of this small village in northern Iraq are still dealing<br />

with the aftermath of the fire and are struggling to pick up the<br />

pieces. Will they be able to recover from this horrific event and<br />

once again rebuild the community? Only time will tell.<br />

We cannot ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however.<br />

It has far-reaching effects as well as the potential to turn<br />

into the next world war. It seems that everyone has an opinion<br />

on this issue. Guest columnist Mike Sarafa shares his views on<br />

the situation, one that we hope and pray will have cooled off,<br />

or at least not escalated, by the time we go to print.<br />

In honor of Veterans Day on November 11, we are humbled<br />

and honored to feature a story about Chaldean American<br />

veterans who served in the US military as part of our<br />

“Great Michigan Stories” series. Engaged in conflicts from<br />

World War II to the Detroit Riots to the Gulf War, these brave<br />

men and women served in war and in peacetime, admirably<br />

representing and upholding the values of the community.<br />

All Americans owe every US veteran a debt of gratitude.<br />

Exploring more “Great Michigan Stories,” we seek to tell<br />

the tale of how Chaldean immigrants impact their adopted<br />

state. Two articles penned this month by star reporter Cal<br />

Abbo—Why Language Matters and Spicing Up Michigan—<br />

explain the importance of sustaining a shared culture, the<br />

former about native language and the latter about native cuisine.<br />

Chaldean language and Chaldean food are unique and<br />

deserve to be celebrated and preserved. We hope you agree.<br />


EDITOR<br />

IN CHIEF<br />

Dr. Miri once again delights readers with colorful<br />

prose extolling the virtues of Chaldean culture<br />

and history. This month’s article is all about Amba,<br />

that delicious spicy mango-flavored treat that is a<br />

staple in Iraqi kitchens. In First Tango with Mango,<br />

he traces this delicacy to its roots in India and explains<br />

how it was adapted by cooks in Iraq.<br />

In Celebrating 20 Years, Chaldean Cultural Center<br />

(CCC) director Weam Namou shares CCC founders’<br />

stories and photos of the anniversary gala they<br />

recently celebrated. This small center has a large impact<br />

on the community, whether Chaldean or non-<br />

Chaldean. Families bring their young ones to show them their<br />

familial and cultural roots and others come to be educated<br />

about their neighbors. It serves a great purpose, and we are<br />

The people of this small village in<br />

northern Iraq are still dealing with<br />

the aftermath of the fire and are<br />

struggling to pick up the pieces.<br />

excited about the upcoming relocation and expansion.<br />

Other articles in this issue include Origins of Language,<br />

Dr. Miri’s take on cuneiform and other early forms of writing<br />

and Arts & Entertainment, in which author Weam Namou tells<br />

the story Sam Sako, a foreign language coach in Hollywood.<br />

Michael Antoon introduces us to one of the community’s<br />

newest priests, Fr. John “Junior” Jwad; Mikey Lossia tells the<br />

story of his family’s introduction to and subsequent love affair<br />

with golf; Paul Natinsky gives us an update on new Americans<br />

seeking health insurance; and Valene Ayar shares some<br />

unique ideas for Thanksgiving fun, minus the turkey.<br />

Sarah Kittle<br />

Editor in Chief<br />







6 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</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 />

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

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A Note About Support<br />

On October 13 at<br />

11:50pm, we were to<br />

board a plane from<br />

JFK Airport in New York to Israel<br />

for a long-planned bucket-list<br />

trip to the Holy Land.<br />

Obviously, it didn’t happen.<br />

The unprecipitated yet<br />

coldly calculated terrorist attack<br />

by Hamas on innocent<br />

Israeli citizens, that also included<br />

Americans and other<br />

nationalities, has upended<br />

the fragile peace in the Middle<br />

East. Semi-neutral arbiters in the<br />

long simmering Palestinian - Israeli<br />

conflict have chosen sides—the United<br />

States lining up squarely and fully behind<br />

Israel—while countries like Egypt<br />

and Jordan, with their own peace treaties<br />

with Israel, are being forced to<br />

stand with the “Arab Street.”<br />

The repercussions of this war will<br />

be felt for a long time. The U.S. and<br />

other countries have called for some<br />

restraint by Israel but have also basically<br />

green-lighted the dismantling of<br />

Hamas. There is no way for Israel to<br />

accomplish this without the near complete<br />

destruction of the Gaza strip and<br />

without causing massive casualties to<br />

the Palestinian people. There is human<br />

tragedy on all sides of this conflict.<br />

I was able to attend a service at<br />

Temple Israel a couple Fridays ago<br />

along with about a dozen other representatives<br />

from Shenandoah. It is<br />

basic decency to stand with our Jewish<br />

brothers and sisters and friends<br />

to roundly condemn what happened<br />

in Israel and how it happened. I also<br />

reached out to close friends and colleagues<br />

of mine that happen to be Jewish<br />

to express sorrow and sympathy at<br />

a personal level. For Jews all over the<br />

world, the fate of Israel is a deeply personal<br />

and existential matter.<br />

Taking those steps was how I chose<br />

to respond to these heinous events. In<br />

addition, when asked by the heads of<br />

some Jewish organizations to release a<br />

statement or to add my name to a joint<br />

interfaith statement, I did so.<br />

But I want to urge my Jewish<br />

friends and colleagues not to conflate<br />

what they perceive as “silence” by<br />

some as complicity. For example, I<br />



TO THE<br />


NEWS<br />

personally don’t use any social<br />

media unless you count<br />

LinkedIn. So most of what<br />

I described above about my<br />

own activities and feelings<br />

would be unknown to the<br />

larger public.<br />

The vast majority of<br />

people, especially younger<br />

people, use social media for<br />

exactly what it says—social<br />

things. I think many Americans<br />

handle these types of<br />

events quietly, expressing<br />

their thoughts and sharing their opinions<br />

with those closest to them.<br />

In opinion polls, it is clear that an<br />

overwhelming number of Americans<br />

stand with Israel and also support<br />

President Biden’s extremely strong<br />

stance for the same.<br />

Individuals that represent organizations<br />

or large companies with thousands<br />

of employees may have a more<br />

public obligation to speak out, the way<br />

many have about LGBT rights or Black<br />

Lives Matter, for example. But these<br />

issues are domestic American policy<br />

matters. I’m not defending this but<br />

I’m also not sure it’s fair to be overly<br />

critical. It likely did not occur to many<br />

Americans that it might be important<br />

to be vocal and public in their views on<br />

this particular terrorist attack.<br />

When ISIS was rampaging through<br />

the Christian villages of northern Iraq,<br />

destroying churches, cemeteries and<br />

attempting to wipe out Christianity in<br />

that part of the world, we really did not<br />

hear much support from people outside<br />

the Chaldean community. I’m not<br />

sure we really expected it either.<br />

Most people possess a basic righteousness<br />

and will respond as such<br />

when nudged. But many people are also<br />

private or deliberately unaware about<br />

major world or political issues. Where<br />

and when this is the case, let us not consider<br />

it a moral failing, but rather an opportunity<br />

to educate our fellow citizens,<br />

to reach out across communities and cultures<br />

and to take solace in the innate humanity<br />

and humaneness in all of us.<br />

This is a guest column and does not<br />

necessarily reflect the views of the<br />

Chaldean News.<br />

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



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


Community Job Fair<br />

The CCF hosted 40 employers including Amazon, Kroger, Oakland<br />

University, Corewell Health West Bloomfield, Sterling<br />

Heights Police Department, and more at the Chaldean Community<br />

Foundation’s 2nd Annual Community Job Fair.<br />

More than 160 job seekers attended the event and met with hiring<br />

professionals across various industries. Job seekers were able<br />

to have in-person interviews with employers during the event.<br />

For those seeking employment, visit CCF’s Career Services<br />

department during walk-in days on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday<br />

to learn more about the available employment opportunities.<br />

Breast Cancer Awareness<br />

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Chaldean Community Foundation was proud<br />

to partner with the Anthony L. Soave Family Mobile Mammography and Health Screening Center<br />

which is designed to ensure all women have easy access to high-quality breast health services regardless<br />

of their ability to pay.<br />

The Ascension St. John Hospital “Because We Care” program is committed to caring for all people<br />

with special attention to those who are uninsured, under-insured and require financial support<br />

with breast care.<br />

The CCF supported two dozen women in receiving mammography screenings this year.<br />

Delegation Visits NYC<br />

A small delegation of community members met in New York with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mohammed<br />

Shi’a Alsudani, to discuss the current acrimony going on between the central government<br />

and the Chaldean Patriarch.<br />

The group also addressed the plight of Christians in Iraq with a special focus on a self-managed<br />

administrative unit in the Nineveh Plain and the recent alcohol ban inside Iraq which disproportionately<br />

hurts Christian and Yezidi businesspeople.<br />

National Civics Bee<br />

The Chaldean Community Foundation and Chaldean American<br />

Chamber of Commerce are partnering with the U.S. Chamber of<br />

Commerce Foundation and Michigan Chamber of Commerce to<br />

host a first-of-its-kind civics competition that encourages young<br />

Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities.<br />

Participating 6th, 7th and 8th graders will flex their civics<br />

knowledge for a chance to win recognition and cash prizes. Finalists<br />

will be invited to Washington, D.C. to compete in the inaugural<br />

National Civics Bee national championship in Fall 2024.<br />

How To Enter: Any 6th, 7th, or 8th grade student residing<br />

in Michigan with an idea about using civics to improve<br />

their community may review the rules and submit an essay<br />

application on this page: my.reviewr.com/NationalCivicsBee/<br />

site/MI/ChaldeanChamber. The application opens November<br />

13th, <strong>2023</strong>, and closes on January 8, 2024.<br />

Upcoming Events:<br />

2nd Annual Bet Nahrain Art Show<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

Friday, November 2nd 5:00pm-9:00pm<br />

Saturday, November 3rd 5:00pm-9:00pm<br />

Sunday, November 5th 2:00pm-7:00pm<br />

Oakland University Admissions & Financial Aid Night<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

November 15th 6:00pm-7:30pm<br />

Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shi’a Alsudani and CCF President, Martin Manna.<br />

Caring for the Caregiver – MSU Nutrition<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

December 8th 12:00pm<br />

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


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<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 11


Civics Bee<br />

The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce<br />

(CACC) and Chaldean Community Foundation are<br />

partners in this year’s third annual National Civics<br />

Bee. The CACC is one of 5 Michigan chambers that<br />

have been chosen to participate.<br />

The National Civics Bee is an annual competition<br />

that encourages young Americans to engage in civics<br />

and contribute to their communities. Contributing<br />

6th, 7th and 8th grade students flex their civics<br />

knowledge for a chance to win recognition and cash<br />

prizes.<br />

Youth Baker Returns to the Food Network<br />

Now 12-years-old, Genevieve Kashat, featured on the<br />

cover of the March <strong>2023</strong> issue, has returned to the<br />

Food Network’s “Kids Baking Championship” for<br />

their Halloween baking special.<br />

Fittingly titled “Bloodcurdling Bakes,” four contestants<br />

returned to claim title of “Baking Champ”<br />

along with a $10,000 prize package, packed with<br />

baking implements. “She had her eyes on that blast<br />

chiller & stand mixer from the get-go,” said her mother,<br />

Evon Kashat.<br />

The special aired on September 25th, and Genevieve’s<br />

version of a fault line cake won over the tastebuds<br />

of Food Network hosts Duff Goldman and Sam<br />

Seneviratne.<br />

No stranger to the obstacles of a reality baking<br />

show, Genevieve said it was a challenge, and she<br />

tried to balance her creativity with the time and recipe<br />

constraints of the show, especially the renowned<br />

mid-show baking twist Food Network is famous for.<br />

“I’m really happy with the group I was against,”<br />

she said of the Halloween special. “We were competing,<br />

but we are all such great friends. It wasn’t like we<br />

were angry when someone else won.”<br />

While Genevieve said there aren’t currently any<br />

plans for her to return to “Kids Baking Championship,”<br />

she would be eager to go back if given the opportunity.<br />

In the meantime, she wants to keep on baking<br />

and encouraging others to try it out on their own.<br />

“I’d love it if I got another chance to be on the<br />

show again,” she said. “Never stop, even if you fail<br />

the first time. You will always have another chance<br />

to try it again.”<br />

The Civics Bee aims to positively impact and<br />

engage communities, improve understanding and<br />

involvement in civic life, change the conversation<br />

about how businesses thrive, and create solutions in<br />

communities.<br />

The third annual National Civics Bee will take<br />

place in 2024 in partnership with local and state<br />

chambers of commerce across the United States.<br />

There are opportunities for sponsorship. Contact the<br />

CACC at 248-851-1200 for more information.<br />

Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40<br />

Two members of the Chaldean community made<br />

Crain’s “40 Under 40” list this year, joining a class of<br />

professionals that are at or near the top of their game<br />

and still rising. They are CEOs, presidents, franchisors,<br />

creators, developers, founders, judges, and community<br />

leaders. Each was nominated by colleagues or<br />

peers and selected through a rigorous review process<br />

by Crain’s editors and reporters. They will be celebrated<br />

on November 9 at the Gem Theatre in Detroit. Congratulations<br />

Brandon Hanna and Brian Shunia.<br />

Brandon Hanna is co-founder of West Bloomfield<br />

Township-based Encore Real Estate Investment Services,<br />

a brokerage house with about 40 investment<br />

sales brokers that pulled in nearly $1 billion in revenue<br />

last year. “We’re definitely a force,” says Hanna.<br />

Alongside his partners Deno Bistolarides and<br />

Ryan Vinco, Brandon oversees a team of seasoned<br />

Brandon Hanna<br />

Brian Shunia<br />

investment professionals that focus on advising clients<br />

in the acquisition and disposition of net leased<br />

and multi-tenant retail assets throughout the United<br />

States. Throughout his investment brokerage career,<br />

Brandon has broken price per square foot records<br />

and cap rate records in nearly every market.<br />

Prior to founding Encore Real Estate Investment<br />

Services, Brandon began his career at Marcus & Millichap,<br />

where he was able to exceed the multi-billiondollar<br />

level of total sales by age 29. This, combined<br />

with his experience working in the private sector, has<br />

added value to Brandon’s portfolio, bolstering his<br />

reputation in the national marketplace.<br />

Brian Shunia is co-founder of Wing Snob, a<br />

modern, quick-service, casual style restaurant serving<br />

made-to-order fresh chicken wings. Shunia and<br />

co-founder Jack Mashini, also a 40 Under 40 honoree,<br />

recently told Crain’s the company hopes to grow<br />

to 50 locations by year end.<br />

“We receive leads (on potential new locations) almost<br />

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



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


The Chaldean Church calls for an end to military<br />

operations in Palestine and the region<br />

Statement by Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako:<br />

We follow with pain and concern what is happening<br />

in the region, a fighting that ignores international<br />

law and targets the lives of innocent civilians,<br />

infrastructure, and even hospitals. These<br />

actions are shameful.<br />

Political officials in the region must realize that<br />

the solution is through courageous dialogue to<br />

achieve peace and justice, and not through weapons<br />

that destroy life and quarantine.<br />

As a church, we call on the international community<br />

to assume its responsibilities in halting<br />

military operations, sparing the countries of the<br />

region from sliding into all-out war, allowing the<br />

entry of food and medical supplies, creating safe<br />

passages for civilians, and striving seriously to revive<br />

the peace process and establish two peaceful<br />

neighboring states: Israel and Palestine.<br />

We join the call of His Holiness Pope Francis and<br />

all Christian and Muslim clergy and people of good<br />

will in the world, in prayer and hope to stop this devastating<br />

war and find a just solution for the Palestinian<br />

people.<br />

– Catholic News World<br />

According to a statement from the Patriarchate, “Pope Francis received Cardinal Louis Sako in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican,” on<br />

Saturday, October 21, <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Coptic Solidarity Leads Statement Urging Reinstatement of Chaldean Patriarch Sako<br />

At the end of September, Coptic Solidarity,<br />

a nonprofit dedicated to helping<br />

the world’s minorities published<br />

a public statement signed by 86 nonprofit<br />

organizations, former legislators,<br />

and myriad individual experts<br />

urging a reinstatement of Patriarch<br />

Sako as head of the Chaldean Church.<br />

Copts are particularly sensitive to<br />

this effort to undermine and sideline<br />

Patriarch Sako, having been through<br />

a similar situation with their previous<br />

Pope. In 1981, Egyptian President, Anwar<br />

Sadat, rescinded the presidential<br />

decree of 1971, which recognized Pope<br />

Shenouda III as the Pope of Alexandria.<br />

It was four years before he was<br />

reinstated after extensive pressure by<br />

the Copts and their supporters.<br />

Based on this experience, Coptic<br />

Solidarity believes it is vital that the<br />

international community speak out<br />

against President Rashid’s effort to further<br />

marginalize and remove the ancient<br />

Chaldean peoples of Iraq. The statement<br />

expresses a belief that “the Presidential<br />

decree and concomitant campaign<br />

are ultimately intimidation tactics employed<br />

against Iraqi Christians—designed<br />

to drive them into forced migration<br />

in order to seize their properties.”<br />

– Standard Newswire<br />

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


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


Better Know a Priest<br />

Meet Fr. John “Junior” Jwad<br />


John “Junior” Jwad was born to a faithful and loving<br />

family on May 7, 1996. The youngest of three<br />

siblings, he was baptized and confirmed by the<br />

late Monsignor Suleiman Zia Denha. Junior attended<br />

St. Fabian Catholic School in Farmington Hills from<br />

kindergarten through eighth grade, taking his First<br />

Holy Communion there. He continued his education<br />

at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, graduating<br />

in 2014.<br />

After two years of college, Jwad entered Sacred<br />

Heart Major Seminary in Detroit as a seminarian for<br />

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

USA. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in<br />

philosophy in 2019 from Sacred Heart, he went on a<br />

mission year to serve in Lebanon.<br />

Returning from Lebanon, he transferred to the<br />

Chaldean Diocese of Mar Addai in Canada, enrolling<br />

at St. Phillip’s Seminary in Toronto. It was there, at<br />

St. Philip’s, that he graduated with his master’s degree<br />

in theology in <strong>2023</strong>. He was ordained a subdeacon<br />

in October 2022 and a deacon in May <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

At the time of this interview, we await the ordination<br />

to the priesthood of Deacon John Jwad scheduled<br />

for November 1, <strong>2023</strong>. He is to be ordained at Holy Family<br />

Chaldean Church in Windsor, Ontario, through the<br />

laying of the hands and invocation of the Holy Spirit<br />

by His Excellency Mar Robert Saeed Jarjis, Bishop of<br />

Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Eparchy in Canada.<br />

Faith Background<br />

Junior was blessed with faithful parents, Issam and<br />

Thikra Jwad, who ensured that he and his siblings<br />

attended Mass every Sunday as a family. Father John<br />

remembers praying in the car daily on the way to<br />

school. His mother taught (and still teaches) First<br />

Communion classes at St. Thomas.<br />

Being the youngest, Junior remembers tagging<br />

along with her weekly and sitting in on Sister<br />

Therese Shikwana’s lecture for parents while his<br />

mother taught her class. At such a young age, he<br />

could comprehend the content at the level of the<br />

adults Sister was teaching. Father John also fondly<br />

remembers Sister Therese telling him he was asking<br />

too many questions.<br />

After receiving First Communion, Junior began<br />

altar serving at St. Thomas Chaldean Church in West<br />

Bloomfield with Father Frank Kallabat (now Bishop<br />

Francis) and the late Father Emmanuel Rayes. When<br />

Father Rayes got sick, he remembers His Excellency<br />

Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim coming to St. Thomas to celebrate<br />

the Chaldean Mass. Seeing these three holy<br />

priests encouraged Father John to live the same life<br />

of service and joy. Father John was a dedicated volunteer<br />

throughout his youth, teaching Catechism and<br />

First Communion and attending and subsequently<br />

leading the high school youth group at St. Thomas.<br />

Around the age of 10, Father John took an interest<br />

in learning to read and write Chaldean. On his 12th<br />

birthday, he read the Epistle (Shleeha) for the first time<br />

at Chaldean Mass. From then on, he began<br />

to serve all the other liturgies and<br />

became heavily involved with<br />

the subdeacons of the church,<br />

joining them in Rumsha<br />

(evening) and morning<br />

prayers and serving alongside<br />

them in the Mass. He<br />

greatly credits Shamasha<br />

(Deacon) Khairy Foumia<br />

and Shamasha Najib Ayar<br />

for helping him learn the<br />

language. He also appreciates<br />

them for giving him<br />

their places for readings<br />

and parts, encouraging him to<br />

learn more.<br />

Call to the Priesthood<br />

Growing up, Fr. John admits he<br />

was not a good student and was<br />

more of a troublemaker. He says<br />

he was rebellious and pulled many<br />

pranks. He stayed very close to the<br />

church and his faith throughout his<br />

life. Fr. John says he thanks God for<br />

the many experiences he was given in<br />

these years of living an everyday<br />

teenage life. He believes<br />

these experiences<br />

helped him understand his vocation and, more<br />

importantly, choose his vocation freely.<br />

Fr. John remembers his earliest childhood<br />

memory was that he did not just want to be but<br />

knew he would be a priest. Some power and force<br />

within him confirmed that God would call him to<br />

the priesthood one day. He also remembers that at<br />

a young age, though he didn’t<br />

know what this call<br />

PRIEST<br />

continued on<br />

page 18<br />

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

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

Left: Father John<br />

as a seminarian<br />

at St. George Church.<br />

He says Lebanon was a fantastic experience for<br />

him, being entirely away from home, in another<br />

country for the first time. This time was very freeing<br />

for him and is a time in his life that he constantly remembers<br />

and misses greatly. Fr. John says he learned<br />

many things about life and claims that one’s perspective<br />

on life changes when one sees actual suffering.<br />

He encountered many Chaldeans waiting in Lebanon<br />

after escaping from the Islamic State. These Chaldeans<br />

had been waiting there for five to six years for<br />

a chance to emigrate for a better life. Even through<br />

their suffering and pain, he remembers them to have<br />

been extraordinarily joyful, happy, and welcoming.<br />

He saw their love for the priests and the Church and<br />

their great faith and hope in God’s providence in<br />

their time of despair.<br />

PRIEST continued from page 16<br />

meant, as he matured, his understanding of the<br />

priesthood grew as well. The priesthood was not<br />

just wearing a cape and doing sacraments. He<br />

eventually realized it was also a life of service and<br />

giving up oneself for the good of the other, the<br />

good of the Church, and the good of all people.<br />

Regarding mentors, he says again that Bishop<br />

Ibrahim played a considerable role in his life and<br />

vocation. Fr. John says the bishop didn’t do anything<br />

to pressure him, it was simply the bishop’s joy<br />

and demeanor, the way he spoke, walked, and dealt<br />

with his people, that inspired him. As a little kid<br />

in the sacristy, an altar boy, Junior says the bishop<br />

was so humble and loving to him and all the young<br />

servers; how meaningful it was that he was bishop<br />

of the whole diocese and such a strong leader, but<br />

still, he opened himself to these children.<br />

He also says that anyone who told the bishop<br />

they had a test, for example, would be checked<br />

back on to see how their test went. “Bishop Ibrahim<br />

took great interest in our lives, even though<br />

we were just little children, and he truly cared and<br />

was a father figure to many people,” says Fr. John.<br />

Fr. John also acknowledges that many priests and<br />

deacons contributed to his formation, whether spiritually,<br />

pastorally, or liturgically. He says that in these past<br />

years, Bishop Jibrail Kassab taught him the meaning of<br />

discipleship after retiring and moving to Michigan; how<br />

a priest must be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ. Especially<br />

seeing how Bishop Kassab visits and serves all<br />

people, without distinction, night or day, and has made<br />

himself available to all those in need, even after retiring.<br />

He is a great example, like Fr. John Jwad, of a<br />

servant leader.<br />

Community Involvements<br />

Fr. John mentioned that if God had not called him to<br />

be a priest, he would have most likely followed his<br />

aspiration to become a lawyer. He explained that he<br />

greatly loved law and public speaking in high school.<br />

Even today, Fr. John says he enjoyed history, philosophy,<br />

and canon law in seminary. Possibilities included<br />

becoming a teacher, professor, or writer – which is<br />

why he loved writing for the Chaldean News.<br />

After returning from the Holy Land on a pilgrimage<br />

in 2011, Junior Jwad decided to write an article on<br />

this first-of-its-kind pilgrimage for youth and submit<br />

it to the Chaldean News. He says they liked the article<br />

so much they asked him to continue writing. From<br />

then, every month for the next couple of years, you<br />

could find a religion-based article by Junior Jwad.<br />

Later, in 2015, he was approached by John Zia<br />

Oram to begin a daily segment for the Chaldean radio<br />

program that he had sponsored. Then, a year later,<br />

he was asked by the Chaldean Voice Radio to give a<br />

weekly segment—a weekly lecture, which he is still<br />

doing to this day. Listen to 690 AM on Saturdays and<br />

you’ll be sure to hear Fr. (then Deacon) John provide<br />

insight on our faith, culture, and community topics.<br />

He reminds us of many traditions that our older generation<br />

remembers from their life in the village, such<br />

as traditions of the Chaldean Church, its teachings,<br />

and feasts, as well as current community events.<br />

Serving in Lebanon<br />

Throughout his spiritual year in Lebanon, Fr. John<br />

lived in a Maronite Seminary located next to the<br />

beautiful Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon,<br />

Harissa. While residing at the Maronite seminary,<br />

he spent much of his time doing humanitarian work<br />

with a Muslim convert priest, Fr. Majdi Allawi.<br />

Time in Canada<br />

A vocation to the priesthood requires sacrifice and dedication.<br />

In the same way husbands must give their lives<br />

to their wives, and wives to their husbands, the priest, a<br />

true representative of Christ on Earth, must give his life<br />

to the Church. According to Fr. John, the most significant<br />

sacrifice in going to seminary is being away from<br />

your structured life, family, friends, and home. However,<br />

he says that seminary is helpful for a man to be able<br />

to detach himself from things of this world and to be<br />

able to dedicate himself to a life of prayer and self-giving.<br />

The life of a priest requires a man to be flexible, and<br />

it needs one to be able to change his life for the good of<br />

the Church and the good of his people.<br />

Reflecting on his time at St. Philip’s Seminary in<br />

Toronto, Ontario, Fr. John feels that the formators<br />

and fathers of this seminary truly treated the seminarians<br />

as their children. They are guided with love<br />

and faith and are supported by these great fathers<br />

to succeed. He says that seeing this “fatherhood” in<br />

your life encourages you to give others this love.<br />

Regarding the Chaldean Church of Canada, he notes<br />

it was terrific to be in a place different from your home.<br />

Although very similar as a church, you’re in a different<br />

environment with people you meet for the first time.<br />

Learning about these other groups of people, he came<br />

across many newcomers, those who had come in the<br />

last 5-15 years. Hearing of their culture and way of life,<br />

he learned more about different villages and learned<br />

the history of the people of the church of Canada.<br />

Fr. John also says that the people of his diocese<br />

have a very traditional way of dealing with clergy, being<br />

so new to the country, and have a very humble<br />

and loving spirit towards their clergy.<br />

“When you realize you made a difference in the<br />

lives of many in the community, even helping one<br />

person overcome an obstacle, you receive a joy that<br />

cannot be compared to any other joy,” explains Fr.<br />

John. “It cannot even be compared to the pleasures of<br />

this world; no wealth, power, or popularity can equal<br />

this. To realize that God, through you, made a difference<br />

in someone’s life brings you true joy. You were<br />

able to help, to teach, to serve, and even just to be<br />

present.”<br />

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

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


Badria Abbu Ashaka<br />

Jul 1, 1944 –<br />

Sep 20, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Isaac Shimon Toma<br />

Jul 1, 1948 –<br />

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

Janan Abawi<br />

Feb 17, 1944 –<br />

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

Buddy Habby Atchoo<br />

Sep 15, 1927 –<br />

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

Basem Fuad Kandah<br />

May 3, 1946 –<br />

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

Khana Khamo<br />

Jul 1, 1935 –<br />

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

Sabah Oraha Khoshi<br />

Jul 1, 1937 –<br />

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

Ibrahim (Grant)<br />

Yousif Rayess<br />

May 8, 1940 –<br />

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

Wadee<br />

Gorges Delly<br />

Jul 1, 1942 –<br />

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

Hasina<br />

Kiryakos Gorges<br />

Jul 1, 1942 –<br />

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

Yousif Potrus<br />

Ablahad<br />

Jul 31, 1946 –<br />

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

Luay Bahjat Hana Jr<br />

Hamama<br />

Jul 1, 1993 –<br />

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

Virgeen Sinnawi<br />

Garmoo<br />

Oct 12, 1932 –<br />

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

Riadh<br />

Khamoro Kana<br />

Jul 1, 1945 –<br />

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

Noael Shoush<br />

Feb 10, 1941 –<br />

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

Ramzi Tobia Manni<br />

Jan 17, 1939 –<br />

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

Khalida Salman<br />

Murad Oraha<br />

Nov 29, 1938 –<br />

Oct 3, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Joseph Paul Istefo<br />

Jul 1, 1941 –<br />

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

Sami Habib Rahimo<br />

Aug 19, 1930 –<br />

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

Jaber Shuker<br />

Abbo Ashaka<br />

Jul 9, 1962 –<br />

Oct 6, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Muntasir<br />

Aboka Jarbo<br />

Aug 2, 1958 –<br />

Oct 6, <strong>2023</strong><br />

Luis Hanna Sheena<br />

Jul 1, 1943 –<br />

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

Butrus Rofa Aqrawi<br />

Jul 1, 1935 –<br />

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

Khairy Issa<br />

Yousif Bello<br />

Jun 4, 1947 –<br />

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

Qaryaqos<br />

Oraha Habbo<br />

Jul 1, 1941 –<br />

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

Wasif Shammamy<br />

May 14, 1945 –<br />

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

Sameerah<br />

Fandaqli<br />

Jul 1, 1935 –<br />

Oct 10, <strong>2023</strong><br />

William Deselva<br />

Dec 4, 1941 –<br />

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

Korial Esttaifo Yaqo<br />

Jul 1, 1943 –<br />

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

Donald Delor Issa<br />

Jan 15, 1970 –<br />

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

Samria Hano Saco<br />

Feb 20, 1937 –<br />

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

Latif Gorgies Odesho<br />

Jul 1, 1948 -<br />

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

Salima Kiryakoza<br />

Jan 1, 1927 –<br />

Oct 14, <strong>2023</strong><br />

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


Malik Yousif<br />

Mary<br />

Professor Malik Yousif Mansour Francis<br />

(Fransi) Gorgees Yousif Francis<br />

Mary was born in Baghdad, Iraq, on<br />

August 24, 1931. He passed peacefully<br />

at his home on October 3, <strong>2023</strong>, surrounded<br />

by his wife Amira, son Raed,<br />

daughters Raghad, Rand, and Rana,<br />

brother Adhid, and sister Suha.<br />

Malik was educated in England<br />

and the United States and received<br />

a master’s degree (MA) from Ohio<br />

State University. He had a long academic<br />

career and served as Professor<br />

of English Language and Literature<br />

at Al-Mustansiriyah University (1976-<br />

1999), Baghdad University (1964-<br />

1976) and the Department of Education<br />

in Iraq (1954-1960).<br />

Professor Mary lived a long life,<br />

completed many of his dreams, and<br />

will be remembered by the countless<br />

lives he touched, the minds he<br />

shaped, and the hearts he inspired.<br />

His legacy will carry forward the lessons<br />

he taught, the value of knowledge,<br />

the importance of kindness,<br />

and the significance of lifelong learning.<br />

His influence will continue to<br />

shape the world we live in through<br />

the knowledge he shared and the<br />

love he gave.<br />

Malik is survived by Amira, his<br />

wife of 58 years, so many family and<br />

friends who will cherish his memories<br />

as a historian, writer, poet,<br />

friend to many students, colleague<br />

of academics, and an extended<br />

Mary/Miri family including grandchildren<br />

Andrew, Isabelle, Natalie,<br />

Katherine, Allison, Zahary, Luca,<br />

Lawrence, and Jordan.<br />

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


Tragedy<br />

in Bakhdida<br />

Friends and relatives attend a funeral<br />

for the victims who died in a fire during<br />

a wedding ceremony in Hamdaniya,<br />

Iraq, Friday, Sept. 29, <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Seeking answers and healing<br />

after wedding hall fire<br />


In the heart of the Nineveh Plain<br />

province, the close-knit town of<br />

Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh)<br />

grapples with a devastating tragedy that<br />

left them searching for answers and<br />

healing. The horrific fire that engulfed<br />

the Al-Haitham wedding hall during<br />

the bride and groom’s slow dance on<br />

September 26, <strong>2023</strong>, sent shockwaves<br />

through the town and beyond.<br />

More than one thousand people<br />

attended the celebration of love for<br />

Haneen and Revan, two Bakhdida natives.<br />

As fire rained down from the décor<br />

above, many scrambled to disperse<br />

from the venue. According to locals<br />

who witnessed the fire, The town only<br />

has one fire truck which arrived on the<br />

scene 30 minutes after the fire broke<br />

out. It ran out of water within seconds.<br />

There were no fire extinguishers<br />

in the building, no emergency fire escape,<br />

and no sprinkler system. “I hold<br />

the owner of the hall responsible for<br />

what happened at the party because<br />

there are no extinguishers or safety<br />

measures in the hall,” the father of the<br />

groom told CNN.<br />

According to the Associated Press<br />

as well as videos from the event, it<br />

has been stated that the fire occurred<br />

because of pyrotechnics that lit the<br />

ceiling of the venue, which was decorated<br />

with flowers, fabric, and hay.<br />

Iraqi authorities say that the owner of<br />

al-Haitham was aware of the safety issues<br />

in the hall and proceeded to move<br />

forward despite warnings. He attempted<br />

to flee but was arrested in Erbil.<br />

The entire town of Bakhdida is Christian.<br />

Before the ISIS invasion, the town<br />

boasted a population of 64,000. About<br />

half returned to the town, only to face<br />

this massive tragedy. Much of the Chaldean<br />

community in metro Detroit has<br />

family from or near Bakhdida, which is<br />

only a 35-minute drive to Mosul, an hour<br />

drive to Tel Keppe, and an hour and<br />

18-minute drive to Al Qosh. Chaldeans,<br />

Assyrians, and Syriacs alike perished<br />

in this tragedy; patriarchs from all five<br />

Christian churches in the community<br />

performed the funeral the day after.<br />

Mayor Issam Behnam Matti, a central<br />

figure beloved in Bakhdida, has<br />

shared his insights into the events<br />

that transpired on that fateful day. He<br />

highlighted the numerous challenges<br />

posed by a rushed investigation, the<br />

personal struggles he faced, and the<br />

pressing need for a thorough, scientific<br />

analysis of the incident.<br />

This catastrophic fire claimed the<br />

lives of over 128 individuals and left<br />

many others critically injured, according<br />

to a local Bakhdida native.<br />

An Assyrian Aid Society report, which<br />

confirmed a U.S. citizen as one of the<br />

victims, left the entire town speculating<br />

about the fire’s origins. Religious<br />

leaders in Bakhdida have joined the<br />

chorus of those who believe the fire<br />

may not have simply been an accident.<br />

The town’s residents remain resolute<br />

in their quest for answers.<br />

Questions That Linger<br />

Residents continue to wonder if there<br />

is a serious chance that the mayor will<br />

be removed from office due to the fire<br />

investigation’s focus on administrative<br />

protocol. The current investigation,<br />

shrouded in political pressure and<br />

time constraints, may not have been<br />

as thorough as the community desires.<br />

The mayor, facing immense pressure<br />

from both his personal losses<br />

and his official duties, pointed out the<br />

challenges he personally faced. He lost<br />

11 family members in the tragedy, and<br />

this emotional turmoil, coupled with<br />

sleep deprivation and lack of sustenance,<br />

made the investigation an even<br />

more daunting task.<br />

One of the critical issues that<br />

Mayor Issam highlights is the Iraqi<br />

government’s rush to close the case<br />

hurriedly, which is a common practice<br />

in Iraq. A desire to pin the blame<br />

on someone often results in a lack of<br />

comprehensive scientific analysis.<br />

This approach, while expedient, can<br />

leave unanswered questions and fuel<br />

further speculation.<br />

According to sources on the ground<br />

in Iraq, the investigation primarily focused<br />

on the administrative part of the<br />

22 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

fire, such as approvals and permissions,<br />

rather than delving into the scientific<br />

aspects. What caused the fire?<br />

Why were pyrotechnics used inside?<br />

What type of building materials were<br />

used and was there a proper fire suppression<br />

system? These are questions<br />

that have remained largely uninvestigated<br />

by officials.<br />


Protests and Calls for International<br />

Involvement<br />

In response to these concerns, the people<br />

of Bakhdida planned a demonstration<br />

to demand answers. They are still<br />

seeking the intervention of other national<br />

governments and the United States,<br />

or any external entity, to ensure an unbiased<br />

and transparent investigation.<br />

The community’s skepticism regarding<br />

the investigation’s thoroughness<br />

is made clear by videos of the<br />

townspeople’s protests on social media.<br />

The people of Bakhdida are not<br />

content with an investigation that<br />

appears to be veering toward hasty<br />

blame-shifting rather than a technical<br />

and scientific analysis.<br />

Furthermore, this tragedy extends<br />

beyond the borders of Bakhdida. The<br />

Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac community<br />

in Arizona, led by Sam Darmoo, organized<br />

a gathering that united various<br />

political parties and churches. This<br />

event served as both a funeral and a<br />

show of support for the victims of the<br />

fire. The American that perished in<br />

tragedy was from Arizona and this has<br />

resonated with that state’s politicians,<br />

transcending political divides.<br />

A Path to Recovery<br />

Amid the turmoil and the quest for answers<br />

overshadowed by more recent<br />

events in the Middle East, the humanitarian<br />

aspect of the tragic fire’s aftermath<br />

cannot be overlooked. There are<br />

still burn victims in need of care and<br />

medication. Beyond these immediate<br />

needs, the community is grappling<br />

with the emotional, psychological,<br />

and political fallout.<br />

Mayor Issam believes that a committee<br />

or group of psychologists<br />

should be brought to Bakhdida to support<br />

the community’s long-term healing.<br />

The trauma inflicted by the fire is<br />

profound and enduring, and the residents<br />

require professional assistance<br />

to regain a sense of normalcy. Protesters<br />

have set ablaze the jailed hall<br />

An Iraqi woman reacts at the site of a fatal fire in the district of Hamdaniya.<br />

owner’s property out of frustration to a<br />

lack of response from the government.<br />

Moreover, the government needs to<br />

acknowledge its faults and ensure that<br />

measures will be taken to prevent such<br />

a tragedy in the future. The people and<br />

mayor of Bakhdida propose the formation<br />

of a committee dedicated to fostering<br />

peace and reconciliation. This<br />

committee, as Mayor Issam suggests,<br />

should be coordinated with the Iraqi<br />

government.<br />

Lessons Learned<br />

The owners of the wedding hall faced<br />

allegations of multiple safety violations.<br />

While these violations may not<br />

have directly contributed to the fire,<br />

they raise concerns about the standards<br />

and regulations that were in<br />

place. Violations such as an expired<br />

fire extinguisher and the use of flammable<br />

materials should have been addressed<br />

immediately.<br />

It’s important to note that these<br />

safety violations were not under the<br />

jurisdiction of Mayor Issam’s office,<br />

emphasizing the need for more rigorous<br />

oversight and enforcement of safety<br />

standards.<br />

Iraq has a history of safety violations.<br />

Recent examples include a<br />

ferry in Mosul that had a capacity of<br />

50 but exceeded nearly 200 passengers,<br />

leading to a capsize in 2019. In<br />

2021, during the onset of COVID, a fire<br />

occurred in Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib<br />

Hospital. The fire blazed through the<br />

hospital due to a lack of fire detection<br />

and suppression systems, according<br />

to the New York Times. Many died because<br />

they were taken off their ventilators<br />

to escape.<br />

Improving Emergency Response<br />

Reflecting on the tragic outcome,<br />

there’s a growing awareness of the<br />

importance of safety and evacuation<br />

training in Iraq. Inadequate education<br />

on how to respond during a fire emergency<br />

contributed to the high casualty<br />

count. The fire department showed up<br />

30 minutes after the fire was reported,<br />

and the lack of understanding and<br />

preparation among the venue’s staff<br />

and attendees resulted in chaos.<br />

After the owner of the venue cut<br />

the lights out when the fire began,<br />

hundreds of people panicked and<br />

trampled one another to escape the<br />

deadly blaze. Efforts to educate businesses<br />

and the community about<br />

safety protocols and evacuation procedures<br />

are crucial to preventing such a<br />

tragedy in the future.<br />

Bakhdida’s Resilience<br />

Bakhdida has faced its fair share of<br />

challenges, including the invasion of<br />

ISIS in 2014. Although the town was<br />

liberated in 2017, it sustained heavy<br />

damage and resulted in massive relocation.<br />

According to the Syriac Press,<br />

more than 32% of homes and civil centers<br />

were burned down.<br />

Furthermore, ongoing political disputes<br />

for the coveted area of land in<br />

the Nineveh Plain province affect the<br />

of the lives of the townspeople. Ongoing<br />

political clashes, security instability,<br />

and land disputes with neighboring<br />

communities continue to hamper the<br />

progress of recovery for the Christian<br />

community in Iraq. The tragic fire at<br />

the wedding hall is yet another blow<br />

to the town that witnessed a mass exodus<br />

of its residents just 9 years ago.<br />

Mayor Issam acknowledges that<br />

the cumulative effect of these events<br />

has left the community somewhat<br />

numb to the constant turmoil. Every<br />

new incident reinforces the idea that<br />

leaving the area is a logical response<br />

to crisis. While the fire’s impact on<br />

Bakhdida’s momentum remains uncertain<br />

due to the lack of basic mental<br />

health and governmental resources,<br />

the community faces a difficult road to<br />

recovery.<br />

The challenges facing Bakhdida<br />

are immense, but the strength of its<br />

people endures. As they seek answers,<br />

healing, and justice, the world barely<br />

watches. Those that are paying attention<br />

are hopeful that this resilient<br />

community will find the peace and<br />

stability it deserves as it remains overshadowed<br />

by higher-priority western<br />

political issues. The tragedies of the<br />

past should not define Bakhdida’s future,<br />

and through unity, understanding,<br />

and comprehensive investigations,<br />

there is a path forward for this<br />

close-knit community.<br />

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


the native language becomes less useful<br />

in everyday life. Chaldeans tend to<br />

focus on English because it’s useful in<br />

all contexts and with all Americans,<br />

not just Chaldean ones. Today, many<br />

Chaldeans born outside of villages do<br />

not speak their native tongue.<br />

The Schøyen Collection MS 577, Oslo and London. Syriac Sertâ book script. Mt. Sinai, Egypt, ca. 11th c.<br />

From the Monastery of St Catherine, Mt Sinai. Credit: Elizabeth G. Sørenssen & Jingru Høivik.<br />

Why Language Matters<br />

Saving Sureth<br />


In the heart of metro Detroit, the<br />

Chaldean community stands as a<br />

testament to the enduring spirit of<br />

an ancient people relocated. Rooted in<br />

the cradle of civilization, the Chaldean<br />

story is one of resilience, migration, and<br />

cultural preservation. Central to this<br />

narrative, and one that grants the Chaldean<br />

story its importance, is the Aramaic<br />

language—a linguistic bridge connecting<br />

modern Chaldeans to their storied past.<br />

The Aramaic language, known today<br />

in its many names and dialects like<br />

Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, or Sureth,<br />

was once the lingua franca of vast<br />

swathes of the Middle East and served<br />

as the voice of culture and thought<br />

for many people in the region. This<br />

language, although it experienced a<br />

significant decline since that time, has<br />

become a defining feature of the Chaldean<br />

identity, especially as waves of<br />

Chaldeans migrated to new lands in<br />

search of opportunity and safety.<br />

A Unique Voice in Detroit<br />

When they arrived in Michigan, Chaldeans<br />

lived among a mosaic of immigrant<br />

groups. Each community<br />

brought its unique language and culture,<br />

although almost all were European.<br />

While there were some Middle<br />

Eastern immigrants who came to<br />

Detroit starting in the 1870s, many of<br />

them spoke Arabic, and most Chaldeans<br />

coming from villages could not<br />

easily communicate with them despite<br />

the cultural proximity.<br />

The Chaldean community stood<br />

out, not just because of its distinct<br />

Middle Eastern heritage, but because<br />

of its ancient Aramaic dialect. European<br />

and Middle Eastern immigrants<br />

could communicate with one another,<br />

respectively; a Polish immigrant,<br />

for example, could find other Polish<br />

people in the area and create a community<br />

there. An Arabic speaker could<br />

find others that speak their language<br />

too. Chaldeans, on the other hand,<br />

maintained a small circle of Aramaic<br />

speakers, most of whom they knew<br />

from back home, and learned to rely<br />

on one another.<br />

This linguistic distinction played a<br />

pivotal role in preserving the community’s<br />

identity. While many immigrant<br />

groups faced pressures to assimilate<br />

and abandon their native tongues, the<br />

Chaldean community’s commitment<br />

to its language became a beacon of<br />

cultural preservation, as Chaldeans<br />

most often learned their native tongue<br />

at home. This closeness of language<br />

and community helped spur Chaldeans<br />

to the forefront of business and<br />

culture in Michigan.<br />

Over time, however, the commitment<br />

to language in the diaspora has<br />

faded. As the community grows larger,<br />

and more generations of Chaldeans<br />

are born in the United States, relationships<br />

with non-Chaldeans grow, and<br />

A Language to Share<br />

Language is about more than words.<br />

It’s a vessel for stories, traditions, and<br />

values. For the Chaldean community,<br />

Aramaic is more than a means of communication;<br />

it’s a lasting inheritance<br />

from their ancient homeland, a tool for<br />

imparting wisdom to younger generations,<br />

and a symbol of their enduring<br />

presence. As the modern world continues<br />

to evolve, the Aramaic language<br />

serves as a poignant reminder of the<br />

timeless bond between ancestors and<br />

the generations that follow.<br />

The Chaldean community’s influence<br />

in Metro Detroit extends beyond<br />

its language. Their entrepreneurial<br />

spirit has left an indelible mark on<br />

the region’s business landscape and<br />

Chaldeans have a profound impact in<br />

the world of culture. Festivals, music,<br />

and culinary traditions have enriched<br />

the cultural tapestry of Michigan. Frequently,<br />

Chaldean words seep into<br />

the linguistic repertoire of Detroit and<br />

Michigan at large.<br />

Why does the language matter today,<br />

though? Since Chaldeans have<br />

assimilated and acculturated to Detroit<br />

and many use English as their<br />

first language, it might seem a trivial<br />

issue. Through this process, however,<br />

the community is prone to losing the<br />

very thing that shapes its identity and<br />

made it successful.<br />

Instead of letting our identity fade<br />

into obscure history, many Chaldeans<br />

choose to fight against full acculturation<br />

to American life and seek to reestablish<br />

Aramaic as a legitimate and<br />

useful language. As of right now, it<br />

faces a harsh reality of nonexistence.<br />

According to the United Nations<br />

Educational, Scientific, and Cultural<br />

Organization, otherwise known as<br />

UNESCO, the Aramaic language spoken<br />

by Chaldeans is “definitely endangered.”<br />

This is a simultaneous result of<br />

years of oppression and war plaguing<br />

the community in the Middle East<br />

combined with the reality of assimilation<br />

in the diaspora. Some families<br />

24 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

encourage their children to learn<br />

English rather than their heritage<br />

language so they can advance further<br />

in the English-speaking world. Other<br />

parents keep the native language to<br />

themselves so they can talk with one<br />

another privately. These efforts exacerbate<br />

the negative effects of the assimilation<br />

process and discourage a<br />

continuation of the Chaldean cultural<br />

identity.<br />

How to Revive a Language<br />

Throughout history, languages rise,<br />

fall, and change immeasurably. Linguists<br />

trace the languages we use today<br />

and connect them with ancient<br />

languages of the past. In modern<br />

times, Aramaic goes by many names,<br />

including Sureth, Chaldean, Syriac,<br />

Assyrian, and more.<br />

Chris Salem founded the charity<br />

Nineveh Rising to send aid to the<br />

homeland and is involved in various<br />

efforts to rekindle the use of Sureth in<br />

everyday life. He claims that the community<br />

of Aramaic speakers worldwide<br />

can inspire a movement like the<br />

Hebrew revival to keep the language<br />

intact and in use. Indeed, there are<br />

some striking similarities between the<br />

Jewish and Chaldean histories.<br />

Few languages and linguistic communities<br />

have experienced a mass<br />

revival comparable to Hebrew and<br />

the Jewish community. Throughout<br />

their well-documented history, Jews<br />

have been persecuted, enslaved, conquered,<br />

and displaced; yet they maintained<br />

a crucial link to their cultural<br />

identity and religion that carried them<br />

into the modern age and afforded<br />

them the opportunity to resettle their<br />

ancient homeland.<br />

Around 130 AD, Judea revolted<br />

against the Roman Empire, but was<br />

defeated after a large war that lasted<br />

a few years. The population was massacred,<br />

the land of Judea was divided<br />

into three provinces, and many of the<br />

remaining Jews were forced to leave<br />

and resettle elsewhere in the empire.<br />

Historians tend to regard this event<br />

as the virtual death of Hebrew as a<br />

vernacular language. Most Jews left<br />

in Israel spoke Aramaic. Hebrew was<br />

maintained, however, among the religious<br />

order and as a liturgical language.<br />

Over the last 150 years, Hebrew<br />

has experienced an extraordinary resurgence<br />

from its near-death. A strong<br />

Jewish nationalist ideology called<br />

Zionism took root among displaced<br />

Jews and inspired them to resettle<br />

Israel in a movement called Aliyah.<br />

Even before the beginning of WWII,<br />

more than 400,000 Jews had resettled<br />

Israel. Shortly after the war’s end,<br />

once the state of Israel was founded,<br />

Jewish immigration exploded, and<br />

nearly 800,000 people returned. Holocaust<br />

survivors made their way to<br />

the Holy Land.<br />

In 1890, only 43,000 Jews lived<br />

in the area that would later become<br />

Israel. Today, because of the Zionist<br />

movement, more than 7 million Jews<br />

live in Israel and nearly all of them<br />

speak Hebrew. Jews in the diaspora<br />

were spread throughout Europe and<br />

the Middle East, and over hundreds<br />

and thousands of years, began to<br />

speak the local language instead of<br />

their native tongue. They needed a<br />

language in common to understand<br />

their compatriots in their new country,<br />

and many Jews knew Hebrew<br />

from religious rituals.<br />

The revival didn’t begin, however,<br />

until the establishment of schools in<br />

Jewish settlements that taught Hebrew<br />

to children and adults. Since the<br />

language was used exclusively in religious<br />

tradition, however, it was incomplete<br />

and insufficient for everyday use.<br />

The shapers of the Hebrew revival borrowed<br />

words from other languages like<br />

Arabic, Aramaic, and many others. As<br />

time passed, Jews made concerted ef-<br />

LANGUAGE continued on page 53<br />


STORY<br />

This report is made possible with generous support from<br />

Michigan Stories, a Michigan Humanities Grants initiative.<br />

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


Origins of the Written Word:<br />

Cuneiform<br />


Mesopotamia, located in what<br />

is now Iraq, is considered<br />

the birthplace of writing and<br />

with it, recorded history. Its people<br />

also built the world’s first cities and<br />

developed the oldest known political<br />

and administrative systems and drafted<br />

the first known letter. The very idea<br />

of philosophy was introduced in the<br />

Epic of Gilgamesh.<br />

The earliest known writing was<br />

invented there around 3,400 B.C. in<br />

an area called Sumer near the Persian<br />

Gulf. The development of Sumerian<br />

script was influenced by local materials,<br />

clay for tablets and reeds for styluses.<br />

At about the same time, or a little<br />

later, the Egyptians were inventing<br />

their own form of hieroglyphic writing.<br />

Writing (visible signs of ideas, words,<br />

and symbols) emerged in many different<br />

cultures in the Bronze Age. Archaeological<br />

discoveries in ancient Mesopotamia<br />

show the initial power and purpose of<br />

writing, from administrative and legal<br />

functions to poetry and literature. Scholars<br />

generally agree that the earliest form<br />

of writing appeared almost 5,500 years<br />

ago in ancient Sumer and spread over<br />

the world from there via a process of cultural<br />

diffusion.<br />

Even after Sumerian died out as a<br />

spoken language around 2,000 B.C., it<br />

survived as a scholarly language and<br />

script. Other people within and near<br />

Mesopotamia—from Turkey, Syria, and<br />

from Egypt to Iran—adopted the later<br />

version of this script developed by the<br />

Akkadians (the first recognizable Semitic<br />

people), who succeeded the Sumerians<br />

as rulers of Mesopotamia. In Babylonia<br />

itself, the script survived for two more<br />

millennia until its demise around 70 C.E.<br />

Before the Written Word<br />

For thousands of years, long before the<br />

invention of the true written word, people<br />

used symbols to keep essential records.<br />

The earliest form of notetaking known in<br />

the Middle East, the “tally bone,” dates<br />

back 30,000 years. The bones recorded<br />

lunar months, which governed the ritual<br />

cycles observed by hunter gatherers.<br />

A mud brick bearing a cuneiform inscription is seen during excavation at<br />

the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, now known as Tello, in Iraq’s al-Shatrah<br />

district of the southern Dhi Qar province on November 14, 2021.<br />

From 9000-3000 BC, people in the<br />

Middle East used clay tokens to record<br />

commercial transactions, sealing them<br />

into clay envelopes called bullae. A token’s<br />

shape symbolized either goods<br />

(animals, grain, trees) or specific large<br />

numbers. At around the same time, the<br />

seal, (a detail-engraved image identifying<br />

the sender of the message) was<br />

developed. The seal was pressed on<br />

wet clay by stamping, or in the case of<br />

cylinder seals, by rolling.<br />

Every human community possesses<br />

language, a feature regarded as a defining<br />

condition of mankind. However,<br />

the development of writing systems,<br />

and their partial supplantation of traditional<br />

oral systems of communication,<br />

have been sporadic, uneven, and<br />

slow. Once established, writing systems<br />

on the whole change more slowly than<br />

their spoken counterparts, and often<br />

preserve features and expressions<br />

which are no longer current in the spoken<br />

language. A great benefit of writing<br />

is that it provides a persistent record of<br />

information expressed in a language,<br />

which can be retrieved at a future date.<br />

Cuneiform<br />

Cuneiform is the earliest known writing<br />

system invented around 3400<br />

B.C. Scribes used symbols built from<br />

wedge-shaped impressions pressed<br />

into clay or carved into stone. Many<br />

languages and civilizations used cuneiform,<br />

from Sumerian to Persian. The<br />

rise, fall, and rediscovery of cuneiform<br />

tells the story of the written word.<br />

The invention of writing is considered<br />

the most important event in the<br />

intellectual history of humankind. It<br />

separates the prehistoric stage from<br />

subsequent historical stages. In this<br />

context, we must point out that while<br />

we believe cuneiform writing to be the<br />

oldest writing in the history of mankind,<br />

history must include Egyptian<br />

writing, which the Greek called hieroglyphics.<br />

It appeared in the same period<br />

but unlike the Sumerian writing,<br />

hieroglyphics depicted pictures rather<br />

than letters.<br />

The emergence of writing in each<br />

area is usually followed by several<br />

centuries of fragmentary inscriptions.<br />

Historians mark the “historicity” of<br />

a culture by the presence of coherent<br />

texts in the culture’s writing system(s).<br />

The four Mesopotamian civilizations—Sumer,<br />

Babylon, Akkad, and<br />

Assyria—were centers of science and<br />


knowledge. The Sumerian cuneiform<br />

script was adapted for the writing of<br />

the Akkadian, Elamite, Hittite (and<br />

Luwian), Hurrian (and Urartian) languages,<br />

and it inspired the old Persian<br />

and Ugaritic national alphabets.<br />

Although it then disappeared when<br />

these cultures faded and new scripts<br />

(such as the Phoenician alphabet) developed,<br />

numerous clay tablets and<br />

stelae (such as those upon which the<br />

Code of Hammurabi is written) remained<br />

in use.<br />

While the cuneiform writing system<br />

was created and used at first only<br />

by the Sumerians, it did not take long<br />

before neighboring groups adopted it<br />

for their own use. By about 2500 BC,<br />

the Akkadians, a Semitic-speaking<br />

people that dwelled north of the Sumerians,<br />

starting using cuneiform to<br />

write their own language. However, it<br />

was the ascendency of the Akkadian<br />

dynasty in 2300 BC that positioned Akkadian<br />

over Sumerian as the primary<br />

language of Mesopotamia.<br />

While Sumerian did enjoy a quick<br />

revival, it eventually became a dead<br />

language used only in literary contexts,<br />

whereas Akkadian would continue<br />

to be spoken for the next two<br />

millennium and evolved into later<br />

(more famous) forms known as Babylonian<br />

and Assyrian.<br />

Writing Tools<br />

Writing was very important in maintaining<br />

the Egyptian empire, and literacy<br />

was concentrated among an<br />

educated elite of scribes. Only people<br />

from certain backgrounds were allowed<br />

to train as scribes, in the service<br />

of temple, pharisaic, and military authorities.<br />

The hieroglyph system was<br />

difficult to learn, but in later centuries<br />

may have been intentionally made<br />

even more difficult, as this preserved<br />

the scribes’ position.<br />

The development of the Sumerian<br />

script was influenced by local materials:<br />

clay for tablets and reeds for styluses<br />

(writing tools). They wrote on<br />

clay, on stone, on silver, on gold on<br />

papyrus and on deerskin, in cuneiform<br />

and with the alphabet in Akkadian<br />

and Aramaic. They never stopped<br />

writing. In times of peace and in times<br />

of war. Through famine and in times of<br />

tribulation. No other ancient civilization<br />

has bequeathed to the world so<br />

vast a corpus of documents. There are<br />

26 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>



Clockwise from above: Cuneiform inscriptions on the aqueduct at Jerwan; The artwork of Iraqi calligrapher Hisham Elbaghdadi; A ring with a cylinder seal from<br />

Mesopotamia set with rubies.<br />

about 130,000 mud slabs of Mesopotamia<br />

in the British Museum.<br />

Cuneiform writing continued for a<br />

few centuries BC and was adapted to<br />

write in at least fifteen different languages.<br />

The last dated cuneiform text<br />

has a date corresponding to A.D. 75,<br />

although the script probably continued<br />

in use over the next two centuries<br />

and was replaced by the Levant alphabetic<br />

writing that began to spread with<br />

the spread of the Aramaic language,<br />

especially during the reign of the last<br />

(South Chaldean) dynasty.<br />

The original Sumerian writing<br />

system derives from a system of clay<br />

tokens used to represent commodities.<br />

By the end of the 4th millennium<br />

BC, this had evolved into a method<br />

of keeping accounts, using a roundshaped<br />

stylus impressed into soft clay<br />

at different angles for recording numbers.<br />

This was gradually augmented<br />

with pictographic writing using a<br />

sharp stylus to indicate what was being<br />

counted.<br />

Round-stylus and sharp-stylus<br />

writing were gradually replaced<br />

around 2700-2500 BC by writing using<br />

a wedge-shaped stylus (hence the term<br />

cuneiform), at first only for logograms,<br />

but developed to include phonetic elements<br />

by the 29th century BC. About<br />

2600 BC cuneiform began to represent<br />

syllables of the Sumerian language.<br />

Finally, cuneiform writing became<br />

a general-purpose writing system for<br />

logograms, syllables, and numbers.<br />

From the 26th century BC, this script<br />

was adapted to the Akkadian language,<br />

and from there to others such as Hurrian<br />

and Hittite. Scripts similar in appearance<br />

to this writing system include<br />

those for Ugaritic and Old Persian.<br />

Nabu<br />

In the time of Hammurabi of Babylon<br />

(1792-1750 BC), the God Nabu (a<br />

divine patron of scribes) received the<br />

Sumerian Goddess Nisaba’s attributes<br />

and became the patron of writing and<br />

scribes. Nisaba was still venerated and<br />

didn’t disappear from the pantheon,<br />

but from that moment on, she was<br />

known as Nabu’s wife. Nabu was very<br />

important for the Babylonians and<br />

was adopted by the Assyrians as the<br />

son of their supreme god, Ashur.<br />

In the 1800s and 1900s, archaeological<br />

excavations revealed thousands<br />

of cuneiform documents, and the variations<br />

of the script across languages and<br />

time were slowly deciphered.<br />

While we can read cuneiform documents<br />

today, the majority—many hundreds<br />

of thousands—still survive unread,<br />

and the few hundred cuneiform<br />

experts worldwide face an impossible<br />

task. Fortunately, machine learning<br />

and artificial intelligence offers potential<br />

assistance. Scholars at many institutions<br />

are compiling databases and<br />

training machines to read and fill in<br />

gaps in these ancient texts.<br />

Calligraphy<br />

Arabic calligraphy is the artistic practice<br />

of handwriting Arabic script in<br />

a fluid manner to convey harmony,<br />

grace, and beauty. It was primarily<br />

developed as a way of delivering the<br />

Word of God through the holy scripture<br />

of the Qur’an and is considered<br />

the quintessential art form of the Islamic<br />

world. Arabic letters decorate<br />

objects ranging from mosques to palaces,<br />

carpets, and paintings.<br />

The practice, which can be passed<br />

down through formal and informal education,<br />

uses the twenty-eight letters of<br />

the Arabic alphabet, written in cursive,<br />

from right to left. Originally intended<br />

to make writing clear and legible, it<br />

gradually became an Islamic Arab art<br />

for traditional and modern works.<br />

Arabic consists of 17 characters,<br />

which, with the addition of dots placed<br />

above or below certain of them, provide<br />

the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet.<br />

Arabic calligraphy is the artistic<br />

practice of handwriting based on the<br />

Arabic alphabet. It is known in Arabic<br />

as Khatt and the calligrapher as Khattat.<br />

Calligraphers are highly regarded<br />

in the Islamic culture.<br />

The art of calligraphy has universal<br />

appeal, and that is why it developed<br />

so quickly and became so sought-after<br />

from the Middle Ages onwards. Its<br />

beautiful proportions and exquisite luminosity<br />

are something that everyone<br />

can appreciate.<br />

An Arabic calligrapher employs<br />

a reed pen, called a Qalam, with the<br />

working point cut on an angle. This<br />

feature produces a thick downstroke<br />

and a thin upstroke with an infinity<br />

of gradation in between. The nice<br />

balance between the vertical above<br />

and the open curve below the middle<br />

register induces a sense of harmony.<br />

The peculiarity that certain letters<br />

cannot be joined to their neighbors<br />

provides articulation. The line traced<br />

by a skilled calligrapher is a true marvel<br />

of fluidity and sensitive inflection,<br />

communicating the very action of the<br />

master’s hand.<br />

In the early centuries of Islam,<br />

Arabic not only was the official language<br />

of administration but also was<br />

and has remained the language of religion<br />

and learning. The Arabic alphabet<br />

has been adapted to the Islamic<br />

peoples’ vernaculars just as the Latin<br />

alphabet has been in the Christianinfluenced<br />

West.<br />

The evolution of writing is a collection<br />

of significant events in the alphabet’s<br />

history accented by the civilizations,<br />

cultures and people who made it<br />

happen and correlated with world affairs.<br />

Our Chaldean News stories seek<br />

to breathe life into what is considered<br />

by many to be antiquated and old subjects;<br />

however, our themes constantly<br />

change, and we remain steadfast in<br />

our commitment to revisit history and<br />

revive our culture with articles, insight,<br />

and words.<br />

Sources: Iraqi Museum, Encyclopedia<br />

Britanica, Musée du Louvre, Sjur<br />

Cappelen Papazian, Shelby Brown,<br />

Christie’s Online, Andre Parrot (The<br />

Arts of Assyria).<br />

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


George Matti on the job<br />

as Boatswains Mate.<br />

Thank You for Your Service<br />

A Salute to Chaldean American Veterans<br />


In the rich tapestry of American diversity,<br />

the Chaldean community<br />

stands out as a vibrant example<br />

of immigrants who have not only embraced<br />

the American dream but have<br />

also contributed significantly to the<br />

country’s defense. With a deep sense of<br />

patriotism and a commitment to safeguarding<br />

the freedoms they’ve come<br />

to know, Chaldean Americans in every<br />

generation have a proud tradition of<br />

serving in the United States military.<br />

Hundreds of men and women have<br />

joined the effort to protect and serve.<br />

In 2002, the Chaldean American<br />

Ladies of Charity (CALC) arranged a<br />

tribute booklet and ceremony for Chaldean<br />

Americans that have served or<br />

are serving in the US military. When<br />

many Chaldeans immigrated to the<br />

United States seeking refuge and opportunity,<br />

they brought with them<br />

a strong work ethic and a profound<br />

sense of gratitude for their new homeland.<br />

Many served in the Army, and a<br />

great many were decorated war heroes<br />

in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.<br />

Chaldeans Americans have served<br />

their adopted country in conflicts from<br />

WWII to the Iraq War of 2014-2017.<br />

They helped liberate concentration<br />

camps in Germany and Austria and<br />

paid witness to the Cuban Missile Crisis<br />

from ships offshore. They served<br />

as interpreters and cultural advisors<br />

in the Middle East. Their stories<br />

are unique and incredible and have<br />

helped shaped the history of the United<br />

States of America.<br />

John Hakim was drafted to serve in<br />

World War II. Not an American citizen<br />

at the time, he earned his citizenship<br />

while overseas. John Cassa was 14<br />

when he joined; he misrepresented his<br />

age to serve and was injured during<br />

maneuvers, ultimately sharing a hospital<br />

room with future Vice President<br />

(and self-titled “inventor of the internet”)<br />

Al Gore. Michael Denja provided<br />

security for former President George<br />

H.W. Bush. At least two Chaldean<br />

American soldiers served alongside<br />

the legendary Elvis, one shipping out<br />

with him and one served in training<br />

with the historic “King of Rock and<br />

Roll.”<br />

Military from this community tend to<br />

be highly decorated as well. Jose P. Denja<br />

was recommended for the Congressional<br />

Medal of Honor and received the<br />

Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Bronze Legion<br />

of Merit for his service in Korea. Joseph<br />

Essa had served his time in World<br />

War II, was wounded several times, and<br />

won a Purple Heart. He was eligible for<br />

honorable discharge but elected to reenlist<br />

and was killed in action in 1945.<br />

Peter Essa, who fought on the beaches<br />

of Normandy, was awarded the Bronze<br />

Star and the Combat Infantry Badge as<br />

well as the European-African-Middle-<br />

Eastern Campaign Medal. An article<br />

featuring his story was published in the<br />

Chaldean News in November of 2020,<br />

when Peter was 95 years old.<br />

The Chaldean community in southeastern<br />

Michigan was nourished in the<br />

20th century by two fundamental factors:<br />

the sacrificial love of family and<br />

friends and the generous support of the<br />

local Church. Both would factor heavily<br />

during wartime. Chaldean people also<br />

have a history of enduring adversity and<br />

persevering through turbulent times,<br />

and they understand the concept of sacrifice.<br />

The Yelda Family had 6 brothers<br />

who all served in World War II. A women<br />

named Rosemary Yelda, family connection<br />

unconfirmed, served in Korea.<br />

This reporter had the distinct honor<br />

of sitting down and talking with a few<br />

Chaldean American veterans. Tom<br />

George, who was drafted into the Army<br />

when he was 19, remains grateful for<br />

the training. Although he remained<br />

stateside and never saw combat, the<br />

discipline of boot camp stayed with him<br />

his whole life. Many of his friends were<br />

sent to Vietnam, and Tom remembers<br />

them with affection, especially each<br />

year on Veteran’s Day which “keeps the<br />

experience of service close to mind.”<br />

One thing most veterans will agree<br />

on is that they appreciate their family<br />

so much more when they return from<br />

VETERANS continued on page 30<br />

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US Army Oath:<br />

I solemnly swear that I will support<br />

and defend the Constitution<br />

of the United States against all<br />

enemies, foreign and domestic;<br />

that I will bear true faith and allegiance<br />

to the same; and that I will<br />

obey the orders of the President<br />

of the United States and the orders<br />

of the officers appointed over<br />

me, according to regulations and<br />

the Uniform Code of Military Justice.<br />

So help me God. (Title 10, US<br />

Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing<br />

the wording first adopted in 1789,<br />

with amendment effective 5 October<br />

1962).<br />

Warrior Ethos:<br />

Fred Najor in the Michigan National Guard; Peter Essa served in World War II.<br />

I will always place the mission<br />

first. I will never accept defeat. I<br />

will never quit. I will never leave a<br />

fallen comrade.<br />

VETERANS continued from page 28<br />

service. For Tom, who lost 32 pounds<br />

on Army chow, homemade meals were<br />

one of the things he missed the most.<br />

Army rations are “definitely not like<br />

Chaldean food,” he asserts.<br />

“The saddest and most confusing<br />

part of serving in the Vietnam era,” says<br />

Tom, “was our homeland [America] calling<br />

it a ‘worthless war’” when he personally<br />

knew so many who had sacrificed<br />

their lives. Present-day calls for “defunding<br />

the police and villainizing the military,”<br />

Tom says, “are hard to witness.”<br />

Tom supports Hire Heroes USA, a<br />

nonprofit organization that moves veterans<br />

into the corporate world. His transition<br />

to civilian life was a little easier than<br />

most, as he returned the family business,<br />

which, according to Tom, “took<br />

care of that without any thought.”<br />

How can civilians show their support<br />

for veterans? For Tom, a simple,<br />

“Thank you for your service” suffices.<br />

It fills him with great pride and honor<br />

that he served his time.<br />

George Matti joined the US Navy<br />

in 1966. Previously, his brother had<br />

joined the Marines. “It was either join<br />

for 4 years and pick the branch or get<br />

drafted and spend two years in the<br />

Army,” George explained to those who<br />

asked. (And many did.)<br />

“I’m glad I went when I did,” says<br />

George, “but I wouldn’t go back.”<br />

He was stationed on an LST ship,<br />

delivering supplies to combat soldiers<br />

in Vietnam. One of his worst wartime<br />

memories was running aground on a<br />

small boat with his captain on a river<br />

in Danang. Always a target for enemy<br />

fire, it was a harrowing wait before a<br />

tugboat rescued them from the sandbar<br />

they were stuck on.<br />

Another clear memory of George’s<br />

is laying looking up at the stars in a<br />

Vietnamese sky and asking himself,<br />

“What am I doing?” It was a mind-expanding<br />

experience.<br />

“When you go, you’re like a kid,”<br />

remembers George. “You grow up real<br />

fast.”<br />

What was he doing? “A Chaldean<br />

kid from Baghdad,” George says, “A<br />

thousand miles from home.” A kid in<br />

combat.<br />

Nevertheless, he persevered. He<br />

met a Lebanese guy from Toledo who<br />

spoke Arabic. George spoke Sureth,<br />

but they managed to communicate<br />

and became fast friends. Any familiarity<br />

goes a long way while overseas.<br />

What don’t people understand<br />

about veterans? “They don’t get it<br />

unless they have a family member or<br />

know someone in the service,” says<br />

George. “They think we’re all Rambo.”<br />


STORY<br />

George believes that every young<br />

person should do one year of compulsory<br />

military service. It would greatly<br />

benefit most of them, he thinks, especially<br />

with developing self-discipline.<br />

“The military has a lot of rules,” he<br />

says. “Obey them.”<br />

Fred Najor’s was a poor family raising<br />

nine kids supported by the family<br />

store when Vietnam escalated. The socalled<br />

“Living Room War” was the first<br />

time that images from a still-active war<br />

were brought into the family purview<br />

by the magic of television.<br />

Classified as A-1, Fred was next in<br />

line to be drafted when he joined the<br />

Michigan National Guard. “I’ve got<br />

no beef with anyone,” he said, so he<br />

opted for a 6-year stint stateside rather<br />

than get shipped to a far-off Asian<br />

country to kill strangers. At that time,<br />

Walter Cronkite’s newscast showed<br />

rows of body bags every evening.<br />

“It’s always somebody else’s war,”<br />

Fred says. “Old people start wars, and<br />

young people have to fight them.”<br />

For a Chaldean American, Fred<br />

got a great gig; he was placed in food<br />

service. The National Guard trained<br />

This report is made possible with generous support from<br />

Michigan Stories, a Michigan Humanities Grants initiative.<br />

him how to cook in quantity. He was<br />

at Camp Grayling when they received a<br />

call that “half of Detroit was burning.”<br />

His group hustled back to the 8 Mile<br />

Armory and prepared to service the<br />

folks fighting to keep peace in the city.<br />

On a run to drop off deliveries at<br />

Central High School, Fred’s convoy<br />

came under fire. Another truck in the<br />

line had a machine gun which retaliated<br />

by taking the top off the building<br />

that the hostile was shooting from.<br />

The hostility lasted for days, and several<br />

people were killed. Fred’s family<br />

store was firebombed while he was at<br />

Camp Grayling, but they were able to<br />

stay open, unlike most of the stores in<br />

Detroit.<br />

Talking with his fellow veterans,<br />

Fred says, “When we look back on it, we<br />

were fortunate America opened its doors<br />

for us.” He attributes the welcome to the<br />

fact that they were Christian. Ironically,<br />

that fact is what put them under attack<br />

in Iraq. “If we had stayed there,” Fred<br />

says, “we would be dead.”<br />

The U.S. military is a fine institution,<br />

says Fred, but the powers that<br />

be take advantage of their troops and<br />

do not put them first. A better system<br />

is required, and the point should be<br />

peace rather than winning. He’s frustrated<br />

by the fact that we as a species<br />

are still fighting over land. “We’re so<br />

smart,” he says, and should put our<br />

power toward peace, not war.<br />

“We helped America stay strong,”<br />

says Fred. “I love America. Why<br />

wouldn’t I?”<br />

30 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


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<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 31



Spicing Up Michigan<br />

Chaldean cuisine becomes mainstream<br />

Spices are<br />

at the heart<br />

of Chaldean<br />

cuisine.<br />


The culinary traditions of the<br />

Chaldean community are as<br />

rich and diverse as our ancient<br />

history. Originating from the cradle of<br />

civilization, Chaldean cuisine boasts<br />

a plethora of flavors that narrate our<br />

cultural heritage. As the Chaldeans<br />

found a new home in Detroit, Michigan,<br />

we brought along our cherished<br />

recipes, crafting a unique food narrative<br />

that melds ancient traditions with<br />

the modern-day food landscape of the<br />

Motor City.<br />

Food Culture<br />

The culture and format of serving<br />

meals is just as important as the ingredients<br />

and taste. In the villages, many<br />

Chaldeans were farmers and raised<br />

animals. Religious Chaldeans saw the<br />

creation and consumption of food as<br />

a spiritual act. The food you received<br />

was passed down from God unto you,<br />

so as to nourish your body and continue<br />

the cycle of life. Food was a sacred<br />

community item, too, and was offered<br />

as a gesture of good faith to visitors<br />

and at festivals and celebrations.<br />

Cooking food was most often considered<br />

a woman’s right and privilege.<br />

Her knowledge and skills in the arts of<br />

Chaldean cuisine were tested against<br />

other families in fierce-but-friendly<br />

competition. In essence, each house<br />

had its own kitchen, and individual traditions<br />

were passed down through the<br />

generations. Small changes in each individual’s<br />

recipe and methods evolved<br />

our food over thousands of years.<br />

Chaldean women have a sense of<br />

pride when it comes to cooking their<br />

own food and feeding their families.<br />

Like anyone, they want to cook great<br />

food and impress their family and<br />

guests. While they might share recipes<br />

with close friends and family, especially<br />

daughters, many Chaldeans<br />

gatekeep their exact secrets like professional<br />

chefs.<br />

As the community soon found out,<br />

life in the United States is much different<br />

than living in a village. Within<br />

a few generations, assimilation and<br />

the geographical reality of living apart<br />

changed the food culture invariably. Individual<br />

households maintained their<br />

own food traditions and collaborated<br />

less and less over time. Americans were<br />

introduced to Chaldean food with invitation-only<br />

family dinners.<br />

Commercial Chaldean restaurants<br />

and pre-made food at grocery stores<br />

slowly popped up and commodified<br />

the rich food tradition into dishes for<br />

sale. While this greatly expanded the<br />

influence of Chaldean food across<br />

metro Detroit and pushed Michigan<br />

cuisine to new heights, over time, it<br />

also contaminated the relationship<br />

between families and food and allowed<br />

Chaldeans to purchase our traditional<br />

food rather than rely on their<br />

family’s cooking. Recipes and dishes<br />

were standardized and replicated to<br />

emphasize what was popular, what<br />

the masses enjoyed, and what made<br />

the most money. Some Chaldean food<br />

became so similar to food in other Middle<br />

Eastern restaurants that it is now<br />

indistinguishable.<br />

Traditional Chaldean Dishes<br />

Chaldean cuisine draws many similarities<br />

to other Middle Eastern food,<br />

but its unique flavors and preparation<br />

offer a unique Chaldean twist. Here are<br />

some dishes that Chaldeans helped<br />

popularize in the Detroit area.<br />

Kabobs and Grilled Meats: The<br />

preparation of kabobs begins with highquality<br />

meat, commonly beef, lamb,<br />

or chicken, which are cut into uniform<br />

pieces to ensure even cooking. The meat<br />

is marinated with a blend of traditional<br />

spices, garlic, and lemon. Skewering the<br />

meat requires a precise hand to ensure<br />

that the pieces are secure. On the grill,<br />

the chef must achieve the perfect level<br />

of char while retaining the meat’s juiciness.<br />

The result is tender and flavorful<br />

meat with a smoky aroma.<br />

Kubba: To make Kubba, the chef<br />

SPICING UP continued on page 34<br />

32 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 33



Tikka and kabob platters are a popular choice at Detroit’s Middle Eastern restaurants.<br />

SPICING UP continued from page 32<br />

uses bulgur wheat to cultivate a<br />

smooth dough which is then filled<br />

with a seasoned mixture of ground<br />

meat, usually beef or lamb. Each piece<br />

is carefully shaped into a disc or oval<br />

and cooked until golden and crispy.<br />

The result is a savory, textured dish<br />

enjoyed by many as a staple in Chaldean<br />

cuisine, and is often paired with<br />

a tomato and vegetable broth.<br />

Pacha: Preparing Pacha is a timehonored<br />

tradition and involves the<br />

careful cleaning and preparation of<br />

sheep’s head, trotters, and stomach.<br />

The ingredients are simmered with a<br />

blend of aromatic spices until tender.<br />

This dish requires a skilled hand to ensure<br />

the flavors are balanced and the<br />

texture is perfect, delivering a unique<br />

taste experience hard to find in the<br />

Western world.<br />

Guss: The making of Guss involves<br />

marinating choice cuts of meat in a<br />

blend of spices, garlic, and lemon,<br />

similar to kabobs. The meat is then<br />

roasted to achieve a perfect char, enhancing<br />

its flavors, in a stack of meat<br />

that is seen in Shawarma restaurants.<br />

The result is a succulent dish with a<br />

rich, smoky aroma, often enjoyed with<br />

flatbread and pickled vegetables.<br />

Dolma: Dolma involves stuffing<br />

grape leaves with a mixture of rice,<br />

meat, and various herbs. Each leaf is<br />

carefully wrapped around the filling<br />

and cooked until tender. The resulting<br />

dish is a medley of textures and flavors.<br />

Preparing this dish is tedious and<br />

time-consuming, making it one of the<br />

most extravagant; it is often reserved<br />

for special occasions. In addition to<br />

grape leaves, you can use onions or<br />

cabbage as a wrap.<br />

Biryani: Biryani preparation begins<br />

with the marination of meat in a<br />

blend of spices, followed by layering<br />

with partially cooked rice. The dish<br />

is then slow-cooked to allow the flavors<br />

to meld together. Achieving the<br />

right balance of spices and a perfect<br />

layering technique is crucial for this<br />

beloved aromatic dish that is famous<br />

across many parts of Asia.<br />

Falafel: The preparation of Falafel<br />

involves soaking chickpeas, then<br />

grinding them into a coarse mixture<br />

with herbs and spices. The mixture is<br />

shaped into small patties or balls and<br />

deep-fried until crispy. The result is a<br />

flavorful, crunchy exterior with a soft<br />

interior, often enjoyed in sandwiches<br />

or with tahini sauce.<br />

Bamia: Preparing Bamia begins<br />

with simmering okra with a mixture of<br />

tomatoes, garlic, and traditional spices.<br />

The process requires a gentle simmer<br />

to ensure the okra becomes tender<br />

without losing its shape. The result is<br />

a comforting stew, often enjoyed with<br />

rice and bread.<br />

Harisa: The preparation of Harisa<br />

involves slow-cooking wheat with<br />

meat, often chicken or lamb, until it<br />

reaches a porridge-like consistency.<br />

The dish is stirred continuously to prevent<br />

lumps and achieve a smooth texture.<br />

Harissa is a hearty and nutritious<br />

dish, often associated with religious observances<br />

and community gatherings.<br />

Masgouf: Masgouf is a traditional<br />

Iraqi fish dish that begins with the selection<br />

of a fresh, high-quality carp.<br />

The fish is seasoned with a blend of olive<br />

oil, tamarind, and a mix of spices,<br />

then skewered and slow-grilled over<br />

an open flame. The grilling process is<br />

crucial to achieving a crispy exterior<br />

while maintaining a tender, flaky interior.<br />

The result is a smoky, tangy dish<br />

enjoyed with traditional accompaniments<br />

like flatbreads and veggies.<br />

Tekratha: To make Tekratha, first<br />

craft your dough from high-quality<br />

flour, which is then rolled out into thin<br />

discs. A seasoned mixture of ground<br />

meat, typically beef or lamb, is spread<br />

over the dough before being baked until<br />

golden and crispy. The careful balancing<br />

of spices in the meat and the<br />

precise baking process results in a flavorful,<br />

textured dish that is a beloved<br />

part of Chaldean cuisine. It’s easy to<br />

stuff these delicious snacks with anything<br />

from cheese to sweets.<br />

Shawarma: The preparation of<br />

Shawarma involves marinating slices<br />

of meat, commonly beef or chicken, in<br />

a blend of aromatic spices, garlic, and<br />

yogurt. The meat is then stacked on<br />

a vertical rotisserie, where it is slow-<br />

SPICING UP continued on page 36<br />

34 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

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SPICING UP continued from page 34<br />

cooked as it turns on the spit. Slicing<br />

the meat thinly off the spit requires a<br />

skilled hand, ensuring tender, flavorful<br />

slices ready to be wrapped in flatbreads<br />

and enjoyed with a variety of<br />

accompaniments like tahini or garlic<br />

sauce and pickled vegetables.<br />

Mana’eesh (Za’atar Bread): The<br />

preparation of Za’atar Bread begins<br />

with crafting a soft dough from highquality<br />

flour, which is then rolled out<br />

into small discs. A mixture of za’atar<br />

spice blend and olive oil is generously<br />

spread over the dough before being<br />

baked until golden and slightly crispy.<br />

The herbaceous za’atar blend paired<br />

with the richness of olive oil creates<br />

a flavorful and aromatic bread, often<br />

enjoyed as a breakfast item or a snack<br />

within the Chaldean community. Other<br />

types of Mana’eesh have different<br />

toppings, such as cheese.<br />

Kleicha: Kleicha preparation starts<br />

with creating a soft, pliable dough<br />

which is then filled with a sweet mixture<br />

of dates and nuts. Each piece is<br />

carefully shaped and adorned with a<br />

sprinkle of sesame seeds before being<br />

baked until golden brown. The result<br />

is a sweet, tender pastry with a filling<br />

that’s both chewy and flavorful,<br />

embodying a traditional taste. This is<br />

great for a post-meal sweet snack.<br />

Torshi: The making of Torshi involves<br />

pickling a variety of vegetables<br />

like cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, and<br />

cauliflower in a vinegar and spice mixture.<br />

The process requires a careful<br />

balance of vinegar, salt, and traditional<br />

spices to achieve the desired tanginess<br />

and flavor. Over time, the vegetables<br />

absorb the flavors of the brine,<br />

resulting in a crunchy, tangy accompaniment<br />

to many Chaldean dishes.<br />

Geymar with Date Syrup: The<br />

preparation of Geymar involves gently<br />

simmering heavy cream to achieve a<br />

thick, clotted consistency. Once prepared,<br />

Geymar is traditionally served<br />

with a generous drizzling of date syrup.<br />

The sweetness of the date syrup<br />

complements the rich, creamy texture<br />

of Geymar, creating a simple yet indulgent<br />

dish often enjoyed as a part of a<br />

traditional Chaldean breakfast.<br />

Tabouleh: Tabouleh consists of<br />

finely chopped fresh parsley, mint, and<br />

tomatoes, which are then mixed with<br />

soaked bulgur wheat. A dressing of olive<br />

oil, lemon juice, and a dash of salt is<br />

Sahara Restaurant is among the influential Metro Detroit restaurants<br />

popularizing Middle Eastern and Chaldean cuisine. Under the guidance<br />

of Zeana (pictured) and Saad Attisha, Sahara has opened additional<br />

locations, with the latest in The District Detroit.<br />

added to bring all the flavors together.<br />

The result is a refreshing, herbaceous<br />

salad with a citrusy zing, enjoyed as a<br />

light and nutritious accompaniment to<br />

many Chaldean meals.<br />

These recipes and many others can<br />

be found in greater detail and direction<br />

in cookbooks like Ma Baseema,<br />

Babylonian Cuisine, or Awafi.<br />

Chaldean Restaurants in Michigan<br />

The voyage of Chaldean cuisine to<br />

Michigan has resulted not only in the<br />

spreading of Chaldean dishes into the<br />

home kitchens of Michigan residents,<br />

but also the commercialization of the<br />

food. One of the community’s oldest<br />

and most famous restaurants, Sullaf,<br />

is located on 7 Mile Road in Detroit, in<br />

historic Chaldean Town. It serves basic<br />


STORY<br />

Arabic and Chaldean dishes, including<br />

different meats and fish. Since it<br />

opened, many other Chaldean restaurants<br />

have served excellent food and<br />

become quite popular.<br />

Smaller Shawarma outfits operated<br />

by Chaldeans are commonplace<br />

throughout the suburbs of Detroit in<br />

cities like West Bloomfield, Sterling<br />

Heights, Southfield, and Farmington.<br />

Dozens of Chaldean bakeries, some<br />

that began informally out of someone’s<br />

home, can be found in these towns as<br />

well. Larger restaurants like Sahara,<br />

which just opened its newest location<br />

in The District Detroit, serve a wide variety<br />

of options for diners and also cater<br />

large parties for Chaldeans. Chaldean<br />

grocery stores are common in places<br />

where a lot of us live, which provide<br />

This report is made possible with generous support from<br />

Michigan Stories, a Michigan Humanities Grants initiative.<br />

fresh ready-to-eat food as well as the<br />

ingredients for making it yourself.<br />

The Chaldean News has a special<br />

series called “Chaldean Kitchen” which<br />

aims to preserve our culinary history.<br />

The series posts articles about the history<br />

of someone’s dish as well as the<br />

full recipe so you can make it at home.<br />

Even better, the article is accompanied<br />

by a short video showing exactly how<br />

it’s made, which can be found on You-<br />

Tube or the website chaldeannews.<br />

com. Even further, the new Chaldean<br />

Community Foundation center located<br />

in West Bloomfield, when completed,<br />

will include a demonstration kitchen<br />

so we can better share our delicious<br />

recipes with the world.<br />

The Chaldean community has successfully<br />

preserved and shared its culinary<br />

heritage by enriching Michigan’s<br />

food scene with a blend of ancient flavors<br />

and modern adaptations. The story<br />

of Chaldean cuisine in Michigan is a<br />

flavorful journey of tradition, adaptation,<br />

and entrepreneurial spirit, contributing<br />

to the culinary and cultural<br />

diversity that provides the foundation<br />

of the Great Lakes State.<br />

36 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>



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<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 37


First Tango with Mango:<br />

Iraqi Amba<br />


In the world of culinary delights,<br />

few things can match the mouthwatering<br />

tang and flavor offered<br />

by a good old-fashioned Iraqi mango<br />

pickle (amba).<br />

To tell the story of amba, or as it<br />

is popularly known in India, Aam ka<br />

Achar, we must begin with the story<br />

of Indian Ocean trade and the longstanding<br />

historical network of merchants<br />

who traversed this massive<br />

body of water for millennia bringing<br />

spices, people, and ideas to Basra-Iraq<br />

from all directions.<br />

Iraqis traditionally do not use curry<br />

and hot peppers in their cooking. Amba<br />

sauce was transferred from the Indian<br />

peninsula to Basra-Iraq by Iraqi Jewish<br />

merchants in Bombay. The product<br />

found its way to the Souq Hanoon and<br />

Shorja markets in Baghdad at the beginning<br />

of the twentieth century where<br />

it was modified and popularized to fit<br />

the mild taste of Iraqi cuisine.<br />

In this article, we delve into the<br />

rich history of amba in Iraq, exploring<br />

its journey from a humble homemade<br />

delight to a beloved condiment that<br />

can be enjoyed with many traditional<br />

Iraqi dishes, adding a burst of freshness<br />

and a tangy twist to many meals.<br />

Pickling<br />

Pickling was one of the very limited<br />

number of ways to preserve food before<br />

the invention of canning (about<br />

200 years ago) and modern refrigeration.<br />

This process has been an<br />

integral part of civilizations and an<br />

ancient practice to preserve food for<br />

long journeys. Almost anything can<br />

be preserved through pickling—fruits,<br />

vegetables, berries, leaves, roots, and<br />

even some meats.<br />

Vegetables and fruits get spoiled<br />

due to the presence of moisture in<br />

them. One of the ways to preserve<br />

some of these items for a longer period<br />

is the pickling process. Mangoes<br />

get spoiled in a few days, but a mango<br />

pickle lasts for several months.<br />

The true history of pickles remains<br />

somewhat a mystery. They were introduced<br />

so far back in the mists of history<br />

that no one knows exactly when,<br />

although some believe they date back<br />

to India some 4,030 years ago. Pickles<br />

are mentioned in the Bible, in the Old<br />

Testament books Numbers and Isaiah.<br />

Cleopatra attributed some of her<br />

beauty to pickles, Aristotle claimed<br />

that pickled cucumbers had healing<br />

properties, Napolean valued the pickle’s<br />

health benefits for his army, and<br />

reportedly, George Washington had<br />

a collection of 476 different kinds of<br />

pickles. (I wonder if he ate them all.)<br />

What is Amba?<br />

Amba is a liquid sauce with a hot spicy<br />

taste that is widely used in Iraqi food.<br />

It is typically made of pickled green<br />

mangoes, vinegar, salt, turmeric, chili,<br />

and fenugreek. The Iraqi amba may<br />

have been derived from a type of pickle<br />

spread in India and the Arabian Gulf<br />

called green mango chutney.<br />

Amba is available in the market<br />

either in the form of a prepared liquid<br />

in a glass bottle with a wide mouth to<br />

allow the flow of liquid and the mango<br />

fruit pickled in it, or in the form<br />

of a powder from which the dough<br />

is prepared by adding water and vinegar<br />

to it.<br />

To Iraqis, opening a bottle of amba<br />

is a universally enjoyable experience.<br />

The aroma of spices takes us back to<br />

our childhood, and the fiery peppers<br />

and colorful fruits in the mixture are a<br />

sight to behold.<br />

Amba is eaten alone or added to<br />

falafel, shawarma sandwiches, boiled<br />

eggs, eggplant, or fried potatoes and<br />

is considered one of the best ingredients<br />

in Iraqi food. Amba is best when<br />

paired with Hyderabadi biryani, one of<br />

the most popular rice dishes. It is also<br />

the basic material for preparing certain<br />

types of Iraqi Turshi.<br />

One of the amba’s primary purposes<br />

is related to its ability to mask whatever<br />

else you’re eating. Tangy, spicy,<br />

and tropical, amba is a storm of flavors<br />

that adds brightness and complexity<br />

to the simplest of meals. The Baghdadis<br />

developed this taste further and<br />

Amba was associated with the famous<br />

wood-grilled Masghouf (Tigris trout)<br />

on Abou Al-Nawas Street.<br />

The quintessential street food has<br />

evolved to be served in Mediterraneanstyle<br />

restaurants around the world.<br />

With its deep fermented flavors and<br />

spice, amba adds an exciting element<br />

that you’ll be tempted to spread on everything<br />

and anything.<br />

The First Tango with Mango<br />

The Jews of Iraq claim that they were<br />

the first to import amba to Basra from<br />

Bombay, India, and then spread it to<br />

Baghdad and the rest of the country. It<br />

is said that the Sasson family invented<br />

the amba sauce, as we know it in Iraq.<br />

Beginning in the 17th century,<br />

groups of Iraqi Jewish merchants from<br />

Baghdad moved to the Persian Gulf<br />

port of Basra and from there onward<br />

to Mughal India, where they set up settlements<br />

in towns like Bombay, Pune,<br />

and Calcutta. Over time, other Jewish<br />

Arabs from Aleppo and Yemen also often<br />

joined these communities.<br />

In Bombay, the Iraqi Jewish merchants<br />

imported dates and Arabian<br />

horses from Iraq and exported Indian<br />

spices to Basra. They had learned to<br />

eat pickled foods with curry and exported<br />

several barrels of pickled mangoes<br />

seasoned with salt, pepper, and<br />

concentrated curry, to the famed Jewish<br />

community market (Souq Hanoun)<br />

Hanoun market in central Baghdad.<br />

Along with spices, textiles, and luxury<br />

goods, recipes also made their way<br />

back to Iraq from India. One of these<br />

was amba, a delicious and tangy mango<br />

pickle that is at both spicy, sweet, and<br />

sour, and which became a phenomenal<br />

hit across Iraq (and in southwestern Iranian<br />

cities like Ahwaz as well).<br />

By the mid-20th century, amba<br />

was everywhere; Iraqi Jewish novelist<br />

Somekh Sassoon, for example,<br />

describes growing up with it on the<br />

AMBA continued on page 40<br />

38 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

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<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 39


AMBA continued from page 38<br />

streets of Baghdad in his autobiography,<br />

Baghdad Yesterday.<br />

Baghdadi Jewish cuisine reflects<br />

the long impact of the Indian Ocean<br />

trade. Amba shares space with dishes<br />

like biryani, chicken curry, and<br />

parathas as Baghdadi Jewish favorites.<br />

They were not alone in adopting the<br />

foods of the lands they settled.<br />

The influence of amba on Iraqi cuisine<br />

is undeniable. Ingredients in their<br />

purest forms were handed over to people<br />

to work with, resulting in a unique<br />

identity and culinary delight. Iraqi amba<br />

pickles are truly different and have become<br />

significant part of our palate.<br />

Over time, regional variations of<br />

the Iraqi mango amba<br />

emerged, each infused<br />

with its unique blend of<br />

spices and flavors, reflecting<br />

the culinary diversity<br />

of the product.<br />

erated for weeks, months, and in some<br />

cases, years. The quantities and types<br />

of the ingredients used determine the<br />

final texture and taste.<br />

In India, mango is the main ingredient;<br />

however, Iraqis add other<br />

ingredients such as boiled turnips or<br />

cooked baby carrots, boiled potatoes,<br />

peaches, yellow zucchini, okra, and<br />

red and orange peppers to add taste<br />

and thickness.<br />

One of the benefits of making amba<br />

at home is the ability to personalize it<br />

with different seasonings. Traditional<br />

Indian versions of the sauce use fenu-<br />

like that of making pita bread.<br />

Samoon was not known in the<br />

early part of the last century. Iraqis<br />

first knew Al-Samoon after the fall of<br />

the Ottoman Empire and during the<br />

British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s.<br />

The type of bread moved to Iraq from<br />

Georgia when Armenians immigrated<br />

to Iraq at the end of World War I and<br />

an Armenian by the name of Simon<br />

opened his shop in the western district<br />

of Bab Al-Agha in Baghdad.<br />

Iraqis were used to the traditional<br />

homemade khubuz and started wondering<br />

about this new product and its<br />

The seller cart contained a wooden<br />

barrel full of the yellow sauce and a<br />

basket of samoon. He slit the bread and<br />

spooned amba inside the bread pocket.<br />

The price was 10 fils (10 US cents).<br />

This quintessential street food has<br />

evolved to be served in Mediterraneanstyle<br />

restaurants around the world.<br />

Amba is eaten alone in the form of sandwiches,<br />

which the people call amba<br />

and samoon; sometimes it is added to<br />

falafel sandwiches or shawarma.<br />

Last tango with mango<br />

Ship brand is the most popular<br />

amba among the Iraqis. The preference<br />

Here, There, and<br />

Everywhere<br />

In recent years, with the<br />

rise of globalization and<br />

increased cultural exchange,<br />

Iraqi amba has<br />

transcended geographical<br />

boundaries and captivated<br />

taste buds worldwide.<br />

With its rich history<br />

and diverse flavors, amba<br />

has stood the test of time.<br />

From its humble origins as a homemade<br />

condiment to its present-day accessibility<br />

through platforms and shops worldwide,<br />

it delights generations of food enthusiasts<br />

all over the Middle East.<br />

Just as the Iraqi Jews took amba<br />

to Israel, we, the expatriate sons of<br />

Iraq took amba to Michigan, California,<br />

London, Paris, and around the<br />

world. It has become commonplace to<br />

see the mango amba in oriental food<br />

shops in Europe and the United States.<br />

Making Amba<br />

The beauty of pickle making lies in the<br />

forgiving nature of the time-tested process,<br />

making it accessible even to beginners.<br />

The ingredients of Iraqi amba<br />

are mango slices, salt, vinegar, lemon<br />

salt, turmeric, hot peppers, ground<br />

fenugreek, dried coriander, curry, and<br />

ground spice.<br />

Almost all these items can be<br />

stored in airtight containers and refrig-<br />

greek, turmeric, chili, and mustard<br />

seeds. Some cooks prefer to elevate<br />

the flavors by incorporating tanginess,<br />

usually through the addition of vinegar<br />

and sour sumac. Garlic and cumin<br />

are sometimes used when savory flavors<br />

are preferred. Alternative textures<br />

can also be achieved — ranging from<br />

a smooth mango puree to a chunky,<br />

tender mango salsa-like consistency,<br />

depending on your taste.<br />

Samoon<br />

Samoon is an Iraqi name for a type of<br />

bread. Its name in other Arab countries<br />

is aish, khubuz or loaf. It is one<br />

of the favorite foods in Iraq, especially<br />

at breakfast. It is baked in traditional<br />

stone ovens, like pizza, and<br />

is one of the most widespread breads<br />

in Iraq. The process of making it is<br />

maker. Unable to pronounce “Simon,”<br />

they diluted the word and modified it<br />

to “Samoon;” that coined the word in<br />

the Iraqi vocabulary.<br />

Simon, an Armenian Christian,<br />

concealed his religious beliefs in the<br />

new Moslem setting and expressed his<br />

Christian faith by shaping his product<br />

like a fish, an historical Christian symbol.<br />

Ottomans, Lebanese, Syrians, and<br />

others made the bread round. Simon’s<br />

“samoon” takes the shape of diamond,<br />

boat, or fish.<br />

Amba and samoon was one of the<br />

popular and inexpensive food pairings<br />

that were common in the good days in<br />

Baghdad among children and young<br />

adults. Kids would go out the school<br />

gates and straight to the street cart<br />

vendors selling this combination of<br />

delicious and filling delight.<br />

for Ship indicates how late nineteenthcentury<br />

Basra-Bombay trade routes<br />

continue to define the post-colonial<br />

Iraqi citizen—whether in Iraq, the United<br />

States, or across the diaspora.<br />

Iraqi amba is a great example of<br />

how important history, culture, and<br />

taste are to the food we eat. It is something<br />

special that travels with Iraqis<br />

all over the world. The next time you<br />

want to enjoy mango pickles, whether<br />

at your favorite Iraqi market, restaurant,<br />

or in your own kitchen, let your<br />

imagination run wild and create your<br />

own unique pickling masterpiece. I am<br />

certain that tasting amba will not be<br />

your last tango with mango.<br />

Sources: Khaled al-Qashtini, Ali Kash,<br />

Raed Jaffar, Mutta Haaretz, Marefa.<br />

org, and Alex Shems.<br />

40 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

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<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 41


Arabian Knights<br />

Depka group<br />

performs at<br />

the Gala.<br />

Celebrating 20 Years<br />

The Chaldean Cultural Center Founders Gala<br />


The Chaldean Cultural Center<br />

(CCC) celebrated its 20th Anniversary<br />

Founders Gala on Friday,<br />

October 20 at Shenandoah Country<br />

Club. It was a night reminiscent<br />

of an ethnic bazaar, with a Chaldean<br />

bread lady, music, and other entertainment<br />

along with a stroll through<br />

the museum, a short documentary and<br />

commemoration.<br />

Led by zurna player Omar Jarbo,<br />

guests were escorted inside the banquet<br />

hall where dancing ensued. Then,<br />

the Arabian Knights, a folk dancing<br />

depka group founded by Hassan Khatter<br />

over 16 years ago, did a performance<br />

and later invited guests to join.<br />

Vanessa Denha Garmo, the Master of<br />

Ceremonies, shared a delightful story<br />

of when she asked her older sister to<br />

borrow her Toyota Subaru. Her sister<br />

said, “Absolutely not!” and as they<br />

quibbled, their father, shaking his<br />

head, said, “You girls are so ungrateful.<br />

When I was your age, I had to<br />

share my donkey with Amo Thomas.”<br />

Another story was of a Chaldean<br />

woman who came to America through<br />

Ellis Island. She had an eye problem<br />

which had to be cured for her to complete<br />

her journey to Michigan. Eventually,<br />

she was cured, giving glory to the<br />

Virgin Mary statue (AKA the Statue of<br />

Liberty), whom she prayed to every day.<br />

Judy Jonna, event chairperson,<br />

handed out the CCC founder plaques<br />

made by renowned artist Sabah Selou<br />

Wazi. The founders include the late<br />

Rosemary Antone, Virjean Arabo,<br />

Francis Boji, Raad Kathawa, Mary Romaya,<br />

Josephine Sarafa, Victor Saroki,<br />

and Hanna Shina.<br />

The Founders’ Stories<br />

Born in Telkaif (Telkeppe) in 1941,<br />

Rosemary Antone came to the United<br />

States in 1950 when she was 9 years old.<br />

She was featured in the documentary<br />

Chaldeans in America: Our Story where<br />

she said, “We want our pioneers to be<br />

proud of what they did and where they<br />

brought us. We want future generations<br />

and our American neighbors and<br />

From left: Vanessa Denha Garmo,<br />

Kashat Spices representative and<br />

Vevean Hababa.<br />

friends to know who Chaldeans are.”<br />

Sadly, Antone passed away in 2009.<br />

Virjean Arabo was born in Samawah,<br />

a city in southern Iraq, to parents<br />

who were both teachers. She went<br />

to college in Iraq, majoring in economics<br />

and political science. In 1967, she<br />

married Faisal and came to the United<br />

States with books packed in her bags.<br />

Her dream was to continue studying,<br />

but she had five children in ten years,<br />

now all grown. “They continued<br />

studying in my place,” she said.<br />

Arabo, an artist, was invited by Josephine<br />

Sarafa to attend a meeting at<br />

Southfield Manor. Though she didn’t<br />

know what the meeting was about, she<br />

went. “There were many people, and<br />

the next meeting, less people, and the<br />

meeting after that, even less people than<br />

that,” she said. “I was one of the ones<br />

who ended up staying until the end.”<br />

Francis Boji’s father, a builder,<br />

came and worked in the United Stated<br />

from 1929 to 1935, then returned to<br />

Iraq. Francis was born in Telkaif in<br />

1942. He studied engineering and at<br />

age 21, taught at the Faculty of Engineering.<br />

He came to America with his<br />

wife and children in 1980. “There is an<br />

Iraqi museum, and there are other museums<br />

that dedicate parts to the Chaldeans,”<br />

he said, “but this museum is<br />

100% Chaldean, and for Chaldeans,<br />

and it is authentically Chaldean.”<br />

Raad Kathawa was born in Telkaif<br />

and came to the United States in 1969.<br />

He bought his first store in 1973 and<br />

worked in the supermarket business<br />

for 49 years. In the 1980s, he began<br />

working with organizations such<br />

as the AFD (Associated Food Dealers<br />

of Michigan). “We should teach our<br />

children and grandchildren who we<br />

are, and where we are from, so that<br />

they become interested not only in<br />

this museum, but in the history of the<br />

Chaldeans in general,” he said.<br />

Mary Romaya is a retired teacher<br />

and former Executive Director of the<br />

CCC. Born in Detroit, she graduated<br />

from the University of Detroit with a<br />

B.A. in History and received an M.A.<br />

Degree in School Administration from<br />

Eastern Michigan University. She<br />

worked for 45 years as a professional<br />

educator with Warren Woods Public<br />

Schools, leaving the district in Janu-<br />


42 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


DECEMBER 2-3<br />



<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> 29 - DECEMBER 17<br />



©Disney<br />

ary 2011. “Shenandoah gave us just a<br />

little over 2,000 square feet with the<br />

idea that maybe one day we would put<br />

a museum in here,” she said.<br />

Josephine Sarafa was born in Detroit,<br />

Michigan and grew up speaking<br />

only Chaldean. “I didn’t know there<br />

were other languages in the world,”<br />

she said. She started working at her<br />

father’s store at age 12 and was reportedly<br />

the first Chaldean girl to go<br />

to college in the United States, to the<br />

University of Detroit, which was two<br />

miles from her home. “I took the 7 Mile<br />

bus and then the Livernois bus to get<br />

to college,” she said. She had a double<br />

major – Psychology and Education<br />

– and graduated in 1960. She started<br />

teaching in Detroit, and later in her<br />

life, taught at the Birmingham schools.<br />

The youngest of 5 children, Victor<br />

Saroki was born in 1957 in Detroit. He<br />

is the president of Saroki Architecture,<br />

a multi award-winning architecture<br />

and interiors firm in Birmingham,<br />

Michigan, since 1983. Victor graduated<br />

from the College of Architecture<br />

& Design at Lawrence Technological<br />

University. He designed Shenandoah<br />

Country Club, the museum, and he’ll<br />

be designing the new Chaldean Community<br />

Center West Campus.<br />

“Mike George and other Chaldeans<br />

bought Shenandoah to be the<br />

next home for Chaldeans beyond<br />

what Southfield Manor was,” he said.<br />

“They interviewed many prominent<br />

architects, and fortunately, we were<br />

selected. That was a tribute for us and<br />

an important project because it was<br />

for the community and the legacy for<br />

what the Chaldeans have done in the<br />

Detroit area.”<br />

In his youth, Hanna Shina, born in<br />

Telkaif, received several trophies for<br />

his participation in sports. When he<br />

came to the United States, he opened<br />

a store, coffee shop, and a restaurant<br />

in the 7 Mile area. “I went to Iraq and<br />

brought the founders whatever they<br />

wanted from me,” he said.<br />

Other Work<br />

While the museum is the “crown jewel,”<br />

the CCC encompasses much more<br />

than that. As executive director of the<br />

Center, I had the opportunity to speak<br />

after the award ceremony about the<br />

impact of our programs, one of which<br />

is Digital Storytelling. I was able to<br />

thank videographers Fadi Attisha and<br />

Michael Nafso for their hard work and<br />

commitment to the Digital Storytelling<br />

program and introduce Vevean Hababa,<br />

a participant.<br />

Vevean lives in the senior home<br />

adjacent to Holy Martyrs Chaldean<br />

Church. A retired teacher, she was visiting<br />

the United States in 2014 when<br />

ISIS attacked her birthplace and destroyed<br />

her beautiful home and everything<br />

in it, including a manuscript of<br />

poems she’d been writing since she<br />

was in fifth grade. A fitting tribute to<br />

the tenacity of the community, at the<br />

end of the ceremony, Hababa sang “I<br />

Have a Dream,” a song she shared with<br />

her students who have remained in<br />

contact with her, to remember whenever<br />

they feel despair.<br />

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 43


Health Insurance<br />

Navigating the maddening maze<br />


Obtaining health insurance and using the coverage<br />

once insured is complicated even for<br />

English speakers who were born in the United<br />

States. It gets more confusing for non-English speakers,<br />

and still more puzzling for those new to the country.<br />

Most U.S. citizens, and legal immigrants working<br />

for U.S. companies, have health insurance through<br />

their employers. These plans differ significantly in<br />

what services are covered and how much the patient<br />

has to pay.<br />

How it works<br />

Several terms are important to know here.<br />

The premium is the amount of money patients<br />

and their employers pay each month for coverage.<br />

This amount varies depending on the types of services<br />

covered by the plan. Typically, the employer pays<br />

all or most of the premium. If employees are required<br />

to pay a portion of the premium, usually it is deducted<br />

from their paycheck.<br />

Once employees are enrolled and issued an insurance<br />

card they may make appointments with doctors,<br />

visit the hospital if necessary, and receive other<br />

services. At this point, patients will encounter three<br />

new terms: co-pay, deductible and out-of-pocket<br />

maximum. These terms go together because they are<br />

part of the same equation.<br />

The co-pay is pretty simple. It is the part of the<br />

medical bill that the patient pays, typically a percentage.<br />

So, for example if a doctor’s bill is $100 and the<br />

co-pay is 20%, the insurance plan pays $80 and the<br />

patient pays $20.<br />

Looking at the next term—deductible—is where<br />

things begin to get complicated. In many plans, patients<br />

are required to pay 100% of medical bills until<br />

the total of their bills adds up to a certain amount,<br />

often several thousand dollars. Once the patient has<br />

“satisfied” the deductible, say it’s $4,000, then the<br />

insurance company begins paying 80% and the patient<br />

the remaining 20%.<br />

This brings us to the out-of-pocket maximum, an<br />

amount significantly higher than the deductible. After<br />

a patient spends a certain amount of money, let’s<br />

say $7,500 on health services, including copays, services<br />

are covered 100%.<br />

As if things are not complicated enough, every<br />

plan is different. The details of insurance plans are<br />

the results of negotiations between the employer and<br />

the insurance company. So, plans through the same<br />

insurance company for two different employers are<br />

likely to have different co-pays, deductibles, and outof-pocket<br />

maximums—and cover different services.<br />

Dental and Vision<br />

In many cases, the health insurance plan does not<br />

cover dental care or vision/eyeglasses. Those services<br />

are covered under separate plans…and they generally<br />

don’t operate like health coverage.<br />

Routine care such as checkups, dental cleanings,<br />

and eye exams is greatly discounted for patients.<br />

Significant dental work, such as fillings and<br />

crowns and eyeglasses, are typically covered with<br />

a co-pay up to a certain amount. Once that limit is<br />

reached, patients are usually responsible for any<br />

additional dental services or eyeglass costs until the<br />

next coverage year begins.<br />

So, health care costs are usually limited for patients,<br />

while dental and vision coverage give patients<br />

an allowance with any additional costs going<br />

to the patient.<br />

Confused? Don’t feel bad. Most people are perplexed<br />

by this puzzle. The bad news is that things get<br />

more complicated.<br />

Networks<br />

Health care, dental, and vision services are subject<br />

to “networks,” which are groups of doctors, dentists,<br />

eye care centers, and other professionals who<br />

agree to receive a discounted fee from the insurance<br />

company in exchange for the volume of patients the<br />

health care professional receives from being part of<br />

the network.<br />

The insurance company passes on a portion of this<br />

discount to the patient. So, patients pay a lower fee<br />

when they use “in-network” professionals.<br />

Most people in the United States have employersponsored<br />

insurance. But what about people who<br />

don’t work or whose employer doesn’t offer health insurance?<br />

People in these situations can receive coverage<br />

from a number of different sources.<br />

Government Programs<br />

Those who are below a certain income level or who<br />

have a disability can get coverage from Medicaid, a<br />

cooperative state and federal program administered<br />

by individual states. That’s right, more complexity.<br />

Each state has its own Medicaid program with different<br />

rules and coverages.<br />

People who work for employers that don’t offer<br />

insurance can get federally subsidized plans through<br />

healthcare.gov. These plans operate a lot like private<br />

insurance, but are less expensive because the federal<br />

government pays most of the cost. Healthcare.gov<br />

plans are subject to income limits and the unavailability<br />

of employer-sponsored options.<br />

For people older than 65, the federal government<br />

offers a comprehensive plan under the Medicare<br />

program. The patient portion of the premium is low<br />

and most services are covered. Inexpensive “supplemental”<br />

plans offered by private insurers cover what<br />

Medicare doesn’t.<br />

For these public programs, there is a crazy quilt<br />

of regulations about eligibility, coverages, and other<br />

aspects.<br />

For those who have refugee status, are undocumented<br />

immigrants, or have other special circumstances,<br />

non-profit organizations, immigration<br />

lawyers, and other resources are available to help<br />

navigate this intricate maze.<br />

The system is complicated and in need of reform<br />

to make it easier for patients and able to cover more<br />

people. Until that day everyone will continue to try<br />

and keep pace.<br />

44 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>




Tuesdays and Thursdays<br />


9:30 am – 12:00 pm<br />

OR<br />


5:00 pm – 7:30 pm<br />

REGISTRATION WILL BEGIN ON SEPTEMBER 25, <strong>2023</strong><br />

To register please call CCF at 586-722-7253<br />

$40 registration fee<br />


<strong>NOVEMBER</strong><br />


<strong>2023</strong> NEWS 45


Chaldean Filmmakers<br />

Hear the Call: Sam Sako<br />


A<br />

foreign language coach in<br />

Hollywood, Chaldean American<br />

Sam Sako is often called<br />

on by producers to coach some of the<br />

world’s best known on-screen talent,<br />

including Leonardo DiCaprio, Omar<br />

Sharif, Mark Strong, Russell Crowe,<br />

Oscar Isaac, Brad Dourif, Tim Roth,<br />

Scott Glenn, Danny Trejo, and Freddy<br />

Rodriguez.<br />

“To me, working with major actors<br />

has become a job,” says Sako.<br />

Sako recently produced Pomegranate,<br />

the first Iraqi American feature<br />

film led by women talent (yours<br />

truly). The film began circulating festivals<br />

earlier this year and so far, it<br />

has earned awards, nominations, and<br />

official selections from over a dozen<br />

international film festivals, including<br />

New York International Women Festival,<br />

Santa Barbara International Movie<br />

Awards, La Femme Independent<br />

Film Festival (Paris, France), Luleå<br />

International Film Festival (Sweden),<br />

Rome Prisma Film Awards (Rome,<br />

Italy), Birsamunda International Film<br />

Awards (India), and Amsterdam Movie<br />

Fest, among others.<br />

“The awards that Pomegranate has<br />

won is just the beginning,” said Sako.<br />

“There’s more to come.”<br />

Once he committed to this project,<br />

Sam made sure to see it through even<br />

though it took years of hard work. “If I<br />

believe in something, I always go the<br />

extra mile and I don’t back down until<br />

I get the job done,” he said.<br />

Sam’s nickname (“Sam of All<br />

Trades”) comes from his broad knowledge<br />

of the industry resulting from<br />

over four decades of work in Hollywood<br />

as an actor, casting director,<br />

voiceover artist, Middle East cultural<br />

consultant, dialect coach, ADR performer,<br />

cinematographer, editor, producer,<br />

and director.<br />

He’s worked extensively on independent<br />

and major studio domestic<br />

and foreign releases, particularly<br />

those for Middle East markets. His<br />

best- known films include Body of<br />

Lies, Green Zone, Hidalgo, The Passion<br />

of the Christ, Iron Man, Mad Max:<br />

Fury Road, Beverly Hills Cop II, and<br />

RoboCop. Major television projects include<br />

Over There, Touch, NCIS, Weeds,<br />

Homeland, and Lethal Weapon.<br />

Knowing Chaldean families expected<br />

their children to become engineers,<br />

doctors, and lawyers, Sako initially<br />

studied engineering, but he didn’t continue<br />

that path. “It wasn’t my thing,” he<br />

said. “I was always fascinated by Hollywood<br />

and American films.”<br />

Born in Baghdad, Sako left Iraq<br />

shortly before the Iran-Iraq war. As a<br />

young man, he lived in different places<br />

throughout the Middle East where he<br />

learned many languages and some Arabic<br />

dialects including Egyptian, Khaliji,<br />

Yemeni, Lebanese, Moroccan, Saudi,<br />

Farsi and Dari/Pashtune. Soon after<br />

his high school graduation, his family<br />

moved to Greece. There, he learned a<br />

new culture and language, and soon<br />

moved to the United States. He lived in<br />

Detroit for two years, where he received<br />

an A.A. degree in Liberal Arts from<br />

Wayne County Community College.<br />

“I couldn’t stand the cold in Michigan,<br />

so I moved to California and never<br />

looked back,” he said.<br />

In California, he earned a B.A. in<br />

Motion Picture and Television Production<br />

from California State University<br />

Northridge. He also continued studies<br />

in cinema at UCLA.<br />

After 9/11, movies shifted to those<br />

with Middle Eastern themes. Sako’s<br />

background, his travels, and his<br />

knowledge of the film industry had<br />

many Hollywood directors and producers<br />

reach out to him for jobs. For<br />

decades, Sako advocated for Arab/<br />

Middle Eastern films with positive<br />

messaging.<br />

“Hollywood films tend to portray<br />

Arabs and Middle Easterners as bad<br />

people and don’t even give them a<br />

name,” he explained. “Their characters<br />

in the credits are ‘Terrorist #1,’<br />

‘Terrorist #2,’ ‘Woman #1,’ ‘Man #2.’<br />

Enough of that! It’s time we give them<br />

names in the films to show who we<br />

are, whether Christian, Muslim, Jew,<br />

or anyone else.”<br />

One of the reasons he got involved<br />

with Pomegranate is that “It showed<br />

the good side of Arabs and Middle<br />

Easterners.” Another reason was that<br />

the film was being directed by a woman<br />

of Middle Eastern descent. (Again,<br />

yours truly.)<br />

“I always had great respect for<br />

women, a deep respect which increased<br />

after the birth of my son,” he<br />

said, “I have a wife and two daughters<br />

in the medical field. I believe in Arab<br />

women, especially the Iraqis who carry<br />

a great load on their shoulders. So,<br />

when Weam called me about her film,<br />

I thought, she’s not only from the Arab<br />

Clockwise from top left: Sam with Tom<br />

Hanks in 1985 on the set of the Man<br />

with One Red Shoe; on the set of Sheik<br />

in Dubai; Sam with Weam Namou on<br />

the set of Pomegranate.<br />


community, but she’s from my blood.<br />

How can I not support her?”<br />

Made by the community it represents,<br />

Pomegranate’s script was selected<br />

as a quarterfinalist by Francis Coppola’s<br />

Zoetrope. Buffalo 8 Productions<br />

(in Santa Monica, California) then<br />

partnered with me during the development<br />

stage. Later, one of Hollywood’s<br />

most successful independent producers,<br />

Scott Rosenfelt, known for box<br />

office hits such as Home Alone and<br />

Mystic Pizza, signed on as the film’s<br />

executive producer.<br />

Sam understood the value of what<br />

we were doing and was incredibly supportive.<br />

Pomegranate follows the life journey<br />

of Niran, a young Muslim woman<br />

coming of age in Metro Detroit after emigrating<br />

from Iraq. She lives in Sterling<br />

Heights, nicknamed “Little Baghdad,”<br />

for its large population of Chaldeans.<br />

Niran walks a fine line between ancestral<br />

norms and the freedoms of a new<br />

generation. Inspired by her idol Enheduanna<br />

of ancient Mesopotamia, the<br />

first writer in recorded history, she navigates<br />

societal challenges, fights against<br />

cultural stereotypes, and aims to make<br />

her voice heard by all those around her.<br />

Through the magic of storytelling,<br />

we are shattering stereotypes and<br />

nurturing new ways of thinking. It’s a<br />

significant undertaking, especially for<br />

women who, in our society, tend to live<br />

in the shadows.<br />

Sako, who’s working on his own<br />

feature film Sea of Chaldea, added, “I<br />

think it’s time for us to make our own<br />

films and show people who we are. We<br />

have the power. We have the knowledge.<br />

We know how to make films.”<br />

For more information on Pomegranate,<br />

visit pomegranatemovie.com.<br />

46 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 47


Beyond the Turkey<br />

New Thanksgiving traditions to try this year<br />


Now that we have packed away<br />

our Halloween decorations,<br />

it is time to turn our focus to<br />

Thanksgiving and the holiday season.<br />

This is the perfect time of year to<br />

focus on family and loved ones with<br />

some classic (and new) traditions!<br />

Below is a list of ideas to incorporate<br />

this coming “Turkey Day.”<br />

While turkey is usually the main<br />

event at any Thanksgiving feast, it is<br />

also a good idea to branch out. Why<br />

not call relatives and friends and ask<br />

them for their best recipes with other<br />

dishes? Even better if the new recipe<br />

happens to be a spin on a traditional<br />

Chaldean dish! After the holiday is<br />

done, you will have a new recipe you<br />

can make whenever you want. It is the<br />

gift that keeps on giving.<br />

A fun way to get everyone involved<br />

while bringing more food into the<br />

mix, have your (willing) guests make<br />

a small pot of dolma to bring with<br />

them. Assign each one a number and<br />

let everyone try the different dishes to<br />

decide whose is best. This is a fun way<br />

to get the adults involved and in the<br />

competitive spirit.<br />

Thanksgiving is a beautiful day to<br />

reflect on all we have to be grateful<br />

for and to help those less fortunate.<br />

While shelters and soup kitchens are<br />

typically overrun with volunteers on<br />

this day, that doesn’t mean you can’t<br />

find other ways to give back. Why not<br />

volunteer at an animal shelter or go<br />

around the neighborhood and collect<br />

canned food to donate? You can even<br />

ask your guests to bring some canned<br />

goods to your holiday dinner along<br />

with any side dishes. It doesn’t cost<br />

much and is a great way to teach your<br />

children the importance of charity and<br />

compassion.<br />

We’ve already established that<br />

Thanksgiving Day is a day of reflection<br />

for all that we are grateful for, so why<br />

not also set gratitude intentions for the<br />

coming year? Have everyone make a list<br />

of future things to be grateful for and<br />

save the list for next year to see how<br />

those things have come to fruition. You<br />

may think of it as a Gratitude List/New<br />

Year’s Resolution hybrid. Be sure to express<br />

your intentions in present tense,<br />

as if they have already happened.<br />

Studies show that setting intentions/<br />

affirmations in the present rewires the<br />

subconscious mind to get to work on<br />

making those intentions come true.<br />

While the turkey usually holds center<br />

stage on Thanksgiving, there is no<br />

reason you can’t introduce some nice<br />

decor to bolster the main star! Why<br />

not keep the kids busy creating crafts<br />

while you finish up cooking? (We’ve all<br />

seen those handprint turkeys.) You can<br />

make it even more fun by introducing<br />

some friendly competition into the mix.<br />

Offer a treat or reward for whoever creates<br />

the nicest centerpiece.<br />

Another way to entertain the kids is<br />

by introducing some fun and games to<br />

the holiday. It doesn’t just have to be the<br />

kids; everyone can have fun with this<br />

one. Play “Turkey Trivia” or break out<br />

photos from Thanksgivings past and<br />

make a game of identifying the photo<br />

subjects. Scavenger hunts and Bingo<br />

games are always fun and are easy to<br />

modify for any holiday. How about hosting<br />

your own neighborhood Thanksgiving<br />

Day Parade? It can be on foot, on<br />


bikes, on scooters, or your choice.<br />

Whatever you do to make your<br />

holiday more festive, remember it’s<br />

the effort that counts. Have a Happy<br />

Thanksgiving!<br />

Who doesn’t love making a wish<br />

with a wishbone? But it is typically a<br />

challenge to decide who gets to split<br />

it. Why not hide it somewhere in the<br />

house and have everyone split into<br />

teams of two to find it. Whichever duo<br />

finds it gets to break it!<br />

Football is great but in between the<br />

endless stream of games all day, it is<br />

nice to break it up with a Christmas<br />

Movie so everyone can enjoy. This is<br />

great for after dinner when the food is<br />

digesting and making everyone sleepy.<br />

With so many streaming platforms,<br />

you will have no problem finding a<br />

movie everyone will love! Home Alone<br />

has always been a personal favorite!<br />

Hopefully this list has provided<br />

you with some fun new ways to enjoy<br />

the holiday and bond with your loved<br />

ones. What are some of your favorites<br />

not on this list?<br />

48 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

YOUR<br />

Therapy can be a big step toward being the<br />

healthiest version of yourself and living the<br />

best life possible — our licensed, professional<br />

therapists are here for you to access. Through<br />

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and habits, resolve painful feelings, improve<br />

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experiences. Individuals often seek therapy for<br />

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matter the challenge.<br />

We invite you seek out the Light of Project Light!<br />

Serving individuals ages 13 years and up. Please call<br />

to request a Project Light Intake at (586) 722-7253.<br />

Looking for a great opportunity to make a difference?<br />

NOW HIRING Behavioral Health Professional Therapists.<br />

— Apply at www.chaldeanfoundation.org<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

3601 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights, MI 48310<br />

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 49

SPORTS<br />

Chaldeans and Golf<br />


As we approach the end of fall,<br />

Danny Shaba, Nick Hermiz,<br />

and I reflect on another season<br />

of golf, full of intense competition,<br />

thrilling finishes, and memorable<br />

moments. This was a golf season<br />

that included winning, losing, and<br />

most importantly, creating experiences—experiences<br />

that we try to build<br />

on every year within the Chaldean<br />

community. For Chaldeans, that was<br />

not always the case.<br />

When I was a child, my father,<br />

Richie Lossia, was one of the few<br />

within the Chaldean community that<br />

pushed golf as a family recreation. My<br />

two older sisters, my older brother,<br />

and I grew up playing competitive golf<br />

throughout our childhoods and into<br />

high school. My brother played in college<br />

for the University of Michigan.<br />

During that time, even though<br />

golf has been a part of many cultures<br />

throughout the world, it was a foreign<br />

language for most Chaldean families.<br />

However, over the years, especially in<br />

the last ten years or so, we as a community<br />

have finally begun to embrace golf<br />

and its many longstanding traditions,<br />

traditions that our future Chaldean<br />

generations can embrace, expand on,<br />

and be proud of as a community.<br />

Tournaments<br />

As part of building legacies and traditions,<br />

we started three non-handicap<br />

team tournaments geared toward the<br />

top players in the Chaldean community:<br />

the Middle East Cup, the Chaldean<br />

Cup, and the East-West Cup.<br />

The Middle East Cup is a two-day<br />

team tournament, one day at Knollwood<br />

Country Club and one day at Wabeek<br />

Country Club. Team rosters are<br />

comprised of twelve of the top golfers<br />

in the Jewish community versus twelve<br />

of the top golfers in the Chaldean community.<br />

Although Team Chaldean has<br />

been the underdog on paper all three<br />

years, we are 3-0. Our name was permanently<br />

engraved on the trophy each<br />

of those years, something we as a team<br />

take a lot of pride in, not just for ourselves,<br />

but for the entire community.<br />

We started the Chaldean Cup three<br />

years ago and it has grown to fortyfour<br />

players this year. There are two<br />

teams, Team Black and Team White.<br />

This is a three-day team tournament<br />

each September with an opening dinner<br />

after day one’s matches. Rounds<br />

are held at Shenandoah Country Club<br />

and Wabeek Country Club. The tournament<br />

is full of back-and-forth matches,<br />

ups and downs, joy and sorrow. Above<br />

all, it is a weekend full of non-stop fun.<br />

The players bond with both teammates<br />

and opponents and grow relationships<br />

with other fellow Chaldeans that otherwise<br />

would not have existed.<br />

The third tournament, the East-<br />

West Cup, began last year. We traveled<br />

to San Diego to play some of the top<br />

Chaldean players living in California.<br />

We (Team Michigan) were victorious<br />

in year one, but one of the bigger accomplishments<br />

was expanding relationships<br />

in the Chaldean golfing community<br />

from Michigan all the way to<br />

California and building a foundation<br />

together in a cross-country tournament<br />

that will carry on as the years<br />

pass.<br />

Next year, the plan is to add a<br />

fourth tournament and commence<br />

the first-ever Chaldean Championship<br />

to crown the best male Chaldean<br />

golfer every year. It will be open to any<br />

Chaldean golfer with an index of 12 or<br />

below. The tournament will be played<br />

over three days gross stroke play, with<br />

a cut line after day 2. The courses have<br />

yet to be determined.<br />


Clockwise from top left: <strong>2023</strong> Chaldean<br />

Cup champions Team Black;<br />

<strong>2023</strong> Middle East Cup champions<br />

Team Chaldean; <strong>2023</strong> East West<br />

Cup champions Team Michigan; and<br />

<strong>2023</strong> East West Team Michigan and<br />

Team California.<br />

Creating Traditions<br />

We created and organized these tournaments<br />

to build on the golfing enthusiasm<br />

and momentum within our community<br />

and to create new traditions,<br />

especially for our children. Golf is a<br />

vehicle that allows traditions to grow,<br />

that live on for future generations, and<br />

a sport that our youth can aim to compete<br />

at high levels of competition. It<br />

is a sport that we as a community can<br />

achieve success at and be proud of.<br />

As a community, we should continue<br />

to encourage our youth to strive<br />

to excel, not only for continuing and<br />

creating new traditions for our children,<br />

but also for their personal ambitions.<br />

As more Chaldeans start playing<br />

golf at younger ages, the number<br />

of great players we have in the community<br />

will grow.<br />

The tournaments we have created<br />

reward mostly the top current Chaldean<br />

players; as we get older, it will be<br />

the next generation of younger Chaldean<br />

golfers that will take our place.<br />

For most of us, being one of the best<br />

players in the community and being<br />

part of Team Chaldean or being the<br />

Chaldean Championship winner is a<br />

great achievement, but for the younger<br />

golfing generations, I hope they grow<br />

to aspire not to just be part of Team<br />

Chaldean or the Chaldean Champion<br />

and one of the best players in our community,<br />

but one of the best in the sport<br />

amongst all cultures.<br />

Starting tournaments like we have<br />

will only fuel the motivation and determination<br />

amongst the future generations<br />

of Chaldean golfers and I<br />

strongly believe that golf, if started<br />

young enough, is the one sport that<br />

many future Chaldeans can compete<br />

at the highest level of competition.<br />

As a small community, Chaldean<br />

Americans have many accomplishments<br />

to be proud of, but we now have<br />

the momentum to incorporate golf as<br />

a fixture of our culture. Hopefully, we<br />

continue to embrace the sport of golf<br />

and maybe one day we will see our first<br />

Chaldean male playing in the Masters<br />

on a Sunday evening in April walking<br />

down the 18th fairway at Augusta or<br />

our first Chaldean female playing in<br />

the Women’s US Open.<br />

Editor’s Note: The Chaldean<br />

Community Foundation hosts an<br />

annual golf outing and has been doing<br />

it for two decades. The Chaldean<br />

American Chamber of Commerce<br />

added its own outing in 2020.<br />

50 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


Educational programs<br />

Registration now open!<br />

Please call for an appointment.<br />

All Nationalities Welcome!<br />



Provides individuals English instruction<br />

at basic/beginner and intermediate/<br />

advanced levels<br />

Small group instruction for<br />

individuals working towards their<br />

GED<br />

Sept. 11, <strong>2023</strong>-Jan. 26, 2024<br />

Sept. 11, <strong>2023</strong>-Jan. 26, 2024<br />


Prepares children for kindergarten<br />

through a variety of emergent<br />

literacy, early learning and<br />

development opportunities<br />


Offers instruction and training for<br />

successful completion of the U.S.<br />

Citizenship and Immigration Services<br />

(USCIS) Naturalization interview<br />

Sept. 11, <strong>2023</strong> – June 28, 2024 Oct. 3, <strong>2023</strong> – Dec. 14, <strong>2023</strong><br />

We can’t wait to see you!<br />

Want to learn more? Please contact Rachel Rose at<br />

Rachel.rose@chaldeanfoundation.org or call (586) 722-7253<br />

3601 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights, MI 48310<br />

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 51

EVENT<br />

1. MotorCity Sound Board<br />

was packed for this<br />

annual business event.<br />

2. Detroit Mayor Mike<br />

Duggan took questions<br />

from the audience.<br />

3. Detroit Councilmember<br />

Coleman A. Young<br />

II presented CACC<br />

president Martin Manna<br />

with a Spirit of Detroit<br />

Award, for the Chamber’s<br />

20-year anniversary<br />

and for “not leaving the<br />

city when every other<br />

business did.”<br />

4. Attendees had the opportunity<br />

to win prizes;<br />

First State Bank offered<br />

cash and lottery tickets!<br />

5. Attendees were treated<br />

to an exciting 5-minute<br />

video of the Chaldean<br />

Community Foundation’s<br />

year in review.<br />

1<br />

2 3<br />

4<br />

17th Annual CACC<br />

Business Luncheon<br />


The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce<br />

hosted the 17th Annual Business Luncheon on Friday,<br />

October 13 with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as<br />

the keynote speaker. Approximately 300 attendees<br />

from the Chamber’s member businesses as well as<br />

invited dignitaries and elected officials enjoyed the<br />

opportunity to network and even ask questions of<br />

the mayor at the event at MotorCity Casino’s Sound<br />

Board Theater. During the program, Detroit City<br />

Councilman Coleman A. Young Jr. presented Chamber<br />

president Martin Manna with a Spirit of Detroit<br />

Award, acknowledging the Chamber’s 20-year anniversary<br />

and thanking the Chaldean community for<br />

keeping Detroit in groceries after most businesses<br />

fled the city following the 1967 riots.<br />

5<br />

52 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>


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phone: 248-851-8600 fax: 248-851-1348<br />

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TEL: (586) 722-7253<br />

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TEL: (586) (586) 722-7253 722-7253<br />

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LANGUAGE continued from page 25<br />

forts to use Hebrew in meetings and<br />

public activities; finally, people began<br />

to use it for general purposes, and it<br />

grew exponentially from there. Jews<br />

around the world learn Hebrew to stay<br />

connected to their culture.<br />

The Jewish example offers a roadmap<br />

for reviving a language, but there<br />

are some important differences between<br />

our communities. The Jewish<br />

diaspora began thousands of years<br />

ago, but the Chaldean diaspora is less<br />

than 200 years old. Zionism called<br />

Jews back to Israel after they were<br />

persecuted in other lands. This is not<br />



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Farmington Hills, MI 48334<br />

CELL (248) 925-7773<br />

TEL (248) 851-1200<br />

an option for Chaldeans, FAX (248) 851-1348 as our plight<br />

is reversed; snavarrette@chaldeanchamber.com<br />

we struggle with violence<br />

www.chaldeanchamber.com<br />

and persecution www.chaldeanfoundation.org<br />

in our homeland,<br />

but Chaldeans are generally accepted<br />

and prosperous in the places we have<br />

moved to since leaving Iraq. Our traditional<br />

Catholic religion is well-suited<br />

for the western world compared to<br />

the vast differences between Judaism<br />

and western Christianity. In addition,<br />

Israel was granted statehood, autonomy,<br />

and legitimacy by the global<br />

community, but a state or province for<br />

Chaldeans in northern Iraq and eastern<br />

Turkey has been denied time and<br />

time again.<br />

Many Chaldeans recognize the patterns<br />

and are dedicated to changing<br />

them by making life easier for Sureth<br />

speakers. Just this year, the Assyrian<br />

community in Chicago reached<br />

a historic win by implementing a basic<br />

Sureth course, which students<br />

can take for credit, in their local high<br />

school. In Detroit, the Chaldean Community<br />

Foundation is developing a<br />

language assessment that bilingual<br />

high school students can take for a<br />

language credit.<br />

Other efforts aim to fully reestablish<br />

the use of Sureth in our community.<br />

Among the clergy, knowledge<br />

of Sureth is required, and Chaldean<br />

Mass in our native language happens<br />

weekly. Throughout Detroit, many organizations<br />

put on Sureth language<br />

classes, including the University of<br />

Detroit Mercy, the Chaldean Cultural<br />

Center, and St. Thomas Chaldean<br />

Catholic Church. When the Chaldean<br />

Community Foundation completes its<br />

facility in West Bloomfield, it plans to<br />

hold Sureth classes as well.<br />

“Our parents’ generation is a dying<br />

breed,” according to Chris. “Once<br />

they’re gone, they’re gone. It’s not like<br />

we have a massive influx of people<br />

coming into our community. All roads<br />

lead to Sureth in terms of community,<br />

unity, building bonds, and cultural<br />

significance.”<br />

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 53

$500<br />

$1,000<br />

$250<br />

$500<br />

$125<br />

$250<br />

https://www.chaldeanfoundation.org/national-civics-bee/<br />

State Finalists who advance<br />

to the national competition<br />

will compete for prizes worth<br />

more than $50,000.<br />

Chaldean Community Foundation<br />

3601 15 Mile Rd<br />

Sterling Heights, MI 48310<br />

info@chaldeanfoundationg.org<br />

EST<br />

The National Civics Bee is presented by the Chaldean Community<br />

Foundation and the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce with<br />

support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.<br />

54 CHALDEAN NEWS <strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong>

<strong>NOVEMBER</strong> <strong>2023</strong> CHALDEAN NEWS 55

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