Michigan’s newest county commissioner was born in Lebanon

(DETROIT, MI) — Lebanese-American Abdul Haidous is one of Michigan’s newest county commissioners having carried a swift primary election and uncontested general election.

Haidous is the former mayor of Wayne, Mich., where he served for 13 years as the first Muslim of Arab descent to be elected mayor in the United States, according to his biography.

Haidous was born in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbeil, where he spent his early years before moving to Senegal to work at a family business.

After deciding to immigrate to the United States, Haidous worked for a Monroe area restaurant and General Motors before opening “Al’s Friendly Market” in Wayne, which he ran from 1974 to 2007.10868096_10152574396346437_4345506690406031292_n

On January 21, Consul General of Lebanon in Detroit Bilal Kabalan and several community activists visited Haidous to congratulate him on his recent election.

“Commissioner Haidous is an American Lebanese success icon with more than two decades of regional political history,” Kabalan said in a statement. “His high ethical standards are an example to be followed.”

Haidous is the recipient of dozens of prestigious honors, including being named “Person of the Year” in 1991 by the Wayne Chamber of Commerce and receiving a “Service Award” from the Arab American and Chaldean Council in 2007, among others.

Haidous and his wife Balassem celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary on election day. They have five children and 10 grandchildren.

Lebanese-American skydiver dies after tragic jump in Michigan

(LANSING, MI) — A Lebanese-American skydiver died on Wednesday after his parachute failed to deploy during a BASE jump from a television news tower in Tompkins Township, Mich.

BASE stands for building, antenna, span and earth.

Jackson County police say Josh Sheppard, 31, was killed after falling from a 1,000-foot tower owned by Lansing TV station, WLAJ-TV.

Sheppard was an active parishioner at Our Lady of Redemption Melkite Catholic Church in Warren, Mich. He was also involved in the Melkite Association of Young Adults (MAYA) chapter.

Sheppard’s mother, whose maiden name is Michaels, is actively involved in the church community.

“It was always a pleasure to be around Josh Sheppard – such an infectious smile and positive attitude,” wrote one of his friends on Facebook. “He will be missed.”

Sheppard and his family owned “Skydive Owosso” a skydiving company in Owosso, Mich., 90 miles from Detroit.

Editor’s Note: Lebanese Examiner sends our deepest condolences to the Sheppard and Michael families. May his soul rest in peace.

Lebanese film director Philip Aractingi visits NY to promote latest film

(NEW YORK, NY) — Lebanese film director Philip Aractingi visited New York this week to premiere his latest film, “Heritages.”

The autobiography film narrates the exile of his own family across four generations and a hundred years of history, according to Aractingi’s website.img-9215-custom2015-01-17-080415

The film was screened at the City University of New York Graduate Center on January 15, followed by a Q&A session with Aractingi.

“People didn’t stop laughing while seeing the film. They laughed and cried,” Aractingi said. “The New York crowd was so light and so responsive. Lebanese and non-Lebanese identify themselves with the film and it’s themes.”

Consul General of Lebanon in New York Majdi Ramadan also hosted a private reception for the Lebanese film director at his home.

Ramadan says this was an opportunity to support the independent film industry in Lebanon.

Aractingi is also the director of several other films, including “Bosta” and “Under the Bombs.”

WATCH the trailer for “HERITAGES”:

Canadian-Lebanese community host annual levee

(PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND) — The Canadian-Lebanese community hosted an annual levee to celebrate their cultural history and emigration to the city of Charlottetown at Prince Edward Island on January 10.

More than 600 people packed the Delta Prince Edward for authentic Lebanese cuisine, belly dancing, and a video documentary detailing the Lebanese community’s journey to Prince Edward Island.

Nick Tweel, master of ceremonies, said the levee began in 1963 and became an opportunity to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments in the Lebanese community while also looking ahead.

“It’s been going on for many, many years,” Tweel told The Guardian. “And the reason why we put this event on is that so we can celebrate with each and every one of you a couple weeks later than New Years.”

The major accomplishment celebrated through the evening was the completion of the documentary “A New Place Called Home,” which was shot and produced by David Rashed with funds from last year’s levee.

The documentary explains the Lebanese community’s journey to the province.

“(The documentary shows) what they went through what their families went through to come here to give their children a chance for a better life,” said Fadi Rashed, president of the Canadian-Lebanese Association.

Rashed said the group purchased a Lebanese-Canadian clubhouse late in 2013 and part of the funds raised from the levee would go towards the clubhouse.

“It’s been a work in progress and with the support of everybody that comes here tonight we get a little closer to achieving our goal, which would be a place to teach our children Arabic, a community centre for us to get together, just something to call our own.”

WATCH belly dancer Carole Dahab perform at the levee:

Lebanese American Heritage Club honors young leaders

(DEARBORN, MI) — The Lebanese American Heritage Club (LAHC) hosted its Third Annual Youth Leadership Committee Banquet on Nov. 29 at Byblos Banquets in Dearborn.

The group honored Attorney Ali Hammoud, president of the Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) and journalist Charlie Kadado, managing editor of LebaneseExaminer.com.

“I am very proud to receive this award from an organization I am so proud to be a part of,” Hammoud said. “I want to inspire young people to have a drive and a passion because then anything will be possible.”

Kadado talked about his humanitarian mission called “Giveback Lebanon,” which is taking place from now until Dec. 31. He says the project aims to provide hundreds of Christmas gifts to low-income and underprivileged Lebanese children and seniors.

“Give back to your motherland that has given you so much,” he said. “The least we can do is to give back to the root of our cultural identity and uniqueness.”

LAHC Youth Leadership Committee Board Member Ali Saad was also presented with the President’s Call to Service Award from President Barack Obama, which recognized 4,000 hours of lifetime community service.

The event featured several community leaders and activists, including Ali Jawad, founder of the LAHC. Many young people from local universities supported the banquet, which is held each year near Lebanon’s Independence Day anniversary.

Youth Leadership Committee Founder Hussein Hachem was presented with a plaque honoring his “relentless dedication” to the organization, which strives to support and celebrate the achievements of Lebanese-American youth in Michigan.

Hachem thanked Jawad and other community members for their activism and encouragement to the young people of the community.

He also introduced a local Lebanese-American activist for the disabled, Khodr Farhat, who delivered brief remarks.

To learn more about the LAHC Youth Leadership Committee visit lahc.org.

Kataeb host diaspora convention in Los Angeles

(LOS ANGELES, CA) — The Lebanese Kataeb Party hosted the “USA Lebanese Kataeb Diaspora Convention” at the Embassy Suites in Los Angeles, California from Dec. 5 to 7.

MP Samy Gemayel traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the conference, which occurred at the same time as the World Lebanese Cultural Union World Council meeting in LA.

Gemayel thanked members of the U.S. Kataeb chapters for organizing the conference and encouraged them to keep believing in Lebanon.

“We know that if what’s available to you in America or Canada was available to you in Lebanon, we know where you’d be,” he said. “You all live here, but your heart is in Lebanon. We have faith that in the end, good will triumph and evil will fail.”

Gemayel urged the Lebanese diaspora to buy homes in their motherland and cast their ballots to choose “good” candidates in elections.

Gemayel also discussed issues related to Lebanon, including the attacks on Lebanese soldiers in recent months.

“This is not the first time Lebanon is going through tough times,” he said. “But trust your logic that is stronger than the logic of criminals who kill our soldiers. They are cowards because they attack and kill those who are fighting in defense of their country.”

RELATED: Samy Gemayel attend WLCU ceremony to reveal Gibran Khalil Gibran statue. Read more.

WLCU unveils Gibran Khalil Gibran statue

(LOS ANGELES, CA) — The World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) unveiled a long anticipated sculpture of Lebanese-American poet Gibran Khalil Gibran at the Los Angeles Central Library in Los Angeles, California on Dec. 5.

The unveiling, which happened during the week of the WLCU World Council Meeting at the Millennium Bitmore Hotel, commemorates the 130th anniversary of Gibran’s birth in Bsharri, Lebanon in 1883.

The statue of Gibran was sculpted by Lebanese-American artist Victor Issa at the LA Public Library, which is the largest library in the United States. Nearly 13 million people visit the library each year.

“Unfortunately a city like Los Angeles is honoring famed Lebanese people than Lebanon itself is getting an opportunity to,” said Metn MP Sami Gemayel, who attended the unveiling. “Lebanon needs the teachings of Gibran.”

Watch MTV Lebanon’s news report:

California’s House of Lebanon hosts three cultural workshops


By Lara Akl, Communications & Marketing Manager at House of Lebanon

Arabic Calligraphy: Connecting with Culture and Language Artistically

Participants came from as far as San Diego, Irvine, and Riverside to House of Lebanon in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 25, 2014 for a common purpose: To take an Arabic Calligraphy workshop presented by Dr. Imad Bayoun. The class was full and the energy was high. Participants were very excited to learn and to be introduced to this valuable form of art.

Arabic Calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting and lettering using special pens or brush and ink. The culture of early Arabs was very creative in terms of poetry and writing. “Early Arabs acknowledged the power and beauty of words. Poetry, for example, was an essential part of daily life. This immense appreciation for the spoken word, later led to an additional appreciation of its written form,” explained Dr. Bayoun.

8The Islamic culture highly values calligraphy as a form of art. The earliest Islamic calligraphy is found in the beautiful copies of the Qur’an. Today, Arabic Calligraphy is a continuously evolving art form.  This form of art is just as appealing to young and old artists from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. They have come to adopt this script as a base for communicating the word and use this stylized script as abstract graphic elements to complement their art.

14You do not have to be an artist to practice calligraphy. “Like any other form of art, Arabic Calligraphy nurtures the soul and beautifies life,” said Dr. Bayoun. This charming and appealing form of art attracts community members, Students, and people from different cultural background who seek calligraphy classes and workshops to immerse themselves in a new experience.

9Our participants’ testimonies varied. “I love calligraphy. I never took calligraphy before and I wanted to give it a try,” said Caren Kouri, one of our participants. Nouha Sinno is one of House of Lebanon accomplished calligraphy artists. She never learned the different theories and scripts of calligraphy. “I practice my own form of calligraphy. I do not follow certain rules and I work more freely. Today, I came to be introduced to the technical way of practicing calligraphy which is based on existing established scripts.”

An additional factor that makes calligraphy a sought after art form is its meditative quality. Its practice requires patience, focus, and concentration. It helps those who practice it transcend their surrounding and context and take them into a very peaceful state of mind. “I forgot about everything around me when I was practicing how to write the Arabic letters. I forgot about my problems. It felt like I am in a different world,” expressed another participant.

Thanks to House of Lebanon Artist Reem Hammad who worked on coordinating the workshop. “Arabic Calligraphy is part of our Lebanese and Arabic cultures,” said Reem. “Offering this workshop falls within House of Lebanon’s mission. Arabic calligraphy is the first point of interest that connects the west with Middle Eastern cultures.”

“Mezze” Table: A Story about Lebanon’s Culture

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“Fatoush”, “tabouleh”, grape leaves, “baba ghanouj”, spinach and cheese “fatayer” (pies) were some of the recipes presented by Chef Najwa Massoud during the Lebanese Cooking Workshop House of Lebanon offered on Saturday, November 8, 2014.

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“Mezze table” (appetizers) was the theme of the cooking workshop. “Lebanese food is not only healthy, tasty, and has become famous around the world, but it is a great cultural activity to introduce the community to Lebanon’s culture, heritage, and traditions,” said Artist Reem Hammad. “For this reason we reached out to Lebanese Chef Najwa Massoud who offered our participants a taste of Lebanon with every recipe she prepared.”

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Food is an essential part of Lebanon’s culture. It reflects generosity and hospitality, two essential characteristics of the Lebanese culture. “Lebanese Mezze” is usually prepared to host special guests, when family and friends get together on Sundays to enjoy their day off, or to celebrate special occasions. “I grew up enjoying family and social gatherings in Lebanon,” said Chef Najwa Massoud.

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“I learned that food is an important element of our culture. I acquired most of the recipes from my mother and grandmother. Our house in Lebanon used to get full of people on special occasions and, at an early age, I used to participate and help my mother prepare food. Today, cooking Lebanese food is a passion of mine. As a chef, I witness firsthand the popularity of Lebanese food and how people from different cultural background seek Lebanese restaurants to enjoy our delicious and healthy food.”

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Testimonials about the cooking workshop differed. For our Lebanese Americans participants, the cooking workshop brought back memories. “I thought of my “sitto” (grandmother) as I sat there and watched Chef Najwa cook,” said Jeanice Deeb. For other participants, it was fascinating for them to see how the delicious Lebanese dishes they love are prepared. “I love Lebanese food and I go to Lebanese restaurants all the time. It was great to see how grape leaves and spinach “fatayer” are actually made.” Also, the warm and friendly atmosphere during the workshop was very appealing. “It is the cozy and family-like environment that made the workshop more pleasant and enjoyable,” expressed another.

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Just like it usually does, our “mezze table” generously brought our participants together at the end of the cooking workshop. They ate the delicious food, exchanged happy conversations, and shouted out thankful messages for Chef Najwa for preparing such a delicious feast!

Ceramic Tiles: Exploring History of Islamic Art

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Carefully handling the clay, imprinting a pattern of choice on its surface, carving and shaping, participants looked forward to a beautifully decorated piece of ceramic tile they worked on at the Handmade Ceramic Tiles workshop offered by House of Lebanon on Saturday, November 8, 2014.

Exploring Islamic Patterns was the theme. Reem Hammad is the artist who conducted the workshop.  She guided participants through the different stages of working with and decorating ceramic tiles by choosing from a variety of classic Islamic design patterns.

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The intricate artistic designs, decorations, and geometric shapes used on tiles and carved architectural details in Islamic civilizations, have not only been an important field of modern academic research like mathematics, art, and architecture, but it has inspired artists from around the world. Arabesque and geometric designs have been at the center of Islamic Art and have been recreated and adapted throughout the years until this day. “I have always been fascinated with Islamic patterns and have adopted them in my ceramic tile designs to be used as Mandalas or meditation focal points, or simply as decorative tiles,” said Reem Hammad.

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Interested in the art of ceramic tiles, participants came to the workshop with no background experience. “I love ceramics. I always wanted to do it and it wasn’t possible when my kids were younger. Today I came to learn about it and enjoy a relaxing form of art,” said one of the participants.

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Christian Nahas, a calligrapher and a graphic designer who took the workshop. He was interested in learning “another method to apply calligraphy,” said Christian. He has only used paper for calligraphy, “but now I can apply it on clay and it’s exciting.” Nouha Sinno, a painter, said that this was her first time she works with ceramic tiles. “I do it for the experience. It adds more knowledge to my existing skills.”

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Ceramic tiles have a long history in the Middle East. From Iran to Turkey, Egypt to Morocco, this art form went off to spread into European countries, like Spain and Italy. Ceramic tile design continued to flourish and develop borrowing old techniques of lusterware and Majolica. They were used throughout the region to decorate mosques, churches, and palaces. Ceramic tiles’ hardened and glazed surfaces offered a durable and weather proof decorative elements used as accents and ornamentation for exterior spaces. This captivating form of art can be seen in many great architectural landmarks like Isfahan Mosques in Iran, Topkapi palace in Turkey, the Alhambra Palaces in Spain to name a few.

Introducing this form of art to the community was a rich cultural and educational experience for our participants.

Get Involved: Join House of Lebanon

House of Lebanon is the nation’s first urban Los Angeles-based Lebanese-American cultural and educational center.

House of Lebanon is owned by the Lebanese American Foundation, which is a non-profit, non-political, and philanthropic organization founded more than twenty years ago to serve the Lebanese-American community throughout Southern California and abroad with one goal: to build a “House of Lebanon” – a cultural and educational center in Los Angeles.

To learn more information, visit houseoflebanon.com, or join them on Facebook.

LACOM honors CLFW and Project Roots at Trailblazer gala


(WARREN, MI) — The Lebanese American Club of Michigan (LACOM) honored the Christian Lebanese Foundation in the World (CLFW) and Project Roots at their annual Trailblazer Award Gala on November 22.

CLFW is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that aims to connect Lebanese expatriates with their roots, by registering them as Lebanese citizens.

The award was accepted by Nada Abisamra, the director of CLFW and Project Roots, who spoke about the importance and simplicity of registering births and marriages in Lebanon.

“Lebanon needs us,” she said. “We must act now to preserve our roots. If we don’t act now, Lebanon will lose its cultural diversity and confessional conviviality.”

Abisamra said it should be a “civic duty” for the Lebanese diaspora to register in Lebanon.

“We are guilty for leaving Lebanon, but also guilty for detaching ourselves from our roots. Registering yourself and your children is not only a right, it is a priority and a civic duty,” she said.

LACOM says it is pleased to recognize an organization that works to maintain balance among Lebanon’s religious communities.

“LACOM is proud to help facilitate a cause that aims to portray a pluralistic Lebanon and to strengthen Lebanon’s image as an oasis of freedom and democracy in an already troubled Middle East,” said Dr. Wissam Shaya, president of LACOM.

Bishop Elias Zaidan, who serves the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, delivered keynote remarks, urging political groups to stay out of Lebanon’s influence.

“Lebanon should not be working for political parties. Political parties should work for Lebanon,” he said.

He also called Abisamra and other CLFW regional representatives “missionaries” for traveling across the country and spreading a “positive and critical” mission.

Michigan CLFW Campaign Coordinator Charlie Kadado hosted a registration campaign on Nov. 23, where he called on the Lebanese-American community to “urgently” register to protect Lebanon’s diversity.

“CLFW and Project Roots both exemplify the spirit of coexistence and unity, while strengthening demographics to maintain pluralism in a country that relies on religious balance and harmony,” he said. “Now is your chance to register your births and marriages and preserve the qualities that make Lebanon so unique.”

To register in Michigan, call Charlie Kadado at (248) 924-4854. For all other states, visit clfw.org for a list of regional representatives and coordinators.

To view photos of the gala, click here.

PHOTOS: OU students celebrate Lebanese Independence

(ROCHESTER, MI) — More than 200 people celebrated Lebanese Independence Day at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. on Friday, marking the 71st anniversary of Lebanon’s Independence from France.

“We wanted to promote the Lebanese culture around campus and end the false stigmas about Lebanon,” said Lisa Shammas, President of the Oakland University Lebanese Student Association (OU-LSA). “It adds to the diversity of our university and provides students with important knowledge about  cultures.”

The student association premiered their new dabke group, which Shammas says was instructed by a choreographer from Lebanon. The group will perform at the LSA Unified Gala, which will take place on January 17, 2015.

“It’s exciting to spread the word about our culture,” said Amanda Fawaz, Vice President of Fundraising for the student group. “Even though people leave Lebanon, they still interact with their heritage.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam cancelled official Independence Day celebrations on Friday, citing the “current situation” for scrapping government-hosted events. Students say the security crisis shouldn’t deter Lebanon from celebrating its independence.

“I think we’re making up for their lack of celebration,” said Fawaz. “We hope to make the people of Lebanon proud for hosting events like these.”

VIEW photos of the event:


IMG_3073 IMG_3074 IMG_3081 IMG_3083 IMG_3088 IMG_3091 IMG_3099 IMG_3103RELATED: Students at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor hosted a Lebanese Independence Day celebration on Thursday. Click here to read more.

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